Russia Must Be Held Accountable for its Human Rights Violations, Ros-Lehtinen Says
We Must Stand with Those Fighting for Democracy and Human Rights
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement today in support of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act which has been incorporated as Title IV into H.R. 6156, the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. The bill passed the House by a vote of 365-43. Floor statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“I plan to vote for this bill, H.R. 6156, even though I remain strongly opposed to granting Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations, or PNTR, at this time. I would like to explain the reasons why. Those who argue for granting Russia PNTR, which has until now been prevented by what is known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment, focus on the supposed bilateral trade benefits. But the issue that concerns me and many Members is not trade but human rights.
“Advocates of repeal say that the Jackson-Vanik amendment is outdated and purely symbolic and therefore should be disregarded. But in the area of human rights, symbols can have a very great importance. Over the years, Jackson-Vanik has become a sign of the continuing U.S. commitment to human rights in Russia and elsewhere. Repealing the amendment could very well be interpreted as an indication that our commitment is now weakening.
“This would be a terrible signal to send at a time when Vladimir Putin is in the process of imposing ever-tighter restrictions on all opposition to his regime, especially democratic activists and any others who dare to defy the authorities. I also oppose granting Russia PNTR at this time because it is but one more concession by the United States in pursuit of the President’s failed ‘reset’ of relations with Moscow, which among other measures includes: the one-sided NEW START treaty, the retrenching of NATO’s planned missile defense system against Iranian missiles, and Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization. And now Moscow is being given PNTR, even as it pursues policies in Iran and elsewhere that undermine U.S. interests.
“Nevertheless, despite my objections, I will vote for the bill because it is the only way of securing passage for H.R. 4405, the Magnitsky Act, which has been incorporated into this bill as Title IV. By requiring the President to publicly identify and impose sanctions on human rights violators in Russia, especially those involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky and the subsequent cover-up, this legislation will make clear that the U.S. remains fully committed to advancing democracy and human rights in that country.
“These are more than just symbolic steps. The proof comes from the threats by the Kremlin of retaliation if Congress dares to act because the regime fears that senior officials will be publicly implicated. The Administration tried very hard to prevent the Magnitsky Act from moving forward and gave way only when faced with overwhelming bipartisan support for it in both the House and the Senate, making it a precondition for passage of PNTR. In particular, the Administration has tried to remove a requirement that the list of officials and others be made public and has pushed hard to be allowed to keep some of those names classified. But keeping the names secret is exactly what the Kremlin hopes to do.
“Therefore, although the legislation does allow the President to put the names of some violators on a classified list, this exception can only be used when the President determines that it is vital to U.S. national interests, and he must justify such action to us in the Congress. So, to erase any doubt, let me state for the record that the clear intent of Congress is that this exception will be used only in rare cases and that misuse by the Administration will quickly prompt a strong response. Let me close by saying that, on this 3rd anniversary of the death of Sergei Magnitsky while in police custody, we in Congress are united in our support for those fighting for democracy and human rights in Russia and will stand with them in this time of repression until they have triumphed and their country has taken its rightful place among the democracies of the world.”