WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A global version of the Magnitsky Act designed to target individuals abusing human rights and to fight corruption around the world would backfire disastrously on US interests, experts told Sputnik.
“The notion of a global Magnitsky Act has been around for some time, and it was put up by earnest and well-meaning defenders of human rights,” American Committee for East West Accord European Coordinator Gilbert Doctorow told Sputnik on Friday.
However, “as a practical matter, setting up a global Magnitsky Act would create havoc in international relations,” Doctorow said.
The Magnitsky Act was a bipartisan bill passed by the US Congress in 2012 that was designed to punish Russian officials allegedly responsible for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow pre-trial detention center in 2009.
The Act currently targets more than 50 Russians, freezes their assets and denies them visas to enter the United States.
Doctorow argued that supporters of the new initiative want to defend human rights around the world and clean up international corruption involving governments and businesses. However, he said, their goals are too impractical and too diffuse to be attempted seriously.
“All those good souls argued that similar actions are needed against other countries violating human rights,” Doctorow observed.
The original Magnitsky Act, he pointed out, “was only marginally about Mr. Magnitsky.” Its real purpose was to find a justification to replace Cold War mechanisms that imposed economic sanctions on the Soviet Union with new ones that could be used against 21st century Russia, he explained.
“[The 2012 Act] was mostly about finding a replacement for the Jackson-Vanik Amendment that the United States had to abandon as Russia joined the World Trade Organization,” Doctorow said. “The objective of the bill's sponsors from start to finish was to ensure the Russia was assigned pariah status.”
Doctorow also noted that the Magnitsky Act was never intended to be a model for broader laws applied to other countries. Therefore its strongest proponents would not back the more general legislation being suggested now, he said.
“It is unlikely the efforts [of the new initiative] to outmanoeuvre the hypocrisy and duplicity of the Magnitsky Act sponsors will get any further now,” Doctorow concluded.
Michael Averko, a New York-based foreign policy analyst and regular contributor to Eurasia Review told Sputnik that the proposed new measure, if enacted, would be widely seen outside the United States as “another attempt at idealistic meddling.”
Critics of the act around the world were likely to ask, “Who selected the US government as a global watchdog?” Averko argued.
The expert pointed out that the US government “hasn't been so fair and balanced when it comes to being on this issue.”
“The original Magnitsky Act served as an unnecessary provocation between Russia and the United States,” Averko concluded.
A new, globalized version of the Magnitsky Act would presumably have a similar effect straining relations between the United States and nations across Asia, the Middle East and Latin America that were concerned they might be targeted by it, he said.
Other experts argue that a global version of the Magnitsky Act would contain the danger that other countries could retaliate against the United States with similar legislation about well-established human rights abuses carried out by US officials and citizens.
Independent Institute analyst Ivan Eland told Sputnik the proposed measure was likely to have unintended consequences and far-reaching ramifications that its supporters did not anticipate.
“If a global Magnitsky Act were passed to deny foreign government officials with human rights violations entry into the United States or the use of the US banking system, it could affect officials from many countries with human rights problems — even autocratic allies, such Bahrain or Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The implications of such a measure needed to be exposed to extended public scrutiny before trying to enact it, Eland warned.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.