Ian Austin: Russian human rights abusers are being protected by 'thuggish' Putin
A Black Country MP’s bid for a new law banning Russian human rights abusers from entering the UK has passed its first hurdle in the House of Commons.
Ian Austin introduced a 10-minute rule bill to give the Home Secretary new powers to refuse the right of entry to any non-EEA national who is known to have violated civil rights laws.
The Labour MP for Dudley North asked MPs to recognise the fate of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in a Russian prison eight years ago, and the battle that his friend and former employer Bill Browder has waged to expose his murderers. On its first reading, Mr Austin’s Human Rights Abuse and Corruption Bill – dubbed the Magnitsky bill – was passed unanimously after receiving widespread cross-party support.
Mr Austin said he wants to see sanctions introduced for people found guilty of corruption and human rights abuses, including visa bans.
Mr Magnitsky was an accountant and lawyer who was arrested and detained in squalid, often freezing prisons, tortured and denied medical attention.
After a year, on November 16, 2009, he was allegedly beaten by eight riot guards with batons as he was chained to a bed. He died from his injuries, at the age of 37, leaving a wife and two children.
He was said to have been targeted because he had exposed a $230 million tax fraud involving senior Russian government officials. The money was corporate tax paid by the London-based fund, Hermitage Capital Management, run by Mr Browder, who was the biggest foreign investor in post-communist Russia.
The United States, Canada, Estonia and Lithuania have all passed legislation imposing visa bans and asset freezes on those people who were responsible for Mr Magnitsky’s fate, and also on those who are responsible for similar abuses of human rights and acts of corruption elsewhere.
Last year Conservative Dominic Raab introduced a Magnitsky amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill, which was passed with cross-party support earlier this year.
Mr Austin said: “But there is no legislation that deals with visa bans for human rights violators and so far no assets have been frozen, so my proposals would go much further and give the Government powers to sanction individuals who were found guilty of corruption and human rights abuse with visa bans, asset freezes, and public placement on a list of banned foreign criminals.
“The gang who had Magnitsky murdered are beyond the reach of justice while they enjoy the protection of Russia’s thuggish President.
“We in the west cannot call them to account, but we can stop his murderers and other of their kind from coming to the UK or spending their gains here."
The next reading of the Bill is set for February.