As we now know from recent news bulletins, Russia’s Vladimir Putin has blocked US couples from adopting Russian children. Not because Russian children are considered at risk in the USA, but in a tit for tat diplomatic move following US bans on Russian human rights violaters.
The “Magnitski Act” which prompted this stems from the case of Sergei Magniksi, a Russian lawyer employed by venture capitalist Bill Browder. Magnitski had died in a Moscow jail after being arrested for his work investigating corruption.
Bill Browder and my deceased colleague Terry Hallman share the distinction of being marked as a threat to Russian national security – an enemy of the state. In Hallman’s case it followed his work tackling poverty through microenterprise development in the Tomsk Regonal Initiative. A lower ranking FSB official demanded a bribe and refusal meant being blocked from returning to Russia in 2003 .
It was in Ukraine 3 years later that Terry Hallman began his investigation into Ukraine’s childcare system. In ‘Death Camps, For Children‘ he revealed that the conditions he’d become aware had already been reported in Russia by Human Rights Watch who said :
“It is a pity that a vise of secrecy and fear, reminiscent of Soviet times, has tightened around the isolated world of Russia’s state orphanages. Many dedicated orphanage staff and foreign volunteers begged us not to reveal their names, or the institutions in which they worked. Russian workers, they said, would be fired for talking to an outsider. Foreign charity workers would be expelled from the institutions and the doors slammed on humanitarian assistance. This would further isolate the system which they felt a desperate need to improve. We have respected these requests.”
“They’re called children with no prospects, not trainable, not treatable. A colleague called these psychoneurological internaty ‘death camps.’ The situation there is terrible.”
Determined to change a culture where NGOs were co-opted into silence Hallman set about developing a solution. This would become a proposal for microeconomic development and social enterprise in Ukraine – a ‘Marshall Plan’ strategy with the primary focus of placing children in loving family homes.
Hallman died before his vision could be realised and though he’d taken risks in speaking out about organised crime, his cause of death was simply being an American. One with a chronic illness and without healthcare insurance.
Just yesterday, I described how his efforts to save these vulnerable children were undermined by his own government This was USAIDs partnership with corporations which bypassed this most urgent of human rights issues, leaving Hallman hanging out to dry – and die.
There you have it. US government taking a stand on human rights on one hand and disregarding it on the other.
Browder lost $900 million, Hallman lost his life.
In matters of human rights, life and death, clearly venture capital has more leverage on democracy.