OPINION: It’s Time To Bring Khashoggi’s Killers Under Magnitsky Sanctions

REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

Terree Bowers Partner, Arent Fox
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Nearly 10 years ago, Russian Sergei Magnitsky tried to tell the world about corruption at the heart of Vladimir Putin’s regime and paid with his life. Today, Magnitsky may help us achieve some measure of justice in the shocking case of Jamal Khashoggi.

What does a murdered Russian whistle-blower/lawyer have to do with a Saudi-born, U.S.-based journalist who appears to have been brutally assassinated in Saudi Arabia’s Turkish Consulate?

The Magnitsky Act — now expanded to be global in reach — is the tool by which the United States and a growing number of democratic nations can impose real pain on abusers of human rights the world over.

In a sharply divided Washington, a rare bipartisan consensus is building among key lawmakers in both parties to use Magnitsky to impose consequences on the murderers of Jamal Khashoggi.

Regrettably, as the plight of Khashoggi suggests, there is no shortage of bad actors who deserve to be added to the Magnitsky List.

Whether Putin in Russia, Maduro in Venezuela, or Muhammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, the leadership of the world’s totalitarian states are turning more often and more brazenly to assassination and imprisonment to silence political enemies, real and imagined.

Totalitarian leaders don’t pull the trigger or slam the jail cell door on their own; their political decisions are executed by circles of corrupt officials who implement the desires of the leaders in these states.

The United States properly turns to Magnitsky in response, depriving the benefits of financial transactions, travel and business activities in the United States, not only to the decision-makers but also to those who execute their orders to silence, lock up and even kill political or perceived political enemies.

Given observation of some of the world’s most notorious war criminals, Magnitsky hits its targets where they hurt most, freezing their Western bank accounts and closing off their freedom to travel and acquire lavish properties in the United States, the U.K. and other Magnitsky countries.

Now, as Khashoggi’s murder brings talk of Magnitsky into the headlines, U.S. lawmakers need to redouble the use of this tool to uphold the rule of law and human rights.

All those who presided over Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s sham trial — prosecutors, police and other officials in Venezuela’s kangaroo court system — should be brought under Magnitsky sanctions.

So, too, should the judges, investigators and prosecutors who stage-managed two bogus trials of Alexei Pichugin, Russia’s longest-serving political prisoner — a pawn in Putin’s game to punish potential political opponents like Pichugin’s employer, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

There are other names and other cases to consider. A sad commentary on the ways of this world, and an equally sad tribute to the bravery of Sergei Magnitsky.

The totalitarians who jail and kill those they brand as “enemies of the state” are cold-blooded in every sense — acting as a result of calculations that liberties and even lives can be taken away without consequence and with complete impunity.

Magnitsky changes that – imposing pain on the henchmen who keep totalitarian systems in control — and reminding the world that the rights of even a single individual deserve and demand our respect.

Terree A. Bowers, a partner at Arent Fox in Los Angeles, served as U.S. Representative to the international war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.