Darling of the Commons, Bill Browder, Helps Frame Britain’s Faux Human Rights Agenda

The West’s go-to man on Russia, Bill Browder, pictured in front of a portrait of his deceased accountant, Sergei Magnitsky.

21st Century Wire says….

Should the UK leave the European Union without a deal next month, it will carry over all EU sanctions, but it will also be able to wage its own economic warfare through the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act (2018), or SAMLA.  For future sanctions SAMLA will enable the UK to carry on what it has been doing all along from inside the EU. After Brexit, Britain will then be unconstrained by EU policy, in the hopes of following Washington’s unilateral actions against its enemies, but with the scope to tighten its US alliance further.

The SAMLA includes a version of the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act which followed the original 2012 Act.  The UK government has built on the Global Magnitsky Act, to create a mechanism for sanctions under a range of pretexts, including:

  • Provide accountability for or be a deterrent to gross violations of human rights, or otherwise promote.
    compliance with international human rights law, or respect for human rights.
  • Promote compliance with international humanitarian law.
  • Contribute to multilateral efforts to prevent the spread and use of weapons and materials of mass destruction.
  • Promote respect for democracy, the rule of law and good governance.

The story behind the Magnitsky Act has been well-documented.   It followed the lobbying of US Congress by wealthy hedge fund operator Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital Management, to punish the Russian officials who he claims are responsible for the death of his former associate, Sergei Magnitsky.  Browder ran his company in Russia during the 1990s  and early 2000s, when corruption was at an institutionalised  level following the dismantling of the Soviet Union.  At the time he was believed to be the biggest foreign investor in Russia.  His company was blacklisted in 2005, considered to be a threat to national security, and in 2007 the Russian authorities carried out a raid, suspecting Browder’s business was involved in large scale tax fraud. One of Browder’s Russian accounts, Magnitsky, was arrested and died in prison before his trial, in 2009.  According to Browder, Magnitsky was a “lawyer” and a “whistleblower” who was framed for the tax fraud perpetrated by corrupt Russian police and government officers, before he died as a result of ill-treatment and alleged brutal beatings ordered by the same officers who framed him. Browder has since been convicted in a Russian court for tax evasion, and was sentenced to a jail term in absentia. He is still wanted by the Russian authorities.

Browder’s appearance at Congress led to US sanctions against individuals supposedly involved in Magnitsky’s death. This paved the way for the famous Magnitsky Act. Browder’s narrative has been challenged in the documentary ‘The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes’ by filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov.  Nekrasov believed Magnitsky was not so much a lawyer as a corrupt and complicit accountant.  The documentary has been blacklisted for Western audiences, and implicates Browder as someone who would be most likely to have benefited from Magnitsky’s death and the subsequent framing of the Magnitsky narrative as the impetus for further western sanctions against Russia.  Magnitsky was just one of four suspects in the case,  all of whom died within a two year period.

On Wednesday 13th February this year, Browder made his most recent of several trips to the House of Commons. During that time he complained the UK were failing to arrest Russian money-laundering kleptocrats because members of the House of Lords were lobbying to protect them.  At the end of the public session he remained to give private ‘evidence’ as the public was made to leave.  Browder, whose name is now linked to Magnitsky, to Russiagate, to the Integrity Initiative, and to HSBC with all its sordid corruption, is given pride of place in all the corridors of power staffed with influential people who can’t do enough for him.

It’s not a surprise Browder is so popular with an establishment that is increasingly promoting anti-Russia narratives, and the level of aggression of UK foreign policy may become more visible when it’s freed from EU constraint.  After all, according to Tom Keatinge of the neocon think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI):

Within the EU, it is typically the UK that has been a robust advocate for the use of sanctions (for example against Russian aggression in Ukraine).

50 percent of existing EU sanctions designations are underpinned by UK evidence.

It is only logical that the UK government will want to carry on exercising its soft power in the EU after Brexit.  It is also logical that if the UK has exercised such influence regarding EU sanctions, it has enjoyed an equal amount of influence in most, if not all, of EU foreign policy.  It is hard to imagine the UK will not want to retain its influence  through various means.

As the SAMLA bill was going through parliament, the Foreign Affairs select committee congratulated itself on Britain’s stand against human rights abuses:

Human rights abusers and their money are not welcome in the UK. We applaud the inclusion of a Magnitsky clause in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, allowing sanctions regulations to be made for the purpose of preventing, or in response to, a gross human rights abuse or v. This long-overdue measure sends a powerful signal of support to victims of human rights abuse around the world.

However, nobody is fooled by this fake concern for human rights, as even a UN report submitted a few months later to the Committee shows:

… we draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that an increasing number of our allies have suspended arms exports to Saudi Arabia, a form of sanction, apparently in response to risks that through continued exports states may become complicit in breeches of international humanitarian law, and in response to the increasingly regionally damaging and unpredictable foreign policies of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. …We draw the Committee’s attention to that evidence.

Bill Browder: VIP guest on any Cold War platform.

During Browder’s recent trip to the House of Commons, he suggested the UK could have used its SAMLA policy following the murder of Saudi Jamal Kashoggi, to which the committee agreed.  But the pretence for humanitarian concern fools nobody.  It is already understood by those paying attention SAMLA will not be used against Gulf State dictators or war criminals that work for Washington.  Nor will Emmanuel Macron be targeted with these Magnitsky-inspired sanctions to:

promote his compliance with international humanitarian law’and stop the state-sponsored violence against the Yellow Vest protesters.

Seventeen Saudi killers were sanctioned under Canada’s Magnitsky Act for the murder of Kashoggi. This erased entirely the complicity by Saudi dictator Mohamad Bin Salman, suspected of ordering the killing.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued his military sales to the Saudi government and Canada’s weapons and armoured vehicles continue to be used in the Saudi’s barbaric war on Yemen.   We are left to conclude that while Kashoggi qualifies as human, the poor of Yemen do not and so will not be defended by the magnificent Magnitsky crusaders of Western liberal democracy under clauses relating to human rights abuses.

Instead, the Act will most likely be used in varying degrees to blackmail, extort and coerce people elected and mandated to carry out their job.   The SAMLA regulations following the UK’s exit of the EU show how its Magnitsky elements will be used for Venezuela:

The international community has legitimate concerns that the Government of Venezuela is no longer accountable to its citizens. Dialogue with the Venezuelan opposition is not meaningful and the Government often represses opposition leaders. The Venezuelan Supreme Court is no longer independent, but is controlled by the Venezuelan Government.

This propaganda is driven entirely by political agenda, given the UK’s support of the blatant attempted coup by the US to overthrow the democratically elected Maduro government.  This warning of political agenda driving sanctions is laid out clearly to the Foreign Affairs Committee in a report by  Maya Lester, specialist in EU law,  when asked to comment about the Magnitsky Act

These are serious criminal allegations and the bar for adding people on this basis must be appropriately high given the serious potential consequences for them and the seriousness of what is alleged. The arbitrary use of such measures may risk undermining their integrity.

So who could be targeted? Will Alan Duncan be imposing bilateral sanctions with the US on elected heads of state in Nicaragua, clearly marked out by Washington for another visit by democracy? Or perhaps the UK may use the Act to impose sanctions against heads of Russian intelligence, following Theresa May’s claim that the Russian State carried out a chemical weapons attack in Salisbury last year?  Or would the UK consider sanctions for cases of Russian disinformation or foreign meddling?   Now that the EU is on track for its own Magnitsky Act  cyber sanctions could be part of a US-UK-EU tool kit.  Or perhaps any one of the following might appear:

  • ‘A List’ targeting Russian businessmen close to Putin
  • Sanctions targeting Russian sovereign debt
  • The naming and shaming of Russians/Venezuelans/Iranians banned from UK entry
  • Restrictions on investor visas for certain Russian businessmen
  • Suggestions on a postcard

The UK version of the Magnitsky Act appears to be one of the Foreign Office’s attempts to address:

President Putin’s campaign to subvert the international rules-based system.

Given that the UK is currently supporting an illegal attempted coup against Venezuela, and has in recent years supported the overthrow of the Libyan government, the attempted overthrow of the Syrian government, and has colluded in the US-led regime change in Ukraine in 2014, the question must be asked: what is this international rules-based system that favours Western imperialist governments and their allies?  The right-wing National Assembly in Venezuela and neo-fascists in Ukraine are other likely beneficiaries of the Magnitsky Act. After all it was Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian  convicted by a Russian court for acts of terrorism, who was awarded the Magnitsky prize last year, an award created to remind us of the dangers of the Russian state,  according to Bill Browder. Other winners were Alexei Navalny and John McCain which gives some indication of who funds the award.

Whatever shape it takes in the future, the UK version of the Magnitsky Act is a weapon in the imperialist tool box that will almost certainly be used maliciously under fake pretexts of humanitarian concern. It will be imposed by the same establishment that meddles in other countries, overthrows governments and funds barbaric wars on the poor.

READ MORE BREXIT NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Magnitsky Act


21 Century Wire

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