Sergei Magnitsky, Russia

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Sergei Magnitsky, age 37, represented the Hermitage Fund, once Russia's largest foreign portfolio investor, and reported the largest fraud in modern Russian history perpetrated by Russian government officials. He testified that Russian officials misappropriated three companies from his client and embezzled $230 million of public funds. Shortly after his testimony, Magnitsky was arrested by the same officials he had testified against.

While in custody Magnitsky was subjected to cruel and inhumane conditions and denied access to legal counsel. After 358 days in jail, he died on November 16, 2009. After his death, family requests for an independent autopsy were denied by the Russian authorities. As a result, the body was buried without any objective medical examination.

To date, no one has been charged or prosecuted in Russia. Russian investigations have concluded that sudden heart failure caused Mr. Magnitsky's death.

On April 15, 2011 US Representative James McGovern (D-MA), helped introduce "The Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act (H.R. 1575) to "make certain individuals ineligible for visas or admission to the United States and to revoke visas and other entry documents previously issued to such individuals, and to impose certain financial measures on such individuals, until the Russian Federation has thoroughly investigated the death of Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky and brought the Russian criminal justice system into compliance with international legal standards, and for other purposes."

Speaking from the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. McGovern said, "In the absence of a formal and independent investigation into his death, the exact circumstances leading to his death remain shrouded under a veil of government secrecy."

On July 13, 2011 President Obama met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and discussed issues of democracy and human rights, including the tragedy surrounding the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

In the fourth medical study of the case released in early July 2011, official Russian experts admitted that inadequate medical care had a cause and effect relationship on Mr. Magnitsky's death. However, the investigation ignored significant findings about the continuously worsening and cruel conditions Mr. Magnitsky endured. During Mr. Magnitsky's final hours, he did not receive any necessary medical attention.

A team of PHR forensic experts reviewed official documents made available through the victim's mother. Our report concludes that:

  • 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.
  • 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 US protocols.
  • Tissues from injuries found on Magnitsky's body after his death were not removed during the autopsy and their forensic analysis has not been carried out.

In June 2011, a lawyer for Mr. Magnitsky's family filed a lawsuit demanding release of the tissue samples to the family for an independent study. A hearing is set for July 19, 2011. PHR has agreed to examine tissue samples from Mr. Magnitsky if the government releases them and Mr. Magnitsky's mother provides them to the organization.

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