U.S. Sen. John McCain was posthumously given the 2018 Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Award in a ceremony in London on Thursday night. The award recognizes those who have fought for human rights in Russia and is named after a lawyer who was killed in a Moscow jail in 2009.
John McCain's daughter Meghan accepted the award on behalf of her late father. In a speech she contrasted his legacy with what she called the “bloody-handed dictator of Russia.”
“John McCain defended and vindicated the memory of ordinary men and women with integrity, like Sergei Magnitsky. Vladimir Putin has them murdered. John McCain was a strong man. Vladimir Putin is weak man’s idea of a strong man. John McCain on his death was remembered with gratitude and praised by the nation he served and loved. Vladimir Putin knows well that the greatest risk to his own life is his own people, and that he will be remembered as a tyrant and a thief,” Meghan McCain told the audience in London.
John McCain became a prominent critic of Donald Trump’s dealings with Russian leader Putin, criticism that the U.S. president strongly rejected.
McCain died in August from brain cancer at age 81.
Several other awards were made Thursday night, including to Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, and to the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year jail term in Russia.
Magnitsky was beaten to death in police custody in 2009 after investigating a $230 million tax fraud allegedly carried out by senior Russian officials.
Bill Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, employed Magnitsky to investigate the fraud. He campaigned for the U.S. to adopt the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which allows the withholding of visas and the freezing of assets of human rights offenders. John McCain was key in pushing the legislation through Congress. Several other countries have since adopted similar legislation, including Canada and Britain.
“And so starting next year, we’re not just going to honor Russian heroes, but in the spirit of the global Magnitsky Act, we're going to honor heroes from around the world,” Browder said Thursday night.
Meanwhile this week, the United States used the Magnitsky Act to sanction 17 Saudi officials accused of killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.