Moscow responds to US Magnitsky Act with Dima Yakovlev Law
The Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, taking its cue from US lawmakers, is preparing to make a list of Americans who have violated the rights of Russian children adopted into US families.
Diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Washington hit a feverish high earlier this month as US legislators smuggled the so-called Magnitsky Act into a bill designed to normalize trade relations with Russia. Political analysts say it was the only way for the Obama administration to get the Russian-wary Republicans to sign onto the highly controversial bill. The US legislation is named after Sergey Magnitsky, who was being investigated in a massive tax evasion scheme. Magnitsky, whose case is still being investigated by Russian authorities, died in pre-trial detention in November 2009.One of the provisions of the Magnitsky Act empowers the US President to create a list of Russian citizens allegedly "responsible for criminal murders” and ban them from entering the United States. Unsurprisingly, Moscow views such acts as gross interference in Russia’s internal affairs, especially since the investigation into the death of the former Hermitage Capital employee is still open. Now, Russian parliamentarians are busy crafting an Anti-Magnitsky Act, named in honor of Dima Yakovlev, an 18-month old Russian boy who died after his adoptive American father left him locked inside of a vehicle for an extended period of time on a hot summer day. Russian authorities are quick to point out, however, that the tragic case of Dima Yarovlev represents the tip of the iceberg as far as US abuses against Russian citizens are concerned.The Public Chamber said many people are only familiar with the sensational cases of Viktor Bout and pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, two Russian nationals arrested by US officials abroad and now being serving time in the US prison system. But there are many other lesser-known cases in which US officials either failed to react or reacted inadequately to incidences of adopted Russian children experiencing abuse – and even death – by their new US families.In April 2010, for example, an American woman from the state of Tennessee sent 7-year-old her adopted son Artyom Saveliev back to Moscow on a plane by himself. Criminal charges were never filed against the woman, but the adoption agency involved in the case sued the woman for child support.According to Russian Children's Rights Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, 19 Russian children died while in the legal custody of US adoptive families over the past decade. The Public Chamber will forward its proposals to blacklist both US citizens responsible for crimes against Russian children and those implicated in such crimes, including judges who handed down mild verdicts for such crimes, Deputy Secretary of the Public Chamber Vladislav Grib told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday."We will make no exceptions," he warned. Incidentally, if the Magnitsky Act succeeded in anything, it was in bringing the diverse members of the State Duma to a rare consensus. All four factions participated in co-writing the Dima Yakovlev Law (Vladimir Vasilyev (United Russia), Gennady Zyuganov (Communist Party), Sergei Mironov (Just Russia) and Vladimir Zhirinovsky (LDPR). The bill also includes provisions targeting US citizens involved in kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment, groundless prosecution and groundless and unjust punishments administered to Russian citizens. The bill that will become Russia's response to the Magnitsky Act could be signed into law by the president before the end of the year,the first deputy chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Vyacheslav Nikonov, told Russia Today. Russia and the US could experience a "competition" of blacklists and the broadening of their geographical limitations because Washington has called on other countries to compile their own versions of the Magnitsky Act, he said. Having repealed the Jackson-Vanik amendment, US legislators could not fail to replace it by another anti-Russian law, Nikonov said. As far as the consequences are concerned, the Magnitsky Act, regrettably, could do even more harm than the Jackson-Vanik amendment, he said.Nikonov noted that since Russian investigators, prosecutors, judges, prison administration staff and other officials included in the Magnitsky list do not usually spend their weekends in Florida or keep money at bank accounts in New York, the damage from the bill could be limited. However, such practices could spread to other areas of bilateral relations and entail highly negative consequences, Nikonov concluded. The first reading of the so-called Dima Yakovlev bill in the State Duma is scheduled for December 14.Robert Bridge, RT