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US Adds to List of Those Penalized Under Human Rights Act

FILE - A woman holds a placard with a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky during an unauthorized rally in central Moscow, Dec. 15, 2012. The placard reads "Died fighting a system of thievery."

The United States has moved to impose sanctions on five more individuals for alleged human rights violations, a move that raises the total number of people penalized under the U.S. Magnitsky Act to 39.

The sanctions law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after uncovering a large tax fraud scheme that was being carried out by Russian officials. His supporters said he was beaten and denied medical treatment while in prison.

In a background briefing, a senior State Department official said four of the individuals named Monday were Russian officials who were directly implicated in Magnitsky’s death.

The official said the fifth person was head of a “notorious” Chechen prison and was responsible for “cruel” and “degrading” treatment of a Chechen human rights activist who was detained at the site.

The official said efforts to identify and penalize those responsible for abuses under the Magnitsky Act were part of overall U.S. policy.

“It reflects our support for human rights and our sense that those responsible for human rights abuses should be held to account,” the official said.

The official added there were no indications that the five individuals named hold assets in the United States.

Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in 2012. The measure allows the designation of individuals linked to criminal conspiracy uncovered by Magnitsky and also those linked to his abuse and death while in detention.

The measure also allows the U.S. to impose penalties on individuals responsible for gross human rights violations, such as torture or extrajudicial killings, against individuals who were trying to expose illegal activity by Russian officials.

Asked whether the U.S. imposition of sanctions on Russian officials could hamper cooperation in other areas, the senior State Department official said, “U.S.-Russia relations are complicated.”

The official added that Washington had “every intention” of working with Moscow “on areas of common concern.”