Deadline Passes for Biden to Address Sanctions for Kara-Murza’s Russian Persecutors

WASHINGTON, DC – The Biden administration has failed to provide a substantive response to the senators who set a January 20 deadline for a decision on sanctions against Russians responsible for the arbitrary detention, harassment, and attempted murder of Vladimir Kara-Murza. Kara-Murza is a Russian activist, political opposition leader, journalist, and historian imprisoned in Russia since April 2022, as well as a senior advisor to Human Rights First. Human Rights First and civil society organizations around the world have engaged in months of advocacy in support of targeted sanctions in response to his arbitrary detention.

“Vladimir Kara-Murza has put his life on the line to criticize the Putin regime, stand up for the respect of human rights in Russia, and condemn the invasion of Ukraine,” said Adam Keith, Director of Accountability for Human Rights First. “The United States should be using every tool at its disposal to support him and other wrongfully jailed dissidents, and the Biden administration’s failure to substantively answer the senators’ request by the statutory deadline sends a worrying signal.”

A letter sent by Senators Risch and Menendez in September invoked a provision of the Global Magnitsky Act requiring the administration to determine whether a foreign person has engaged in a “gross violation of internationally recognized human rights” in Kara-Murza’s detention. The letter also triggered a deadline of last Friday, January 20, for President Biden to determine to state whether he would impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky program or a similar authority.

The U.S. government has the authorities and the information it needs to use sanctions to hold accountable the individuals involved in arbitrarily detaining Vladimir Kara-Murza for the past nine months. As of January 25, the Biden administration appears not to have provided a formal response to the letter, nor taken sanctions action.

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 detention, harassment, and attempted murder. In January 2023, Human Rights First, Astraea, Free Russia Foundation, Human Rights Foundation, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, REDRESS, and the McCain Institute for International Leadership submitted a letter to the Biden administration calling again for sanctions against Kara-Murza’s persecutors, and urging the administration to meet the January 20 deadline to respond to the senators’ letter.

“We commend the U.S. for using targeted sanctions to condemn human rights abuses by Russian officials and appreciate its efforts to raise awareness for political prisoners like Kara-Murza, such as the State Department’s new #WithoutJustCause initiative,” said Amanda Strayer, Supervising Staff Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First. “However, the Biden administration must demonstrate the same seriousness and urgency in sanctioning Kara-Murza’s persecutors.”


Published on January 25, 2023


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