Skip to main content

Russia

Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 17 January 2012

9. What steps he plans to take in response to recent reports of human rights abuses by the Government of Russia. (89813)

We will continue to raise concerns about human rights with Russia at ministerial and official levels. We shall sponsor a number of observers at the forthcoming Russian presidential election that is due in March.

I thank the Minister for that answer. With the US Senate due to approve the bipartisan Magnitsky Bill, which will impose mandatory visa bans and asset freezes on those responsible for gross human rights abuses, and with similar proposals in the Netherlands and Canada, will he look at the case for bringing forward an equivalent Bill in this House?

As the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham) said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) in Westminster Hall the other day, if the American Bill, which I understand is at committee stage in the Senate, eventually becomes law, we will look closely to see whether there are lessons on which we might draw. My hon. Friend will know that we have powers in this country to ban any person from coming to the United Kingdom if there are grounds for concern about their character, conduct or associations.

When the Minister is making representations in Moscow about human rights in Russia, will he raise with the Russians, who have a pivotal role at the United Nations, the human rights abuses in Syria, because if Russia unblocked its present position at the United Nations, it would allow real pressure to be brought on the Syrian regime?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. We obviously talk a great deal to Russia about the situation in Syria. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, within the past few weeks, has talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov about Syria, including to pass on our great concern about the systematic abuse of human rights in that country.

Although the respect for human rights in Russia may be considerably greater than in it was in the Soviet Union, does not the terrible treatment of Mr Magnitsky, his death in custody and the refusal of the Russian authorities to recognise responsibility for what happened suggest that my right hon. Friend the Minister should follow the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) and not wait until the United States has reached its conclusion, but do everything in our power to follow a similar course of action?

As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, we have powers in existing law to ban people from coming to this country on the grounds that their presence would not be conducive to the public good. He also knows that successive Governments have followed a practice of not commenting on individual cases. His concerns about the abuse of human rights in Russia are, however, well made. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and all Ministers, when they meet Russian counterparts, always make a point of raising human rights matters.