Today I was delighted to welcome to the State Department a dozen inspiring civil society advocates from Russia who work tirelessly to protect the human rights and dignity of prisoners, and for the rule of law. We were joined by Deputy Secretary William Burns, formerly our ambassador to Russia, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald K. Steinberg and Assistant Administrator Alexander, as well as Mark Kappelhoff, Chief of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. As we are seeing increasingly in Russia and in many countries across the globe, the United States included, civil society is an essential driver of progress and accountability on an array of important issues, including prison reform.
Prison reform, including prisoner's rights, is a central theme for the Civil Society Working Group (CSWG) of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, established in 2009 by Presidents Obama and Medvedev. I co-chair the CSWG along with Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Special Representative for Human Rights, Democracy, and Rule of Law. The United States and Russia share an obligation under international law to protect the human rights of people in our custody. Through the CSWG we are connecting activists from across the United States and Russia who are working for improvements in prison conditions and the protection of the human rights of inmates.
The tragic death in 2009 of Sergei Magnitsky from abuse and neglect in a Moscow pre-trial detention center continues to generate widespread international attention to the issue of prison conditions in Russia. Over the past year, Russian civil society advocates, including some of the activists taking part in our meeting today, have been working to prevent another tragedy like that of Sergei Magnitsky. We emphasized to the Russian advocates that the United States will continue to support their call for bringing those responsible for Sergei Magnitsky's death to justice. In addition, in accordance with last August's Presidential Proclamation barring human rights abusers from obtaining U.S. visas, we have taken action to bar those culpable in his death from obtaining U.S. visas.
In the months and years to come, we look forward to closer peer-to-peer contact and cooperation between our civil societies in the area of prison reform.