Senators seek to expand Russia human rights bill

Several senators are seeking to expand legislation targeting Russian human rights offenders to the rest of the world.

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Senate Foreign Relations members Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would deny human rights abusers entry into the United States or access to the U.S. financial sector. The bill is modeled after Cardin's 2012 Magnitsky Act, named after a Russian whistle-blower who died in custody, which targets Russian abusers. The bill passed both chambers by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and was signed into law on Dec. 14, 2012.

“The United States must maintain its global leadership in the fight against corruption and human rights abuses wherever they occur,” Cardin said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill gives us the tools to deter future abuses throughout the world, while also protecting our strategic financial infrastructure from those who would use it to launder or shelter ill-gotten gains. Gross violators of human rights from Zimbabwe to Ukraine, and Honduras to Papua New Guinea, are put on notice that they cannot escape the consequences of their actions even when their home country fails to act.”

The new bill requires the president to publish and update a list “based on credible information” of people “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 government officials.” Early co-sponsors include Sens. Dick Durbin (D-lll.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The Treasury Department released their first list of 18 black-listed Russians in April, although none were top-level government officials. Russia immediately responded by banning 18 Americans linked to the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies, including water boarding and indefinite detention at Guantánamo Bay.

“Under pressure from Russophobic members of the U.S. Congress, a powerful blow has been dealt to bilateral relations and mutual trust,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said at the time.

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