Russian Antitrafficking Legislation, 2003—2004
In October of 2003, out of the blue, President Putin changed his mind. In an important policy speech, he announced a new commitment to the issue of human trafficking and then introduced his version of the trafficking legislation into the Duma. After some last-minute wrangling, the legislation was revised and resubmitted to the Duma and passed 353—0 in December.28 The final legislation recognized, for the first time in Russian history, that trafficking in persons, including trafficking in women, and the use of slave labor was a crime, and it established punishments of up to ten years’ imprisonment. Retaining the broadness of the Russian concept of trafficking, the new law includes the exploitation of men as laborers and kidnapping and forced labor in the Chechen military conflict (Shelley 2005, 301). By the summer of the next year, Russia had also ratified the U. N. protocol and passed victim/witness protection legislation, another first for Russia, that could provide some legal protection for trafficked women who bear witness against their traffickers^9 This about-face on trafficking in persons was remarkable in light of most Russians’ tendency to blame prostitutes and women seeking work abroad for their own exploitation. It was especially remarkable given that some Russian policymakers had been advocating the legalization of prostitution (Duban 2006, 47), including the key Duma deputy involved in the final wrangling over the bill, an owner of Moscow bars allegedly staffed with prostitutes.30
The U. N. Trafficking Protocol—and the global norm it represented—was part of the explanation. As Russian is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the passage of the Trafficking Protocol had created new opportunities for Russian awareness of the problem, especially among the human rights community and the Russian government.31 The international consensus on the need for antitrafficking reform also legitimated the U. S. involvement, giving Putin a way to talk about the passage of legislation that did not subordinate Russia’s sovereignty to the United States. For Putin, at this period, it was important for Russia to appear civilized.32 Although they waited until almost the last minute to discuss antitrafficking legislation, the Russian parliament did pass legislation a few weeks before the U. N. protocol went into effect on December 25, 2003. “Without this outside pressure and the desire of Russia to conform to international standards, the trafficking legislation would have been developed much more slowly” (Shelley 2005, 299).
Also important were local activists. By 2002, their tireless work, with leverage from the global norms against trafficking, led Russia’s special representative for human rights to characterize trafficking in women as a violation of human rights (Azhgikhina 2002). Their activism earned them spots in the working group, yet another first for Russian policymaking. Their alliances with transnational feminists led them to push for the multifaceted approach that was a part of the first draft of legislation. The Angel Coalition, too, claims impact, having mobilized U. S. evangelicals to rally the U. S. government and drafted and sent a “personal letter to Putin, signed by more than 200 international NGO’s and human rights activists.”33
Two policy entrepreneurs were more directly responsible. The first was Elena Mizulina, a Duma deputy, whom the United States approached to spearhead the drafting of legislation. Mizulina—a member of the West-leaning Union of Right Forces party and chair of the Central Federal District’s Committee on the Affairs of Women, Families, Maternity, and Childhood—had led an earlier successful working group allowing input from the United States (Shelley and Orttung 2005). Although she knew little about the issue of trafficking^4 Mizulina proved to be a savvy political player in an environment increasingly resistant to power outside of the president and his allies, repackaging the bill and inviting the Swedish director of the film Lilja-4-ever, which fictionalized a Russian trafficking tragedy, to screen and discuss his film in the Duma.
The second entrepreneur was an American, Tom Firestone, a Russian-speaking prosecutor for the Department of Justice in New York with experience prosecuting Russian organized crime, who had just arrived to be the resident legal adviser at the U. S. embassy in Moscow. After Putin proposed a much weaker version of the legislation^5 Firestone called Mikhail Paleev, Putin’s legal advisor, and, in essence, threatened Russia’s demotion to Tier 3. After a three-hour marathon meeting, the Russian officials agreed to several changes that gave the legislation more teeth.36 Both entrepreneurs tactically cast trafficking as linked to organized crime and the financing of international terrorism to enlist Putin’s support^7
Following the passage of the criminal code amendments, the U. S. government kept up the pressure. In January of 2004, the American Bar Association Central and Eastern European Law Initiative (ABA-CEELI), with the sponsorship of President Putin’s administration, arranged the First All-Russian Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations on counteracting trafficking in persons. At the last minute, U. S. secretary of state Colin Powell was able to attend. In March, a group of Russian lawmakers was brought to the United States. The delegation came skeptical, but a New Jersey prosecutor’s tape of traffickers as well as a speech from the former trafficker made the problem more real. The lawmakers returned home to pass the witness protection legislation. In January of 2005, additional criminal code amendments were signed into law that criminalize the organization of illegal entry and transit of aliens into and through Russia. Other recent amendments allow the confiscation of property in trafficking cases.38