Friday, 12 August 2011

Russia retaliates in 'Magnitsky list' row

The row over the Magnitsky list has moved onto the next stage as Russian officials announce they have a black list of American officials.

The ministry of foreign affairs has declined to reveal who is on it but unidentified officials said that those involved in the cases of Viktor Bout, convicted for gun running, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, for drugs smuggling, feature prominently.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Kommersant that a draft blacklist of US officials was being discussed, which included “people linked to problems in Russian-US relations, including those on humanitarian tracks.”

But some in the Duma question the behavior of both the Russian and American sides in the row over the death in custody of the lawyer.

Moscow maintains that Washington seriously violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 when they arrested Yaroshenko on the territory of a third country, Liberia, and then secretly took him back to the States.

Viktor Bout was portrayed as an international arms dealer and member of a conspiracy before a Thai court had pronounced his verdict. This piece of slander was in contravention of his human rights, they say.

Likely contenders for the Russian black list are drug enforcement officers Derek Odny, Scott Hacker and Robert Zahariasievich.

“They bugged Viktor Bout and arrested him without any permission for either wiretaps or arrest. Most of all, they tried to take him from Thailand without going through the extradition process, as if he were a piece of luggage,” Viktor Burobin, one of Bout’s lawyers, told Kommersant.

“And if we talk of interstate relations and international rights in the broadest sense then our claim is that a person who has not committed any crime on the territory of the US or in relation to [American] citizens or property, cannot be tried in that country,” Burobin said.

They view Yaroshenko’s arrest in a similar light. “Our claims against the US are considerably broader and are not limited to the cases of Bout or Yaroshenko. There is a whole raft of cases concerning violations of Russian citizens,” a ministry source said.

Leonid Kalashnikov of the Communist party and first deputy head of the Duma International Affairs Committee derided the Russian response as an empty “caricature”.

“The ministry of foreign affairs can, of course, draw up its own list. But I doubt that they will find American officials who are trying to get into Russia, who educate their children there or keep their money in Russian banks,” he told Kommersant.

And he advised the Americans to redirect their efforts onto more useful causes, “if they really want to say something about human rights they ought not to deal with [Magnitsky’s old boss William] Browder but, for example, elections in Russia.

“Especially in the run up to the important electoral campaigns of this year and next. Everyone knows that violations are perpetrated over here. Now establishing which governors and officials are guilty of that, that is what I would have welcomed,” he said.

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