Russia adoption law discriminatory: European court

Pro-Kremlin children's advocacy groups march through Moscow on March 2, 2013, carrying the portraits of the Russian children who died in USA after being adopted there (AFP Photo/Alexander Nemenov) (AFP/File)

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Russia's policy of refusing to allow Americans to adopt Russian children was discriminatory, a decision Moscow said it would appeal.

The court ordered Russia to pay damages to the 45 Americans who filed the case, who had hoped to adopt 27 children between 2010 and 2012.

Many of the children had serious medical problems, including Down's Syndrome or developmental disorders, requiring specialised treatment.

Russia halted the procedures with legislation in January 2013 that prohibited Americans from adopting Russian children, solely based on their nationality.

The law was in response to US sanctions on officials deemed responsible for the death in prison of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Magnitsky had been arrested after pointing out a fraud scam by high-placed officials.

Moscow had said it was protecting the children's welfare, after Russian media outlets claimed cases of mistreatment of adopted Russians in the United States, in a bid to encourage adoptions at home.

But in a unanimous decision, the judges at the Strasbourg-based rights court said Russia had violated statutes of the European Convention on Human Rights against discrimination and protecting the respect of family life.

It ordered Moscow to pay 3,000 euros ($3,200) in damages to the American couples and individuals in the case.

Russia's justice ministry said it would appeal the ruling, saying its restrictions on adoptions by Americans were in accordance with international rules and its constitution.

"The Russian authorities have proceeded and are proceeding on the basis of the need to ensure effective protection of the interests of children and also of the legal rights and the interests of potential adopters who are citizens of Russia," a ministry statement said.

In its ruling, the court said the ban was disproportionate to the government's stated aims, "given that it had been retroactive, indiscriminate, and was applied irrespective of the status of proceedings or the individual circumstances".

The court noted a 2012 accord between the two countries that provides guarantees against mistreatment and that allows international adoptions only when placing a child with a Russian family is not possible.

But the judges rejected the plaintiffs' claim that the law resulted in the mistreatment of the children, saying they had received adequate medical treatment in Russia.

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