Both chambers of the U.S. Congress have introduced a groundbreaking human rights accountability bill aimed at acting as a deterrent to human rights abusers worldwide. The new bill expands the scope of the Magnitsky Act of 2012, which created targeted visa and financial sanctions on corrupt officials and human rights violators in Russia, to include the rest of the world.
A clause in the bill directs the U.S. President to form a list of foreign nationals whom he determines are responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other grave human rights violations committed against individuals seeking to promote human rights or to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials. These officials will face visa restrictions and asset freezes. In Spain, two lawsuits that held individual Chinese leaders accountable for their policies in Tibet were shut down following Chinese pressure on the government in Madrid.
The Chinese leadership is likely to be watching the introduction of the bill closely due to its impact on finances transferred abroad, in case it leads to Chinese government officials being called to account.
Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “The introduction of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability bill this week sends a clear signal to human rights violators all over the world, including China, which leads the group. The U.S. government can send a strong message in response by acting to restrict visa entry and freezing the assets of Chinese officials complicit in human rights abuses in China and Tibet. The International Campaign for Tibet supports the approval of this bill and will work closely with US legislators to reach this goal.”
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (S. 284) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Chris Smith, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Jim McGovern, Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and in the Senate by U.S. Senators John McCain and Ben Cardin. The bill seeks to: “Direct the President to designate foreign nationals whom he determines—based on credible information—is responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other human rights violations committed against individuals seeking to promote human rights or to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials. Aliens on this list will be deemed ineligible to enter or be admitted to the United States; visas issued for persons on the list will be revoked” and to “Direct the President to freeze assets and prohibit U.S. property transactions of such individuals.”
The previous Magnitsky Act of 2012 required the U.S. government to confront impunity, and create consequences for those involved in human rights atrocities in Russia, including the torture and killing of Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
In his former Parliamentary role before taking up the Presidency of ICT, Matteo Mecacci introduced a resolution to Italian Parliament in 2012 emphasizing the seriousness of the case concerning the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky. Mr Mecacci said: “Visa bans and asset seizures are a tool that governments can use to send a signal that government officials are accountable, and should be held responsible for violation of rights. This could apply to some senior officials who direct policy in Tibetan areas of the PRC, and who often seek to travel to the U.S. This new bill is a valuable tool to help challenge the impunity of officials in Tibet and China who are known to have been involved in such acts as ordering armed troops to open fire on peaceful unarmed protestors, or torture of political prisoners.”