22 December 2012, 18:15

Russia answers to Magnitsky Act with “Dima Yakovlev law”

Russia answers to Magnitsky Act with “Dima Yakovlev law”
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On the outgoing week, the Russian parliament’s lower house adopted a law which has already been dubbed “the counter-Magnitsky Act” or “the Dima Yakovlev law”. This law introduces financial sanctions against a number of US citizens who have violated the rights of Russian citizens, and limits the entry to Russia for them.

Besides, the law introduces a ban for US citizens to adopt Russian children – and this is probably the point in this law that has stirred the most vivid discussions both in Russia and the US.

This law is Russia’s answer to the so-called “Magnitsky Act”, which was recently adopted in the US, and which bans entry to the US for a number of high-raking Russia’s officials, who allegedly have to do with the death of Russian financier Sergey Magnitsky, and introduces financial sanctions against these officials.

The law adopted by the Russian parliament was dubbed “the Dima Yakovlev law” in memory of a Russian boy who has choked to death because his US adoptive father had forgotten him in a car.

After this law was adopted, it immediately stirred much criticism from the US. The law’s critics said that a ban on adoption of Russian children by US citizens would deprive many Russian children of better life conditions that that might have had in the US in comparison with the conditions in which they would most likely live in Russia. Some critics, guided by certain crooked logic, even call this “a new stage of the Cold War between Russia and the US”.

True, unfortunately, orphans in Russia often have to live in rather poor conditions. But the critics of “the Dima Yakovlev law” probably don’t know or have forgotten about the multiple cases when Russian children were neglected, humiliated or even killed by US adoptive parents. Quite often, when Russian authorities asked US ones to inform them about the destiny of a certain Russian child adopted by US citizens, the US authorities hid negative information.

“The necessity to introduce a ban on adoption of Russian children by US citizens emerged already many years ago,” Russian children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov believes.

Within the last 20 years, 19 Russian children were killed by their US adoptive parents or died through their US adoptive parents’ faults. However, in many of these cases, the adoptive parents escaped any punishment – like it was, for example, with Michael Harrison, the adoptive father of Dima Yakovlev.

“I believe that a ban on adoption of Russian children by US citizens should have been introduced already in 2010, after the case of Artyom Savelyev,” Pavel Astakhov says. “As you may remember, Artyom’s American adoptive mother sent him back to Russia in a plane all alone with a note which said that the boy had turned out to be too disobedient for her to cope with him. This step of this lady was not only against Russian laws, but against US ones as well.”

“In 2010, Russian boy Vanya Skorobogatov, who had been adopted by a US couple, died in hospital. His adoptive father, Michael Craverwas trialed on charge that the boy died because the adoptive father had severely beaten him. However, the court found no sufficient evidence of that, and Michael Craver was not sentenced to any punishment. Michael Harrison, the adoptive father of Dima Yakovlev, who has forgotten him in a car, has not been punished either.”

“All these cases show that a ban on adoption of Russian children by US citizens was a necessary step,” Pavel Astakhov concluded.

At a press conference which he held on December 20, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said: “”The Dima Yakovlev law” is by no means aimed against US citizens who have already adopted Russian children, if they treat these children quite well. The law is in fact aimed against the position of the US authorities.”

“It looks like is it a principal position of the US judicial authorities not to react at all on cases of ill-treatment of Russian children by US adoptive parents,” Mr. Putin continued. “People who have evidently committed crimes against Russian children often remain unpunished. Moreover, representatives of Russia are not allowed to be present at court sessions over these cases. I qualify this as lack of respect for Russia. One may probably find the Russian parliament’s response to this situation too emotional, but I believe that this is a quite adequate response.”

However, it should be noted that President Putin has not yet signed the Dima Yakovlev law. He will take the final decision after he gets acquainted with the text of the draft law.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin says that Russia is going to help Russian families who would like to adopt or foster a child with more subsidies and privileges. Besides, the ban to adopt Russian children applies only to US citizens. Citizens of other countries still have the right to adopt them, because cases of ill-treatment of Russian children, for some reason, take place, as a rule, only in the US. In other countries, they are very rare.

As it was said, “the Dima Yakovlev law” is Russia’s response to the adoption of the so-called Magnitsky Act by the US.

Recently, the notorious Jackson-Vanik amendment was finally abolished by the US. This amendment was adopted in the US in 1974. It introduced trade limitations to countries with Communist regimes, as a measure of punishment for obstacles that these country’s authorities created at that time for those who wanted to emigrate from there. In the current situation, the Jackson-Vanik amendment was a total anachronism, but it was only several days ago that the amendment was finally abolished.

However, it would have been probably too early to call the abolishment of the Jackson-Vanik amendment the final full stop in the Cold War, because this step was timed to correspond with the adoption of the Magnitsky Act.

Russia qualifies the Magnitsky Act as an untimely rudiment of the Cold War. Its adoption has to a certain extent cooled the relations between Russia and the US.

Russian political observer Mikhail Remizov comments:

“I qualify the Magnistky Act as a discriminatory law against Russia. Moreover, the act presupposes arrests of Russian assets in the US without any decision of any court, which is an unprecedented step. It is only a court that has the right to take such decisions, not any political body. I believe that this decision was politically motivated. The fact that this decision was initiated by a congressman and approved by the US State Secretary is evidence that it was politically motivated.”

President Putin believes that even if there were no Magnitsky’s case, the US authorities would probably have invented another pretext to show that the US is the boss of the entire world, although nobody has ever given the US the authority to be such.

Many Russians believe that regardless of whether these Russian officials really have to do with Sergey Magnitsky’s death or not, the Magnisky Act is an inadequate measure. After all, Magnitsky, a Russian financier who died in a pretrial center where he was awaiting a trial over him on charges of financial machinations, has never been tortured like prisoners in the notorious Guantanamo prison. Magnitsky died because timely medical aid has not been rendered to him. Of course, this is a crime – but this crime has to be investigated by Russian authorities, not by any institution in the US.

“If the US adopts any other discriminatory laws against Russia like the Magnitsky Act, Russia will also respond with more sanctions against the US,” President Putin says.

Besides other measures, “the Dima Yakovlev law” includes a temporary suspension for activity of non-commercial organizations in Russia that are engaged in political activity and receive subsidies from abroad. The law bans those US officials, who have illegally put Russian citizens to prison or sentenced Russian citizens to unreasonably severe punishments, from receiving entry visas to Russia. A similar ban is introduced against agents of US secret services who have kidnapped Russian citizens.

Besides, assets of those US citizens, who are proclaimed personae non gratae by “the Dima Yakovlev law”, will be arrested in Russia, and these people will be banned from making any bargains that have to do with real estates on the territory of Russia.

Later, more people may be added to “the Dima Yakovlev list”.

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