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 (Washington, DC) -  The Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC), representing the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian communities in the United States, enthusiastically applauds the passage of the Magnitsky Act in the U.S. Congress, and the signing of the Act into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 14. The human rights component of the law, which targets human rights offenders in Russia in the death of attorney and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, was attached to the Act which grants Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the Russian Federation and similarly abolishes the popularly-called Jackson-Vanik amendment - on the books since 1974 - which both aided the emigration of Soviet Jews and held the USSR accountable on human rights issues. Since the Jackson-Vanik component has become anachronistic, the Magnitsky law takes its place as a marker in U.S. concerns over ongoing human rights abuses and corruption in the Russian Federation.      On Dec. 6, the United States Senate passed the bill by a vote of 92-4. It adopted the House version of the bill, which passed on Nov. 16 by a 365-43 vote, and is known by its full title - the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 6156).  The law will sanction Russian officials involved in the persecution, abuse and Nov. 16, 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky, who had exposed a massive tax fraud and scheme by a wide network of Russian officials. Magnitsky was himself arrested and after a year of unwarranted detention and suffering from inadequate medical attention, he died in custody after being tortured and brutally beaten.   In a nearly two-year campaign to raise attention to the case of Sergei Magnitsky and the legislation that was initially introduced by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, JBANC was actively involved with a wide network of allied groups, individuals, and key players in the U.S. Congress, the policy-making world, Baltic-American and Central and East European and Russian-speaking communities in the United States, along with a number of human rights organizations both in the U.S. and around the globe.  JBANC also established itself as a leader in the campaign by dissemination of information on the Magnitsky case via social media, particularly on Facebook and Twitter.  As stated in a number of letters distributed during 2011-2012 to Members of the 112th Congress, JBANC repeatedly had stated that “it is critical that officials who were involved in the human rights abuses surrounding Magnitsky’s death remain targeted with effective travel and financial sanctions,” and that the “United States must not stand by as an unwitting accomplice in these crimes.” It is laudable that the U.S. demonstrates its commitment on an issue of such importance, and that human rights abusers will be banned from having the privilege of traveling to or banking in the United States. JBANC represents the Estonian American National Council, Inc., the American Latvian Association in the U.S., and the Lithuanian American Council, Inc.   Karl Altau Managing Director Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc.   Representing: Estonian American National Council, Inc. American Latvian Association, Inc. Lithuanian American Council, Inc.


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