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Doctors' NGO Says Magnitsky's Death Documentation Incomplete

Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in custody in November 2009.
Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in custody in November 2009.
The U.S.-based organization Physicians for Human Rights says it is concerned by the official documentation related to the death in jail of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Magnitsky, an attorney for the investment firm Hermitage Capital, died in pretrial detention in November 2009. Officials said he died of heart failure. Human rights activists and his former colleagues, however, say he died because he was denied medical treatment.

On July 19, Physicians for Human Rights issued its report on Magnitsky's death based on 44 documents provided by his relatives. The documents include Magnitsky's letters to his family and his written requests to the management of the detention center to provide him with medical treatment.

Physicians for Human Rights member Dr. Robert Bux is the chief medical examiner for the El Paso County Coroner's Office in Colorado Springs. He told RFE/RL that he and his colleagues were struck by significant discrepancies in the autopsy report.

"What struck us, and there were a group of us who looked at it, was that first of all, we did not have the entire [set of] medical records....," Bux said, adding that there were "some significant discrepancies" in the documentation prepared by the government-appointed commission that was established to look at the case. Bux maintained that these discrepancies "were not really addressed, they were just kind of noted."

Moscow's Basmanny Court ruled on July 19 not to make available to Magnitsky's relatives body tissue and organ samples used in the official autopsy. The court also rejected the family's request for independent forensic tests on the tissue, saying that the autopsy had been done independently and that there was no basis for a request for further testing.

Bux said the autopsy report also had shortcomings in that "there was a really incomplete examination report on the internal organs." According to Bux, this was unusual for a case where an individual was "complaining of abdominal pain and where a physician wonders whether the person has gall stones or whether the prisoner, the detainee, has pancreatitis… [and] there is really no follow-up."

"It was very disturbing because there seems to be a calculated pattern of not providing adequate medical care," he added.

Read more in Russian here