* Bill would name human rights abusers in Russia
* Senate version of bill could still change
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON, June 18 A draft proposal to penalize
Russian officials for human rights abuses has been rewritten in
the Senate to let the U.S. government keep secret some names on
the list of abusers, congressional aides said on Monday.
The reworked Senate version, which could still change, upset
some supporters of the legislation to create what is known as
the "Magnitsky list." They said that keeping part of the
proposed list secret would neuter the effect of the bill, which
is aimed at exposing human rights violators in Russia.
The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee this
month approved the "Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability
Act," named for a 37-year-old anti-corruption lawyer who worked
for the equity fund Hermitage Capital. His 2009 death after a
year in Russian jails spooked investors and blackened Russia's
The measure would require the United States to deny visas
and freeze the U.S. assets of Russians linked to Magnitsky's
death. The bill as originally written in both the House and
Senate would make public the list of offenders and broaden it to
include other abusers of human rights in Russia.
A reworked draft circulating in the Senate and obtained by
Reuters would allow the list to "contain a classified annex if
the Secretary (of State) determines that it is necessary for the
national security interests of the United States to do so."
William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital, told Reuters he
suspected the "classified annex" provision had been inserted at
the request of the Obama administration to water down the bill
and so avoid offending the Russian government, which opposes the
"The administration is trying to gut the bill, because
they've been against it from the start. They are trying to make
nice with the Russians," Browder said in a phone conversation
The administration of President Barack Obama argues the bill
is unnecessary because the administration has already imposed
visa restrictions on some Russians believed to have been
involved in Magnitsky's death. But it has kept their names
Backers of the Magnitsky bill want the list of human rights
violators made public both to shame those on the list and to
keep them from doing business with U.S. financial institutions.
The White House is also anxious to keep the push for
sanctions on human rights abusers in Russia from slowing down
efforts to get congressional approval allowing "permanent normal
trade relations" with Russia this year.
Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat, is the main sponsor of the
Magnitsky bill in the Senate, but there was no comment from his
office on the draft bill on Monday. The legislation was
scheduled to have a vote on Tuesday in the Senate Foreign
However, Senate aides said at least one member of the
committee may request on Tuesday that the vote be postponed
until the committee's next business meeting, but no date for
that has been set.
A Senate Republican aide said there is concern that having
part of the list be classified would make steps like the asset
"How can an individual's assets be frozen, if his or her name
cannot be disclosed to financial institutions?" the aide asked.
Republicans would try to amend the bill to at least require a
justification to Congress for each person put on the classified
list, the aide said.
Magnitsky was jailed in 2008 on charges of tax evasion and
fraud. His colleagues say these were fabricated by police
investigators whom he had accused of stealing $230 million from
the state through fraudulent tax returns. The Kremlin's own
human rights council said in 2011 that he was probably beaten to
(Reporting By Susan Cornwell; Editing by Eric Walsh)