NEW DELHI: Taking away dictators’, torturers’ access to 27 countries in the European Union (EU) is a harsh, meaningful way of expressing displeasure over these types of crimes, says William F. Browder, a friend and ex-employer of Sergei Magnitsky.
On December 7. EU Foreign Ministers approved the ‘Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy’ (informally known as the EU Magnitsky Act) that gives the 27 EU states powers to ban targeted people from travelling in Europe, to freeze the assets of both officials and organizations, companies or banks and to outlaw Europeans from making funds available to those engaged in serious human rights violations. Now, “those who commit terrible crimes in their countries can’t go on vacation to Saint-Tropez, Sardinia and Marbella with no repercussions,” Browder said. “It took 10 years, was a very difficult fight with amoral politicians and government officials standing in the way, but we have overcome that,” said the CEO of Hermitage Capital, who has campaigned for a decade post Magnitsky’s death and is seen as the activist behind global sanction laws passed by the U.S., Canada, UK, the Baltic states and Kosovo. He said Australia and Japan will be next. On the EU’s sanctions list, Browder said should be, “first and foremost, the killers and torturers of Sergei Magnitsky, 19 members of the Saudi regime behind the torture, murder and dismemberment of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, the Burmese generals involved in Rohingya genocide, the Maduro regime in Venezuela. And then of course there’s the huge issue of the concentration camps in Xinjiang.” With “31 countries having Magnitsky acts, if they work together to create a sanctions list together, it will create an impossible barrier for China to overcome.” Browder, the author of ‘Red Notice’ added: “with an economic bloc as big as the EU acting, it’s very difficult for China to retaliate without cutting off their own nose to spite their face economically.”
In the 1990s, Bill Browder founded what would become the largest foreign investment fund in Russia, Hermitage Capital Management, worth $4.5 bn in assets. But he fell out of favour, was barred from entering the country and now calls himself Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “number one enemy”. Browder was Sergei Magnitsky’s boss, when in 2008 he allegedly found evidence of a multimillion dollar corruption scheme involving authorities. Magnitsky was arrested, charged with tax evasion, spent almost a year in prison and after complaining of worsening illness died at the age of 37. Authorities say he died of heart attack but the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found he was denied sufficient medical assistance. Magnitsky’s widow Natalya works with Browder in London.