Monitoring human rights in the work of the MIA


A new department was created this year within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and with it the jobs of Assistants to the Minister of the MIA. Their task is to monitor observance of human rights in the work of the law enforcement agencies.

One of those appointed to this post is Natalya Kozarenko, a well-known human rights defender in Kherson and journalist. The following information is based on an interview she gave the newspaper “Vhoru” (where she worked as a correspondent).

The Minister of the MIA issued Order No. 197 on 24 April approving Regulations on a department monitoring observance of human rights in the work of law enforcement agencies.  This is in compliance with various international agreements including the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The aim is to improve the work of the police, protection of rights and freedoms, swift response to appeals from members of the public to strengthen lawfulness and discipline within MIA departments and to ensure that these comply with international standards.

The Assistants to the Minister will take part in organizing regular monitoring of whether the police are observing human rights norms during detentions, arrests, detective inquiry and criminal investigations. They will also monitor the work of police special institutions. Other tasks assigned to the assistants are to identify the conditions which contribute to corruption, infringements of discipline and lawfulness by law enforcement officers and to participate in organizing educational measures on human rights.

Natalya Kozarenko says that among the priorities in this work are: prevention of domestic violence; ill-treatment of children; human trafficking; safeguarding the rights of minors; observance of international norms on measures for countering illegal migration; ensuring the rights of refugees and asylum seekers; countering racism and xenophobia.

How did it come about that after devoting 10 years to civic human rights work, creating the most successful public advice centre in Ukraine and writing dozens of articles defending people about arbitrary behaviour from the police, you suddenly became a civil servant within the MIA system?

“Human rights organizations didn’t have the right to miss such a chance to have real impact. We presently have a real opportunity to improve the situation with human rights within the MIA. At least I hope so. I can cite as an example the conditions in ITT [temporary holding facilities). It’s enough to compare them now and three years ago. The situation is changing, but slowly. The public councils attached to the MIA have organized regular visits by mobile groups to ITT. At the next session we’re planning to discuss ways of resolving the issue of periods for holding people.

An extremely acute problem is the use of physical force by law enforcement officers during investigations. There is no effect mechanism at present for investigating allegations of torture, and in the European Court of Human Rights Ukraine continues to lose such cases.  There is a problem and it needs to be resolved through a comprehensive range of measures, including legal education of the public, study by law enforcement officers of the norms of international law, holding impartial investigations of each report and taking real measures. I hope that my experience as a human rights activist will help me in this work.”

Asked how it came about that she was appointed given that she might not seem a “convenient” person for the MIA, Natalya says that there are courageous people in the Ministry not frightened of “inconvenient” people. She mentions other human rights activists including Yury Chumak from the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and  Olha Vilkova from the Sevastopol Human Rights Group. Virtually half the number of assistants are activists from civic organizations.

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