Human Rights First and our partners launch Magnitsky Month 2023

This November, Human Rights First and our partners mark Magnitsky Month, an annual effort to advocate for the use of Magnitsky-style sanctions to address human rights abuses and corruption around the world.

Magnitsky-style sanctions honor Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who exposed rampant corruption by government officials in that country. Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 and spent eleven months in detention, before he was killed in a Russian prison in November 2009. His death generated international attention and led countries including the United States to develop sanctions programs named after him. These Magnitsky Sanctions programs are now used to hold to account human rights abusers and corrupt actors anywhere in the world. Following a year-long advocacy campaign led by Human Rights First and Freedom House, President Biden signed the permanent reauthorization of the Global Magnitsky Act in 2022.

Sergei Magnitsky: family remember Russian lawyer one year after his death

Magnitsky Month marks the anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death and precedes annual International Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Days, December 9 and 10, when countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union typically announce new Magnitsky-style sanctions.

Over the past six years, Magnitsky-style sanctions have become a key tool to provide accountability for the actions of hundreds of human rights abusers and corrupt actors globally. Human Rights First helps coordinate a global civil society coalition that provides recommendations on how governments can best use these tools, including by submitting case files on specific perpetrators. We also publish analysis and identify issues that merit attention including the countries targeted, forms of abuse, and the types of victims recognized by these sanctions regimes.

This Magnitsky Month, Human Rights First will release several reports on Magnitsky-style sanctions and host events to discuss important issues and cases.

Here’s a glimpse into what’s to come:

The Impact of Magnitsky-style Sanctions

Human Rights First, REDRESS, the Open Society Foundations, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights will release a first-of-its-kind report examining the impact of targeted human rights and anti-corruption sanctions. The report will describe the diverse impacts of these sanctions, including material consequences faced by sanctioned persons and potential influence on their behavior. It will also detail how sanctions shape responses from the private sector, bilateral relations, and geopolitical dynamics.

The report and an accompanying panel discussion will cover numerous case studies, including sanctions cases from Bangladesh, Paraguay, and Iran that offer lessons for government decision-makers and civil society actors on how Magnitsky-style sanctions can be used to push for accountability.

Register for the event: Targeting Perpetrators and Supporting Survivors: Assessing the Impact of Magnitsky Sanctions | November 20, 2023 at 10:00AM EST

New Trends in the U.S. Global Magnitsky Sanctions Program

Building on our 2022 report written with partners on the multilateral use of Magnitsky sanctions, Human Rights First will release an updated report on the United States’ use of Global Magnitsky sanctions over the past year, including significant milestones and concerning changes.

The report draws attention to the year’s substantial decline in the Biden administration’s use of the Global Magnitsky program, a surprising change given the priority it placed on using human rights and anti-corruption sanctions in previous years.

The report will also highlight some welcome new developments, including:

  • The first Global Magnitsky sanctions based on the commission of forced labor and sex trafficking. These cases followed advocacy efforts from civil society organizations to encourage the U.S. government to address these types of abuses through Magnitsky sanctions, including a panel discussion we convened during the last Magnitsky Month.
  • The first sanctions under the Global Magnitsky program for the arbitrary detention of a single person, Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Shaming without Naming

While the State Department has increased its use of visa restriction programs to respond to human rights abuses, corruption, and other issues, many of these sanctions tools are opaque and cannot be used to identify perpetrators by name.

Our final Magnitsky Month report will discuss the growing use of these sanctions and how the lack of transparency both reduces their effectiveness and makes it difficult to evaluate how they are implemented. The report will cover the Section 7031(c) visa sanctions program on anti-kleptocracy and human rights and the use of visa restriction policies on foreign policy grounds under Section 212(a)(3)(C), offering an analysis of how these tools have been used and how their design limits their impact.

We will host a panel discussion of this report in late November.

Please follow our social media for details on the release of these reports and to register for events throughout Magnitsky Month.



  • Amanda Strayer
  • Suchita Uppal

Published on November 13, 2023


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