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Politics Magnitsky-style law will target Russian, Venezuelan human-rights abusers: source

A portrait of Sergei Magnitsky is held by his mother, Nataliya Magnitskaya. Canada became the fourth country to adopt a Magnitsky law on Wednesday when Bill S-226 received royal assent.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Russian and Venezuelan human-rights abusers are expected to be among the first group of individuals targeted by Canadian government sanctions in the coming weeks under a new Magnitsky-style law.

Canada became the fourth country to adopt a Magnitsky law on Wednesday when Bill S-226 received royal assent. The legislation is named after Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who accused Russian officials of a massive tax-fraud regime before being beaten to death in a Moscow jail in 2009, and is meant to sanction human-rights abusers around the world.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail, a Canadian government official said Russian and Venezuelan human-rights abusers are expected to be among those sanctioned by the law over the coming weeks. While the official would not say who the sanctions will specifically target, they said Canada will consult the United States' law, which has sanctioned 44 people since 2012. Britain and Estonia have also passed Magnitsky-style sanctions.

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U.S.-born financier and anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder, who has led the international effort to sanction human-rights abusers worldwide in memory of Mr. Magnitsky, said he wants to see Mr. Magnitsky's killers named in the first round of Canadian sanctions.

"We've been in touch with the government in parallel to the legislative process, providing evidence and information about those people who were responsible for Sergei Magnitsky's killing. We're hoping that it happens relatively soon," he said.

Mr. Browder hired Mr. Magnitsky as the lawyer for his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund in 2005. Mr. Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 and died in prison in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of theft. Investigations by Russia's human-rights council eventually concluded he was beaten to death by prison staff.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the Russian embassy in Ottawa said "Russophobes" could rejoice that Parliament had approved Bill S-226, "causing irreparable damage" to Russia-Canada relations. Earlier this month, Russia made its retaliation plan clear.

"We warn again that in case the pressure of the sanctions put on us increases … we will widen likewise the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an Interfax news agency report on Oct. 4.

A number of Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, were banned from entering Russia in 2014 after Canada sanctioned members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's circle over the annexation of Crimea.

Over the coming weeks, Global Affairs Canada will work with Treasury Board to establish a list of individuals to be sanctioned under the Magnitsky law. While it is expected that Russian and Venezuelan human-rights abusers will be among the first people targeted, the Canadian government official said the law could eventually be used against individuals in Myanmar. The Liberal government has repeatedly demanded that Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country's military end the violence that has displaced more than 580,000 Rohingya Muslims over the past eight weeks.

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Marcus Kolga, a human-rights activist and Russian foreign-policy expert who helped Mr. Browder with his advocacy efforts in Canada, said he and Mr. Browder are trying bring Mr. Magnitsky's wife, Natasha, son, Nikita, and mother, Natalya, to Canada soon to meet with the parliamentarians who made Bill S-226 possible. They are also hoping the Magnitsky family can meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ms. Freeland, whose Liberal government openly supported the Magnitsky legislation.

"It's important that the Magnitskys connect with this piece of legislation and are able to thank the people who made it happen, because the law offers them a small, but important piece of justice," Mr. Kolga said.

"Let's not forget that his son, Nikita, has grown up without a father … I expect a very emotional visit."

The Magnitsky family has applied for visas to travel to Canada as soon as possible; Natasha and Nikita live in London while Natalya still lives in Moscow.

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