Court: Ban on US nationals adopting Russian children led to unlawful discrimination

A ban on Americans adopting Russian children led to unlawful discrimination, human rights judges have ruled.

In its 17 January Chamber judgment in the case of A.H. and Others v. Russia (application nos. 6033/13, 8927/13, 10549/13, 12275/13, 23890/13, 26309/13, 27161/13, 29197/13, 32224/13, 32331/13, 32351/13, 32368/13, 37173/13, 38490/13, 42340/13 and 42403/13) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights

The applications were brought by 45 US nationals: both on their own behalf, and on behalf of 27 Russian children. In late 2012, the US applicants had been in the final stages of procedures to adopt the Russian children, many of whom required specialist medical care.

However, after a Russian law had been passed which banned adoptions of Russians by US nationals, all of these procedures were abruptly halted.

The applicants claimed that, because the proceedings had been at a late stage, a bond had already formed between the adults and children. They complained that the ban had violated their right to family life, that it had been discriminatory, and that it had amounted to illtreatment of the children (as it prevented them from receiving specialist medical care in the US).

The court found that the adoption ban had unlawfully discriminated against the prospective parents.

In particular, this was because it had prevented the adoption of Russian children by the US applicants purely on the basis of the prospective parents’ nationality; and because such a ban had been 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.

However, the court found inadmissible the complaint that the ban had caused illtreatment of the children, as it found that they had received adequate medical treatment in Russia.

Just satisfaction (Article 41)

The court held that Russia was to pay each pair of prospective parents (or, where an applicant had made their application alone, to that person individually) 3000 euros (EUR) in respect of nonpecuniary damage, and 600 US dollars (USD) in respect of costs and expenses (except in respect of two applicants, whose lawyer had acted pro bono).

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