Biden Must Sanction Russians Involved in Kara-Murza’s Detention

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of a January 20 deadline to respond to a letter from U.S. senators that calls for the Biden administration to consider targeted Magnitsky sanctions on individuals involved in the arbitrary detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza, Human Rights First and other leading human rights organizations today urged the imposition of such sanctions.

“Vladimir Kara-Murza has been unjustly detained for nine months and faces a growing list of unfounded charges for his courageous advocacy and criticism of the Putin regime’s war of aggression in Ukraine and its utter disregard for human rights,” said Mike Breen, President and CEO of Human Rights First. “As Vladimir is a U.S. legal permanent resident, the United States should join Canada in sanctioning those responsible for his ongoing arbitrary detention and keep pushing for his immediate release.”

A Russian activist, opposition leader, journalist, and historian, Kara-Murza has championed the adoption of Magnitsky sanctions by governments around the world, including in his capacity as a Senior Advisor to Human Rights First. In November 2022, Canada became the first country to impose sanctions on his persecutors as a show of support for his cause.

In September 2022, Senators Risch and Menendez wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to determine whether Kara-Murza’s arbitrary detention constitutes a gross violation of human rights and whether he will impose sanctions on those responsible. Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, President Biden has until January 20 – 120 days after receipt of the letter – to respond.

In October 2022, Human Rights First submitted a formal sanctions recommendation to the U.S. Treasury and State Departments identifying 13 Russians involved in Kara-Murza’s arbitrary detention, harassment, and attempted murder.

Kara-Murza has been arbitrarily imprisoned in Russia since April 2022 following a pretextual arrest for allegedly disobeying police. The Russian government has repeatedly extended his pretrial detention and brought new charges against him, including spreading “deliberately false information” about the Russian Armed Forces, involvement with an “undesirable” foreign organization, and “high treason,” which carries a 20-year sentence.

“The Biden administration has the information it needs to impose sanctions,” said Adam Keith, Human Rights First’s Director for Accountability. “It must act to support a pro-democracy activist and legal resident of the United States who is imprisoned by one of the most repressive governments in the world.”

The signatories to the joint letter calling on the Biden administration to impose Magnitsky sanctions in Kara-Murza’s case include:

  • Astraea
  • Free Russia Foundation
  • Human Rights First
  • Human Rights Foundation
  • Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights
  • The McCain Institute for International Leadership

Published on January 10, 2023


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