Saturday, December 22, 2012

Russia's lower house approves bill to ban U.S. adoption

from CNN:
Lawmakers in Moscow moved to ban Americans from adopting Russian children Friday, as they passed a bill that imposes a series of sanctions on U.S. interests, state media reported.
Russia is one of the top sources of international adoptions to the United States.
The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, adopted the bill on its third reading, the state-run RAPSI news agency reported.
The measure will now move to the Federation Council and, if approved there, will go to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law, the news agency said.
The legislation could affect hundreds of American families seeking to adopt Russian children.
It also bars any political activities by nongovernmental organizations receiving funding from the United States, if such activities may affect Russian interests, the news agency said, and imposes sanctions against U.S. officials thought to have violated human rights.
The move by Russian politicians is widely seen as retaliation to a law that U.S. President Barack Obama signed on December 14. That bill, called the Magnitsky Act, imposes U.S. travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia. It was criticized by Russian leaders.
The U.S. act is named after a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky who uncovered the largest tax fraud in the country's history in the form of rebates claimed by government officials who stole money from the state. After Magnitsky died in a Moscow detention center in 2009, his name became the basis of Washington's list of Russian officials who were involved in the tax fraud and in the deceased lawyer's detention.
The bill passed by the State Duma is named in turn after Dima Yakovlev, a 2-year-old boy who died while in the care of a U.S. adoptive family, RAPSI said.
Its implementation would nullify an agreement between the United States and Russia, in which the countries agreed to additional safeguards to protect children and parties involved in intercountry adoptions.
From 1999 to 2011, there were 45,112 adoptions to the United States from Russia, second to only China, according to the U.S. State Department statistics. However, the number of adoptions from Russia has waned in recent years after a peak in 2005.
Backers of the Russian bill said American adoptive parents have been abusive, citing 19 deaths of Russian children by their foster parents since the 1990s, according to local media.
In 2010, an American woman sent her adopted son back to Russia, saying that the then-7-year-old boy had violent episodes that made the family fear for its safety.
Amnesty International called Thursday on Russian lawmakers to reject a measure it said would "have a chilling effect on human rights defenders and civil society," as well as ending U.S. adoptions.
"There is a huge risk that the vaguely worded provisions in this bill will be used to clamp down on government critics and exposers of abuses. Indeed this would appear to be its real purpose," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program director.
"This bill is frankly a childish response to the Magnitsky Act. The Duma should be focusing its efforts on how it can strengthen Russian civil society and not weaken it."

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