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MIA and Human Rights

22.02.2011

[1]

There were much more human rights abuses from the side of the MIA than last year. Reports of torture and other forms of unlawful violence by the police, some with a fatal outcome, have recently become more frequent. Thus, during 2010 there were about 50 reports on deaths as a result of police action (in 2009 – 21 reports). According to monitoring carried out by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research and the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, around 780-790 thousand people are estimated to have suffered from such violence in 2010 (in 2009 – 604 thousand people). We consider this to be directed linked with the incorrect and unprofessional orientation of the MIA management to such indicators of work as the number of people prosecuted which Minister Mohylyov spoke of during the TV program on 9 July. This is even worse than assessing work by the percentage of crimes solved as was the case until 2005 since it will lead to wide-scale falsification of the figures in order to have good readings and get bonuses. Is this not where the 30% increase in the number of registered crimes during the first six months of 2010 comes from?

One can be safe in predicting that this quantitative figure will rise at the expense of trivial crimes, while the organizers and those who order serious crimes, drug traffickers and the leaders of organized criminal gangs will remain at large. There will also be widespread demands that those accused confess to some other crimes which they did not commit purely so that they can be added to the list and improve reporting. This is not to mention the entirely forgotten presumption of innocence.

There have been brutal violations of the right to privacy from the side of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). For example, according to Instruction No. 292 from 23 April 2010, it is planned to introduce on railway tickets full name, date of birth, series and number of a person’s ID, The objective is supposedly for the public’s good, to seek out criminals. Yet the MIA management is entirely indifferent to the fact that such an approach is a flagrant violation of the right to privacy and treats all Ukrainians as to potential criminals. The introduction of such a system significantly hampers freedom of movement which can only be restricted in conditions of global social threats – war, terrorist acts, mass riots or natural cataclysms. None of these are taking place in Ukraine. Instead there is the overt wish by the MIA management to control the movement of citizens in an arbitrary and unhampered fashion as was the case with officials of police states. Do we really wish to show guests coming to Euro 2012 such a police state in Ukraine?

In addition, with Instruction No. 236 from 8 April 2010 the powers of Internal Affairs officials are unwarrantedly increased since heads of divisions are required to ensure on the railways “constant control over the stay of foreign nationals on service structures, carry out thorough checks of foreign nationals’ documents, give particular attention to whether they have registration cards issued by border guards.” Acting in this fashion constitutes wide-scale violation of the law. It is clear to anybody that constant surveillance over a person and checking of their documents are specific procedure which is quite strictly regulated by law. It may not therefore be applied on a mass scale whether in relation to Ukrainian or foreign nationals.

Another example of systematic and wide-scale violations of the right to privacy which have increased dramatically under the new management of the MIA is the mandatory fingerprint recording of people detained. This should be carried out against people accused of a crime, or subjective to administrative penalties in the form of deprivation of liberty, yet is applied much more widely against certain groups of the population, for example, the Roma who are specially detained for that purpose, then released. Such actions reinstate old forms of discrimination against the Roma which the MIA had, over recent years, got rid of.

During the 100 days of the new management, regional and national media outlets have published more than 350 critical publications regarding the work of the police during peaceful gatherings. The nature and scale of these violations leaves no room for doubt that the police unlawful acts were carried out on the orders of the MIA leadership. These included preventing people taking part in peaceful gatherings; giving preference to one of the sides during them; unwarrantedly stopping peaceful gatherings and detaining their participants; unlawful failure by the police to respond to scuffles between opponents, and excessive use of force and special means against participants in peaceful actions. One can cite many examples.

We are forced to state that the course chosen by the new MIA leadership with regard to freedom of peaceful assembly has been aimed at the development of largely repressive measures despite the lack of any threat of mass riots or terrorist acts. In fact, the police should gain skills in as large as possible a spectrum of law enforcement tactics with minimum use of force.

The Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylyov has often spoken about human rights. He even said on 9 July during the television show “Big Politics” on the Inter TV Channel that “in relation to each violation of human rights we will carry out the most rigorous investigation” (our underlining). Yet human rights violations by Internal Affairs officers arise in the main during certain ministerial instructions.

In the analysis made of the first 100 days under the new MIA leadership by the former Adviser to the Minister on Human Rights and staff of the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police, it is conclusively demonstrated that no less than 60% of cases involving removal of weapons, ammunition and explosive substances are regularly falsified, again to create the appearance of improvement in police work.

There is equal pretence in the assertions about the MIA’s attention to human rights. All projects which concerned human rights in the work of the MIA have been stopped. As the authors of the above-mentioned report write: “the new MIA leadership, headed by Anatoly Mohylyov, has returned to a model of a police department as a closed and self-sufficient system with its own interests which are radically divergent from those of the public. The nature of the “reform” measures over the last several months leaves no room for illusions and clearly demonstrates that the police do not like civic activity and intend to significantly restrict it. We are forced to note also that the publicly declared statements from the MIA about the need for cooperation with the public have no practical application and remain merely populist slogans.

For example, the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the police was dissolved by ministerial order back on 18 March, and its regional staff made redundant with flagrant infringements of labor legislation. Only a person who is blind or entirely biased could fail to see the enormous work done in the police aimed at ensuring respect for human rights in the work of the police and reform of the MIA achieved by the Department in less than 2 years. Hundreds of ordinary citizens who complained of unlawful actions by the police received assistance from the staff of the Department. With their help significant abuses by the police were uncovered. It was thanks to members of the Department that the mobile groups on monitoring observance of human rights in places of detention under the MIA began working systematically and conditions in temporary holding facilities improved.

 In some regions of the country unlawful use of force by the police has been observed, as well as total failure of the police to act when unidentified individuals in plain clothes used violence against peaceful demonstrators, protesting against the illegal actions of the local authorities. This was the case in Kharkiv, for example, where the local authorities passed an unlawful decision to cut down 503 trees in the old part of the central park to build a road (primitive barbarism!). The tree felling was not authorized by the Ministry for Environmental Protection, ran counter to the General Plan of the city, the graphic part of which was unlawfully classified as “for official use only” in 2008. Nor were the public hearings required by law carried out. More trees than officially planned were, however, felled because of the use of force against the trees’ defenders.

We must also note wide-scale infringements of the rights of police staff who are totally dependent on management, often forced to work 10-14 hours without overtime while receiving an extremely small salary. In the MIA there are frequent cases where employees’ labor rights are infringed, when their salary is illegally reduced, or when they’re made redundant without the norms of the Labor Code being observed. There are also cases of unlawful dismissal. Against this background and with some district police stations not having proper toilets (there is none at all at the Zhovtnevy District Police Station in Zaporizhya) and staff forced to use local cafes or shops, the recent procurement of expensive cars for the management seems especially grotesque.

In summing up, one can differ in assessment of the changes in the country over recent years. However there is a clear awareness among Ukrainian citizens of the fact that the government should serve the people, and not vice versa. If the authorities on the taxpayers’ money employ the police to protect human rights, this is how it should be. Therefore the police do not have the right to act without taking the population’s needs into account, it cannot pretend that it doesn’t matter how many people lose their life or health as the result of the unlawful behavior of law enforcement officers. In view of this the MIA leadership should radically change their attitude to cooperation with the public and to human rights, and stop violating them. They should reject work statistics which only foster unlawful violence and the imitation of fighting crime. If it is not capable of this, it needs to be changed.

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[1] Prepared by Yevhen Zakharov and Oleh Martynenko, Head of the Board of the Association of Ukrainian monitors on  human rights observation in the MIA activities

 

 

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