07.11.2008 | Volodymyr Prytula

Crimean police reluctant to learn about European experience of working in a multicultural region


On 6 November in Simferopol a conference was held on principles of work of Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] bodies in a multicultural society. It was on the initiative and with the participation of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebek.  Despite the high level of the conference and prior arrangements, the event was ignored by the first heads of the MIA, although the participation had been expected of the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and the Head of the Ministry’s Human Rights Department. Nor did the Head of the Crimean Police come and the hall where the event took place was half empty.

Why the Crimean law enforcement bodies responded so coolly to the proposals of European partners to share experience of law enforcement work in a multi-cultural society remains a mystery. After all, this subject remains highly relevant for the Crimea. Experts point to a high level of inter-ethnic intolerance in Crimean society and an increase in the number of cases of xenophobia from the Crimean authorities.

The idea of such a conference, to be followed up by a series of seminars for Crimean enforcement officers, arose last year after the Crimean police used excessive force on Ai-Petri, deploying over a thousand men from the Internal Forces and the Special Forces Unit “Berkut”, special devices and arms against four dozen Crimean Tatars.  The MIA management supported the idea of the conference however when the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities carried it through, involving leading European experts, interest from the law enforcement body waned.

Head of the Simferopol Research Centre “Integration and development” Oleh Smirnov told Radio Svoboda that it has been particularly noticeable over recent years that the Crimean Police “have reacted inadequately, from the point of view of European experience, to ethnically charged conflict”. He says that the next step should be to organize a series of seminars for Crimean law enforcement officers.

The police and the public should speak one language

At the conference, the publication “Recommendations on Police Work in a Multicultural Society” produced in 2006 by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities was presented.

Knut Vollebek pointed out that these recommendations include proposals to draw more representatives of different ethnic groups into the police force. “It’s very important that the ethnic makeup of the police reflects the makeup of the population of the region. A second fundamental issue is the situation with language and culture. If I am detained by the police, it’s important that the police officer speaks the same language, that we understand one another.”

According to information from the Leader of the Mejilis Mustafa Dzhemilyev, only 4% of the staff of the Crimean Police Force are Crimean Tatars whereas the latter make up almost 14% of the Crimean population. In the SBU [Security Service] there is not one Crimean Tatar. Local observers assume that it was after reading these recommendations that the management of the Ukrainian police lost interest in the conference although the problem of xenophobia among the Crimean law enforcement bodies remains real.

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