One Big Thing: The U.S. Magnitsky Act & Global Human Rights Law
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What is it?
Championed by Senator John McCain, The U.S. Global Magnitsky Act was passed in 2016 and allows the U.S. government to impose visa bans and financial sanctions on individuals who are responsible for committing human rights violations or significant acts of corruption.
Other countries have followed the U.S.’s lead and adopted similar laws to go after human rights abusers. Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, and the United Kingdom have laws and the EU is likely going to adopt a similar law. Australia is currently considering a similar bill.
The 2016 Global Magnitsky Act is based off of an earlier bill known as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was jailed, tortured, and killed by the government in 2009 for exposing a high-level tax fraud scheme involving several high-level officials.
Why is it important?
Human rights legislation is an issue that regularly gains strong bipartisan support in the U.S. The original Magnitsky Act, passed in 2012, received bipartisan support from Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John McCain (R-AZ). Subsequently, the 2016 global iteration has received equal bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle. Due to the bipartisan nature of human rights legislation, it often serves as a starting point for Congressional Democrats and Republicans to bridge their political differences.
Denial of visas and fiscal sanctions are a huge step in preventing global human rights violations and punishes its worst abusers. The Magnitsky and Global Magnitsky Acts authorize the US Treasury to block any sanctioned individual’s access to US-based property and from further investing in US markets. The US is a highly frequented destination for many kleptocrats and human rights violators to spend their ill-gained money so ending their access is a step in the right direction. As countries continue to follow the trend and adopt their own human rights legislation, the world accessible to human rights abusers shrinks.
For example, the US government placed Magnitsky sanctions on Saudi Arabian officials for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, as well as human rights abusers in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia.