House takes lead on Russian human-rights bill

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The bill is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested on fraud charges and died in custody three years ago after accusing tax officials of a $230 million fraud. It would impose travel and financial sanctions on anyone “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture or other human-rights violations committed against individuals seeking to promote human rights or to expose illegal activity carried out by officials of the government of the Russian Federation,” according to a summary, as well as officials involved in Magnitsky’s detention and death.


The legislation aims to give Congress a way to pressure Moscow on human rights after the United States establishes normal trade relations with Russia, which is supposed to happen this July following Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. The bill would replace the Jackson-Vanik amendment, Cold War-era legislation that denied favored-nation status to certain countries that restrict emigration.