European court says Russian ban on US adoptions was discriminatory

Kirill Kudryatsev, AFP | Russian opposition supporters rallying in central Moscow in January 2013 against a Kremlin law that banned US adoptions of Russian orphans.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Russia must pay damages and legal costs to Americans who were barred from adopting Russian children.


The panel of seven judges, including one Russian, ruled unanimously that Russia's application of a 2013 law that banned Americans from adopting Russian children was discriminatory.

The case was brought by 45 Americans who had been in the final stages of the adoption process. Many of the children they planned to adopt had serious health issues, requiring specialized treatment.

The human rights court said it awarded 3,000 euros ($3,180) in damages plus $600 (565 euros) in legal costs to each pair of prospective parents, according to a news release.

Focus: Fighting to adopt a Russian child

More than 200 US families were in the midst of trying to adopt children from Russia when the ban was rushed through Russia's parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin in December 2012.

The Dima Yakovlev law, as it is known, was drawn up in response to the US Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned Russian officials linked to the death in custody of a Russian lawyer, said FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Moscow, Thomas Lowe.

The tit-for-tat laws “were the start of the serious decline in US-Russian relations,” Lowe said.

He described the court’s decision as “hugely symbolic, coming just ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration” as the 45th US president.

The Dima Yakovlev law also reflected Russian resentment over the 60,000 Russian children adopted by Americans in the past two decades, about 20 of whom died from abuse, neglect or other causes while in the care of their adoptive parents.

Ban halted 259 adoptions

By the Russians' count, the ban halted the pending adoptions of 259 children.

The court ruled that banning only American adoptions was disproportionate and discriminatory. It noted that prospective parents had visited children they wanted to adopt in orphanages and bonded with them before the ban abruptly cut short the process.

Russia's government "failed to show that there had been compelling reasons to justify such a retroactive and indiscriminate blanket ban on all prospective US parents," the court said.

Moscow has three months to appeal the court’s decision.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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