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For Wife and Son of Magnitsky, Canadian law is a step toward justice for all

01 Nov 17
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In November, 2009, eight-year-old Nikita Magnitsky was hoping to write another letter to his estranged dad, when his mother gave him the bad news. His father, Sergei, a Russian tax attorney who was jailed in Moscow for almost a year, had died at the hands of prison employees.

Nikita, now 16, and his mother, Natasha, are planning to mark the eighth anniversary of Sergei’s death. As some memories of Sergei fade, others linger, especially those from that fateful day.

“I don’t recall how the conversation started but I believe we were talking about him {},” Nikita told The Globe and Mail through a sit-down interview in Ottawa on Tuesday.

“I’d usually send letters {}. I believe I was asking about if I could send another letter. And I think she said he was dead {}”

Sergei Magnitsky was hired in 2005 as the attorney for the Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund, owned by U.S.-born financier Bill Browder. He was detained in 2008 after accusing Russian officials of thieving. Tests by Russia’s human-rights council finally concluded that he was beaten to death by prison employees.

Mr. Browder has since led an international effort targeting human-rights abusers globally, in honor of Sergei. The effort, which has involved Nikita and his mother, has caused the passing of Magnitsky legislation in four countries, such as in Canada. The initial Magnitsky Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2012, in response to the passing of Mr. Magnitsky. The action blocks certain Russian officials suspected of human-rights abuses from entering the USA.

The Magnitskys are in Ottawa this week observing the passing of Bill S-226, known as the Sergei Magnitsky Law. The legislation became law on Oct. 18, seven years after Mr. Browder originally approached then-Liberal MP Irwin Cotler to think about a Magnitsky-style bill that would give Canada the capability to target human-rights abusers around the world.

“I want to thank everybody who participated in getting this legislation to be in Canada,” said Nikita, translating for his mother who spoke in Russian.

“We’re very humbled that the law carries the name of Sergei Magnitsky.”

Global Affairs Canada will work with the Treasury Board over the coming weeks to set a list of people to be targeted under the Magnitsky legislation. Nikita encouraged the authorities to check at the “bigger picture” and consider all human-rights violators — not only those responsible for his father’s death.

“Sergei is not the only person on the planet who travelled through injustice, so I’m happy for anybody who gets justice. And I believe that is actually the main point of this law. Not to only honour Sergei, but to help other individuals today,” he said.

Russia has vowed retaliation for Canada’s passage of this law. Mr. Browder says he had been the first goal earlier this month, when Russia put him on Interpol’s most-wanted list for the fifth time. Interpol afterwards rejected the arrest note.

Speaking at a conference in Sochi earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Canada of enjoying “unconstructive political games” in passing the Magnitsky law and accused Mr. Browder of “crime, theft and deception” while he lived in Russia. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has also warned that Russia will sanction more Canadian officials if Ottawa targets any Russians with Magnitsky sanctions.

On Wednesday, the Magnitskys will meet with MPs and senators who made Bill S-226 possible. Nikita, an aspiring artist, is also hoping to present Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a painting he created as a token of appreciation to the government for passing the sanctions law in memory of his dad. He struggled to find words to explain how much a meeting with Mr. Trudeau would mean to him and his mom.

Nikita’s love for art stems from his fondest memories with his dad. He recalls wandering Russia’s art galleries with Sergei, admiring the paintings. Nikita, who now lives in London with his mother, hopes to study art at an American college. Mr. Browder has made it his mission to help him get into the best college.

“I am attempting to supply particular forms of fatherly support and guidance which Sergei might have supplied,” Mr. Browder said.

Although Nikita doesn’t intend to follow in Sergei’s professional disposition, he’ll continue to support the call for Magnitsky legislation throughout the world as a means to maintain his father’s memory alive.

“I feel the most important thing you can learn from him [Sergei] is that you will need to stand up for what you believe to be authentic. And he always did this, regardless of the circumstance. He would fight for what he thought was right. And I believe that if everybody did that … it’d result in a far better world.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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