Updated December 26, 2012
The bill is named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail in 2009. Sergei Magnitsky was arrested on tax fraud after blowing the whistle on a group of Russian officials for embezzling $230 million of state money. While the official word states that Magnitsky died in jail from health problems, the Kremlin’s human rights council stated that Magnitsky was beaten within hours of his death. Those who stand on Magnitsky’s side say he was innocent and arrested and accused as revenge for exposing Russian officials. He was in jail awaiting trial for eleven months.
The Magnitsky Act is a law that bans any Russian official that has been a part of any human right violations from obtaining a US visa. The new law also states that those named Russian officials will also have their US assets frozen. The law states that the White House will create a list of Russian officials they believe to be a part of violating human rights.
The Magnitsky Act was signed into law on Friday, December 14, 2012. It basically repeals the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik law. The Jackson-Vanik law was passed in 1974 and states that there be an annual reaffirmation of trade status with Russia instead of a permanent trade status.
The Kremlin stated that they believe the Magnitsky Act is the United States interfering in Russia’s affairs and Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the law “unfriendly.”
Why is the Magnitsky Act Important to Russian Adoptions?
The Magnitsky Act impacts international adoption with Russia due to the Russian government’s response to the new US law. Russia answered the Magnitsky Act with the Dima Yakovlev bill, named after twenty-one month old, Dmitry Yakovlev, who was renamed Chase Harrison upon adoption by Miles and Carol Harrison of Virginia. Chase died after his adoptive father forgot him in the car one hot summer day in 2008. Russian officials were furious when the father was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter. The Dima Yakovlev bill will ban entry into Russia for US citizens who have been accused of committing crimes against Russians abroad, those who have been involved in illegally imprisoning or kidnapping Russians, and those who have been accused of abusing adopted Russian children. The law will also ban US citizens from adopting Russian orphans.
This huge change occurs just after the bi-lateral adoption agreement between Russia and the United States went into effect on November 1, 2012. The agreement was signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and was approved by the Russian Duma in July 2012.