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Ministry of the Interior yet to implement 'Magnitsky List' restrictions

Woman with a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky at a protest march in Moscow.
Woman with a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky at a protest march in Moscow. Source: AFP/Scanpix

Although the Riigikogu adopted an amendment in December 2016 already that would enable the banning of high-ranking Russian officials on the so-called "Magnitsky List" from entering Estonia, the Ministry of the Interior has yet to implement such restrictions.

"I recall that Estonia's so-called 'Magnitsky clause' is an amendment to the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act which President Kersti Kaljulaid announced at an annual human rights conference in December 2016," Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) told BNS on Tuesday. "In the given context, we are talking about the implementation of the amendment, which falls under the competence of the Ministry of the Interior."

The Riigikogu in 2016 adopted amendments to the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act which amended and specified the legal bases for imposing a prohibition on entry on aliens so that they were in conformity with the international security situation, took into account the risk assessments of security authorities, and created a real and direct connection between the practice of prohibitions on entry and risk assessments.

One of the amendments allows for the application of an entry ban on an alien if there is information or are reasonable grounds to believe that said alien has participated in or contributed to the violation of human rights in a foreign country which has resulted in the death or serious damage to the health of a person, unfounded conviction of a person for a criminal offense on political motives, or other serious consequences.

This legal basis for the application of an entry ban has been dubbed the Magnitsky provision after the case of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed large-scale tax fraud committed by Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs officials and died in unclear circumstances in Moscow's Butyrka Pretrial Prison in 2009 at age 37.

"This amendment doesn't directly oblige to implement prohibition on entry in regard to persons on the Magnitsky List, but it provides a basis for doing which did not previously exist," Mikser said.

The law states that "the application of a prohibition on entry shall be decided without undue delay by the Ministry of the Interior or an authorized governmental authority in the area of government of the Ministry of the Interior."

Asked by BNS for a comment on the issue, the Ministry of the Interior referred to the words of Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt (SDE) in the Riigikogu on May 15, 2017, when he answered a question asked by several Reform Party MPs regarding the issue.

In his response, Anvelt said that the prohibition to enter has not been imposed on people on the so-called Magnitsky List because, in his opinion, such a prohibition can only be imposed on people who might pose a danger to Estonia. He added that neither the ministry nor its area of responsibility currently has evidence that the persons on the list pose an imminent threat to Estonia or other EU member states.

Countries that have imposed sanctions on Russian officials connected to Magnitsky's death include the U.S., Estonia the U.K. and Canada.

On Jan. 12, Lithuania imposed a prohibition on entry regarding 49 Russian citizens who are accused of human rights violations and money-laundering in accordance with the so-called Magnitsky law, and last week, the Latvian government coalition announced it supports the Magnitsky bill currently being discussed in the Saeima and which may be adopted by this summer.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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