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22.06.2009

Mobile Groups: Monitoring vs. Control

   

In an article prompted by criticism not only from some members of the human rights community, but, most oddly, from the Prosecutor General, the authors clarify some fundamental misunderstandings and provide valuable information about the work of the mobile groups working within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (carrying out inspections of police stations). .
The criticism was over a supposedly insufficient number of abuses uncovered and culprits punished; the fact that there are still widespread cases of torture or inappropriate treatment of detainees; insufficient response from the police to the mobile groups’ reports.
The authors point out that the standard fixation with the number of criminal or official investigations, etc, as indicator of efficiency, reflects a misunderstanding of their role. Such duties are, in fact, those of the Prosecutor General’s Office, as is ensuring a prompt and adequate reaction to cases where detainees’ rights have been violated.
Mobile and other monitoring groups
Monitoring is these days recognized as a method for improving defence of human rights.
The very fact of these mobile groups visiting police stations is a great step forward since the groups include not only police personnel, but representatives of the public.
Such monitoring work is gradually gaining momentum in Ukraine. By the beginning of June 2009 around 700 visits had been made by mobile groups. The system is not yet fully developed in all regions.
The most systematic and effective mobile groups are in the Crimea; the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Volyn, Vinnytsa, Zhytomyr and Zaporizhya regions (oblasts), and in Sevastopol.
There are virtually no visits in the Dnipropetrovsk, Khmelnytsky, Kirovohrad, Lviv and Ternopil regions, or in Kyiv.
In fact, on the basis of mobile group reports dozens of checks have been made and disciplinary measures taken against negligent police officers. These are, however, only the accompanying tasks achieved through monitoring. The main achievement has been the discussion of analytical material on the problems of special institutions (for holding people) at an MIA board meeting. This resulted, for example, in temporary holding facilities [ITT] being equipped with quartz radiators which is an important prophylactic step against tuberculosis. And while the mobile groups are permanently aware of issues regarding the conditions in which people are held, it is this kind of achievement that should be the indicator of their work.
UN monitors stress the objective of monitoring work being to increase public responsibility for protecting human rights, and to have a preventive effective. [Training manual on HR Monitoring, University of Minnesota www.umn.edu/humanrts/monitoring/chapter5.htm ]l.  Thus, monitoring does not replace the work of the police, but supplements and enhances some police functions. .
While the authors in no way suggest that violations identified not be responded to, they believe that using this function as an indicator of effectiveness would narrow their role, and also removes the onus from the State which must itself react to abuse, checking allegations and punishing those responsible if the allegations prove warranted. These roles must be carried out by the Prosecutor’s Office and Internal Security Service personnel.
Monitors do not have the relevant status according to criminal procedure legislation. Their work is described by a departmental order and constitutes voluntary help to the police. The authors suggest that MIA, which has shown itself open to change, could consider increasing the authority of these monitors. The fact that monitors are not within the MIA system, not subject to hierarchical relations is both an advantage, and probably makes it easier to be independent and objective, and a restriction, meaning they can only be consultants. .Real changes need to be made by professionals with the relevant experience and education, but most of all with the relevant AUTHORITY. It is too early to think of this as yet since there are no monitors who are involved professionally at present.
For this reason, the authors would be against the suggestion of giving members of the present mobile groups control powers, extending their mandate to post-monitoring activity and doubling the work that the Prosecutor’s Office should be doing.
At present, they stress, the role of the monitoring groups is to help receive information, help to understand reasons, negative elements and help the authorities overcome them. To give them control functions would put an end to monitoring.
For a number of reasons effective self-monitoring of the law enforcement system is not possible. It would be a huge oversimplification to say that this was solely to do with corruption and a wish to hush up violations of human rights so as to protect the profession’s reputation.
A no less, perhaps even greater role is played by the entrenched ideas in the police, especially at higher level of how their work should be carried out, and what place in it all is held by human rights. They mention that other factors – infringements of the officers’ own rights, problems of financing, the role of public opinion, political factors, cannot be ignored.
For these reasons they view monitoring as a whole system of actions, making it possible to see and influence the system as a whole.
Effectiveness monitoring of human rights observance is therefore at present
- HELP for the State bodies
- is possible only on conditions of equality, and cooperation between representatives of the public and the authorities;
They suggest that over the next few years priority tasks should be to further develop such cooperation; build new forms and methods of cooperation; attract the attention of wide groups of society to monitoring activities and discussion of its results. Any attempts to substitute monitoring activity for control over Internal Affairs bodies by adding control functions in conditions where the culture for this monitoring is as yet undeveloped and in the absence of a network of professional monitors and lack of understanding of the aims of monitoring and adequate reaction from the authorities and public to its results could jeopardize the further develop of this activity.
Abridged from an article by Denis Kobzin and Andriy Chernoysov from the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research

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