Oireachtas committee backs down from sanctioning Russian officials

No blackmail over adoptions, says committee chairman

A picture of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is seen on his grave in the Preobrazhensky cemetery in Moscow

A picture of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is seen on his grave in the Preobrazhensky cemetery in Moscow

 

An Oireachtas committee has backed down from sanctioning Russian officials involved in the death of a lawyer there. A motion to list officials involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, freeze their assets and issue visa bans for them has been replaced by a motion which calls on the Government to convey the committee’s concern over the death.

This motion was unanimously passed by the Oireachtas committee on foreign affairs.

The Russian ambassador to Ireland wrote to the committee in March warning that any move to introduce a Magnitsky law could “have negative influence” on an adoption agreement between the two countries.

Pat Breen, Fine Gael TD and chairman of the committee, said after the meeting he “wouldn’t regard as blackmail” the failure by the committee to support sanctions. “We have reached a motion that fulfils our obligations on human rights,” he said.

Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh who proposed the original motion said after the committee meeting he was “disappointed we didn’t have some sanctions”.

“But politics is about achieving compromise,” he added. The approved motion was proposed after Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan proposed an amendment to Mr Walsh’s motion removing the sanctions.

Several members of the committee had been contacted by people trying to adopt Russian children who were fearful the applications could be jeopardised. The Russian government should be “thoroughly ashamed” for “ this use of children”, Independent Senator David Norris told the committee. He had been contacted by one couple who had already adopted a Russian child and wanted to adopt a second child from Russia but were were concerned after reading about the ambassador’s letter. The motion approved by the committee was about “realpolitik”, he said afterwards. “You have to be realistic if you want to get things done,” he added.

The approved motion notes the Russian Human Rights Council’s findings that Mr Magnitsky “died as a result of beatings by prison guards” and the dropping of charges of negligence against two doctors. It calls on the Government to use the EU presidency to highlight its concern over the death.

The US adopted the Magnitsky Act in December with Russia hitting back by banning adoptions from Russia. Mr Magnitsky had uncovered the theft of taxes by Russian officials and was afterwards imprisoned for tax evasion where he died in 2009.