Bill Browder has spent nine years campaigning to punish Russian officials responsible for killing his friend Sergei Magnitsky. He hopes Moscow’s increased aggression will convince Europe it’s time to act.
Bill Browder lists a handful of events he believes should amount to more than enough reasons for the European Union to crack down on Kremlin abuse of human rights: the Skripal case, the downing of MH17, Oleg Sentsov’s imprisonment, the annexation of Crimea. “To get anything to happen in the EU,” Browder said drily, “requires power and leverage and force and shame.” Browder is personally trying to provide, at the very least, the shame.
Browder’s Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death in 2009 in a Moscow prison where he was incarcerated while investigating authorities’ involvement in a €202 million ($230 million) tax fraud. By 2012, Browder had shepherded through the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in the United States, which blacklisted Russian officials deemed responsible for Magnitsky’s death, applying asset freezes and visa bans. That became the “Global Magnitsky Act” in 2016, expanding its reach to human-rights offenders worldwide.
Browder has been trying to get the EU to mirror that legislation, and even after running up against the same obstacles for almost a decade, he is still incredulous it hasn’t happened. “The EU has legislation for putting people responsible for chemical weapons on lists, people responsible for political invasions,” Browder told DW. “And, as we know, we’re living in a world of massive human rights violations taking place every day everywhere.”
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