10.02.19

Gardner, Cardin, Rubio Lead Call for U.S. to Hold Russian Officials Accountable for Imprisoning Dissidents and Political Opponents

There are more than 200 political prisoners in Russia, according to human rights organizations

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are leading bipartisan calls for the Trump Administration to sanction Russian officials responsible for the unjust imprisonment of more than 200 political prisoners in that country.

 

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, the senators urge the use of existing authorities, including the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act “to impose targeted sanctions on Russian Government officials responsible for human rights abuses, specifically for the politically motivated imprisonment of dissidents, under relevant U.S. statutory authorities. This is an important step for accountability, and sends a message that the U.S. stands with those whose rights and basic freedoms are being unjustly repressed,” they wrote.

 

In addition to Gardner, Cardin, and Rubio, the letter was signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Todd Young (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Roger F. Wicker (R-MS) and Susan M. Collins (R-ME).                

 

Full text of the letter can be found below and here:

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin:

 

We write to request that you take action in response to the Russian government’s ongoing targeting of dissidents and opposition leaders, including the politically motivated imprisonment of many Russian individuals. We urge you to use existing authorities under U.S. law, including the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, to impose targeted sanctions on Russian Government officials responsible for these human rights abuses.

 

The Memorial Human Rights Center, a respected Russian human rights organization documenting political prisoner’s cases, reports that there are currently over 200 vetted political prisoners in Russia. This estimate is likely conservative, as it is based on strict Council of Europe criteria. Since 2015, this number has increased significantly.

 

Russia’s political prisoners include peaceful protesters, civil society activists, human rights advocates, journalists, Crimean Tatars, members of “undesirable” political organizations and adherents of prohibited religious groups. Some examples of particularly egregious cases are Alexei Pichugin who has been imprisoned for 16 years over the “Yukos Affair” and Konstantin Kotov who was sentenced earlier this month for participating in a peaceful demonstration in Moscow. While these prisoners have different stories and different backgrounds, they are united by their unjust imprisonment under Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.

 

Earlier this year, an international coalition of NGOs published The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: Advancing a Political Agenda by Crushing Dissent, a comprehensive report that not only details the cases of individual prisoners but also identifies Russian Government officials who bear responsibility for arbitrary imprisonment. While some of the individuals have already been sanctioned by the U.S. Government, many others—including Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov, and Federal Penitentiary Service Director Gennady Kornienko—have not.

 

We urge you to continue to impose targeted sanctions on Russian Government officials responsible for human rights abuses, specifically for the politically motivated imprisonment of dissidents, under relevant U.S. statutory authorities. This is an important step for accountability, and sends a message that the U.S. stands with those whose rights and basic freedoms are being unjustly repressed.

 

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.