US Debates How Harshly to Penalize Russia in Human Rights Spat

Magnitsky Act on the Books, But How Many Russians Will Be Barred?

by Jason Ditz, March 28, 2013

US and Russian officials imposed mutual sanctions on one another in December, accusing each other of human rights violations and saying they would ban one anothers’ violators from their country.

The US version, the Magnitsky Act, calls for not only a full banning of violators but for seizing their assets. President Obama signed the law on December 14, but they’re still trying to figure out who to ban and how many.

The Act obliges the administration to publish a full list of who is being effected, or at least a good excuse for why they don’t want to publish a full list, by mid-April. With that deadline fast approaching, officials seem to be at odds on what to do.

Officials familiar with the dispute say there is concern that adding too many people will damage relations with Russia, while not adding enough would alienate Congress. In the end, the decision will be entirely a political one, and is unlikely to have anything to do with the facts of the cases.

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