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U.S. senators seek to sanction human rights violators in Russia

© RIA Novosti . Vladimir FedorenkoU.S. Senate
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A bipartisan bill freezing assets and blocking visas of individuals who commit gross human-rights violations against Russian rights activists was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

A bipartisan bill freezing assets and blocking visas of individuals who commit gross human-rights violations against Russian rights activists was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

The bill is sponsored by 14 senators, including one of its principal initiators, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent U.S. government agency monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords.

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 seeks to combat what has become "a toxic atmosphere of impunity in Russia where despite occasional rhetoric from the Kremlin, the authorities have failed to follow through with meaningful action to stem rampant corruption or bring the perpetrators of numerous and high-profile crimes to justice," Sen. Cardin said in introducing the bill.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the bill was "regrettable."

"It is not only in discord with the current level of interaction between our countries, prompting associations with the Cold War era, but also goes beyond the bounds of elementary decency," the ministry's press and information department said on Friday.

Magnitsky died aged 37 in a Moscow pre-trial detention facility in 2009 after being refused medical treatment for pancreatitis. He had been detained as part of an investigation into embezzlement involving Hermitage Capital investment, for whom he was working.

Magnitsky claimed he had been falsely imprisoned by the same officials in the Interior Ministry who he had accused of embezzlement.

Cardin, who in April 2010 called for a visa ban on 60 Russian officials involved in the death of Magnitsky, said the aim of the bill went far beyond that specific case.

"While this bill bears Sergei Magnitsky's name in honor of his sacrifice, the language addresses the overall issue of the erosion of the rule of law and human rights in Russia," he said. "It offers hope to those who suffer in silence, whose cases may be less known or not known at all."

The bill targets those involved in Magnitsky's case and also targets individuals "responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of human rights."

The bill also seeks to protect individuals who expose illegal activity by Russian government officials as well as extend protection to those who advocate for freedom of expression, religion or other democratic principles.

WASHINGTON, May 20 (RIA Novosti) 

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