Treasury Lists Russians Facing Sanctions on Human Rights

The Obama administration released a list of 18 Russians who will be subject to financial sanctions and banned from entering the U.S. for playing a role in human rights abuses, prompting Russia to impose its own ban.

The Treasury Department acted yesterday under a law passed last year known as the Magnitsky Act, named for a Russian lawyer who accused police officials of stealing $230 million from the national treasury. Supporters of Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested on tax evasion charges and died in jail in 2009, say he was tortured and denied medical treatment.

The administration submitted a second, classified list to Congress of other Russians who will be banned from traveling to the U.S., according to a State Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. The official said he couldn’t explain why the second list was classified because that would give away who was on it, and he declined to say how many people were on it.

The official acknowledged that the use of a classified sanctions list may add to friction with Russia, where the Magnitsky law has been denounced as interference in the country’s internal affairs. Russia’s Investigative Committee said last month that Magnitsky, who advised Hermitage Capital Management, died of cardiac failure and that it found no evidence he suffered physical abuse.

Russian Counter-List

The Russian Foreign Ministry today released its own list of 18 former and current U.S. officials barred from entering Russia, the ministry said on its website. The ban, for human-rights violations against Russians abroad, also includes people the ministry accuses of torture at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Included in the Russian list are David Addington, the former chief of staff to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and Jeffrey Harbeson, the head of the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo until 2012.

President Barack Obama’s administration is trying to secure Russia’s cooperation to end the civil war in Syria. It is also seeking Russia’s help in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.

Restart Talks

Obama administration officials are trying to restart nonproliferation talks with Russia, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is scheduled to travel there later this month.

The list of 18 Russians issued yesterday doesn’t include some higher-profile names that U.S. lawmakers have said they wanted to see facing sanctions, including Russia’s top police official, Alexander Bastrykin, who led a crackdown on opponents of his nation’s government, and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Republican Representative Ed Royce of California, the chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “the publication of this list is a welcome step in our efforts to support democracy and human rights in Russia.” Royce urged Secretary of State John Kerry “to ensure that the names of all those involved in such crimes are made public.”

Financial Penalties

The State Department official said political considerations didn’t play a part in decisions about who was placed on the list. He was unable to say whether the 18 on the public list have financial assets in the U.S. that would be frozen under sanctions. The people on the classified list won’t face financial sanctions.

Sixteen people on the public list were cited because of their association with Magnitsky’s persecution and death, the official said. They include senior investigators from the Interior Ministry, the prosecutor’s office, prison officials and the head of the pre-trial detention facility.

Of the others, one is accused of firing the shots that in 2006 killed Umar Israilov, a Chechen who filed claims in the European Court for Human Rights against Russia for human rights violations in Chechnya.

The other is associated with the 2004 murder of Paul Klebnikov, the 41-year-old American editor of Forbes Magazine in Russia. Klebnikov was killed as he left his office, when assailants in a car shot him. The investigative journalist was killed two months after publishing a list of Russia’s 100 wealthiest people.

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