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European Court of Human Rights Finds Russia Culpable for Death of Whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, Citing PHR Forensic Review

The European Court of Human Rights today unanimously ruled that Russia was at fault for the 2009 detention death of Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblower who reported the embezzlement of $230 million by Russian officials.

The landmark judgment cites a Physicians for Humans Rights (PHR) forensic review which analyzed the available evidence of Magnitsky’s treatment in custody and death. PHR’s 2011 forensic review and 2012 addendum concluded that “repeated medical neglect and outright disregard for the well‐being of Mr. Magnitsky was undoubtedly a significant factor leading to his death.”  PHR forensic experts found that the Russian government’s medical neglect of Magnitsky was “calculated, deliberate, and inhumane.”

Today’s European Court of Human Rights judgment found that “the medical care given to Mr. Magnitsky in prison had been inadequate and had led to his death and that the subsequent investigation had been lacking. He had also been held in over-crowded conditions and had been ill-treated shortly before dying.” It also concluded that “the proceedings for his conviction after his death had been inherently unfair.”

“Nearly 10 years after Sergei Magnitsky’s inhumane imprisonment and unjust death, justice has finally prevailed,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of policy at Physicians for Human Rights. “We offer our sympathy and support for the Magnitsky family, who have endured heartbreak but persevered in their pursuit of accountability for these crimes.

“Physicians for Human Rights forensic experts reviewed official documents related to the case made available by Mr. Magnitsky’s mother in 2011. The expert review concluded that:

  1. Mr. Magnitsky suffered prolonged, severe pain, was denied regular contact with his family, denied medical evaluations for his complaints, fed meals irregularly, and kept under inhumane conditions.
  2. The official Russian autopsy protocol (on which all subsequent Russian medical studies were based) was inconsistent with best international practice and deviated significantly from standard U.S. protocols.
  3. Tissues from injuries found on Mr. Magnitsky’s body after his death were not removed during the autopsy and their forensic analysis has not been carried out.

“PHR brings the unique expertise of medical professionals to the defense of human rights around the world. We are thankful to have helped advance justice in the Magnitsky case and will continue to document and expose unjust detention conditions and human rights violations around the world.”

PHR’s forensic review and addendum are available here.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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