MPs urge government sanctions against Russia over Magnitsky death

image captionMPs across the Commons backed the motion

MPs have urged the government to impose sanctions on Russian officials involved in the death of a lawyer for a British firm who clashed with the authorities over corruption allegations.

Conservative Dominic Raab said ministers should bring in asset freezes and travel bans for those linked to the killing of Sergei Magnitsky in Russia.

He died after allegedly uncovering corruption involving senior officials.

Mr Raab's Commons motion was not opposed by the government.

Three former foreign secretaries - Labour's Jack Straw and David Miliband, and Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind - supported it.

'Breathtaking corruption'

Mr Raab, a former Foreign Office lawyer, said Mr Magnitsky had been part of a "noble Russian tradition of dissidents who stood up for the rule of law, democratic reform and free speech".

He died after allegedly uncovering a web of corruption involving senior officials, while working for London-based Hermitage Capital Management.

Mr Raab said: "Between 2007 and 2008, working for Hermitage Capital, he exposed the biggest tax fraud in Russian history, worth $230m US (£146m).

"His legal team was then subject to varying forms of intimidation and, while other lawyers left Russia in fear of their lives, Magnitsky stayed on to make a stand for the rule of law in Russia and strike a blow against the breathtaking corruption that has taken place there."

Mr Raab added: "That bravery cost him his life. He was arrested in 2008 on trumped up charges of tax evasion. Iin Putin's Kafkaesque Russian justice system the very tax investigators that Magnitsky exposed turned up to arrest him."

'Stark reminder'

After eight months in prison his condition deteriorated and he was taken to hospital for emergency surgery.

But he was not treated, but instead handcuffed and beaten, Mr Raab said. "Doctors found him an hour later lying on the floor. He was dead."

Despite 60 people implicated in the abuse of Mr Magnitsky and the original tax fraud, "the Russian authorities blocked all attempts to bring those responsible to justice", Mr Raab said.

"All the suspects were cleared by Russian investigators. Some have been promoted, some decorated. In fact, the only people on trial are Magnitsky's employer and Magnitsky himself, now the subject of Russia's first ever posthumous prosecution."

Mr Raab's motion also covered other cases "wherever there is evidence that a state official anywhere is responsible for torture, extra judicial killing, some other gross human rights abuse or is complicit in covering it up".

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said: "The death of Sergei Magnitsky serves as a stark reminder of the human rights situation in Russia, and questions about the rule of law there."

The lack of progress in the case was "deeply troubling", he added.

But he said: "The UK has a long-established and globally consistent practice of not commenting routinely on individual cases."