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17.04.2010 | M. Hovorukhina, V. Yavorsky

How the Minister of Internal Affairs improves human rights monitoring

   

The Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylev at the end of March stated to the German Ambassador in Ukraine that “the new changes which the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] is introducing will only improve human rights monitoring”

So what new changes is the Minister initiating?

Anatoly Mohylev decided that there are two many professionals overseeing observance of human rights and that Assistants to the Minister on the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police in the regions should be dismissed.

On 18 March he signed an order dismissing the Regional Human Rights Assistants to the Minister.  Why indeed watch over observance of human rights in the regions? This order was not, however, made public and even the staff of the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police knew nothing about it. Of over 30 people involved in monitoring and permanently providing information directly to the Minister on violations of human rights in the regions, only 5 remain. Not a lot given a minister of many thousand people and a country with many million.

It thus transpires that when the Minister spoke those words to the German Ambassador, at that time he had, effectively “secretly”, already signed an order for a significant reduction in the number of Ministerial human rights advisors.

There has been no response to two open appeals from human rights groups protesting against these decisions of the Minister, and this despite the fact that one of the appeals was signed by 250 organizations and individuals.

The President, in response to appeals from human rights organizations, criticized such decisions of the Minister, calling them ill-considered, and said that he would not advise him to economize with public funding on human rights. Yet the frugal innovator, Mohylev ignored such recommendations.

It was only on 7 April that the Regional Human Rights Assistants received official notice and were shown the relevant order, despite this having been signed over three weeks before. In accordance with the Code of Labour Laws they have two months period of notice from when they are shown the order. However their pay has been halved. Yet again the order regarding this was passed on 4 April, yet they were only informed of it on 13 April, despite the fact that on 7 April there was a meeting between the Head of the Minister’s Office with the Minister’s Assistants.

Furthermore, in order to carry out the order on reduction of staff, since 18 March many of the Assistants have simply not been allowed into their offices, refused access to staff transport for carrying out checks, and held in an information blockade. Other activity has also been blocked, for example, they have not been invited to meetings, their instructions regarding mobile group work are not signed. Their activities have been blocked virtually throughout the entire country.

In response to the appeal from the Minister’s Assistants during the joint meeting on 7 April that it is impossible for them to carry out their obligations, the Head of the Minister’s Office promised to sort everything out and send the relevant telegram to the regions so that the Assistants could be allowed to work during the legally established two months. Yet a week has passed, and nothing has changed. No telegrams were sent although the order on staff cuts was circulated and carried out immediately.

In dismissing the Human Rights Assistants, the idea was put forward of introducing such Assistants on a voluntary basis if the issue was merely one of money. It was suggested that they be given certain powers regarding the gathering of information on human rights violations. However in view of how the present Assistants are being prevented from carrying out their work, there are great doubts as to whether this initiative could really be implemented. It would appear that the police really don’t like internal monitoring of human rights abuse and the real aim is to get rid of it. It is difficult to imagine what Mohylev’s next innovations, aimed at improving the human rights situation, could be.

One thing is already clear – this being the reintroduction of named railway tickets. With this the police demonstrate their attitude to all passengers as potential criminals, and show the role they see human rights as playing. The MIA had previously rejected this initiative on the recommendation of the Human Rights Public Council attached to the MIA which had pointed out the potential abuses of human rights.  Now again nothing can stop the police.

 is insulting and yet again demonstrates that the police’s activities are not based on respect for fundamental human rights

We are also seeing a return to the Soviet practice of police officers’ work being assessed according to various formal indicators, for example, the number of crimes solved, the number of fingerprints taken, etc. Although the plan for crimes solved, cancelled two years ago, has not been reinstated, the criteria stated by the Minister of the MIA for the assessment of local departments and district police stations suggest an informal return to fighting for indicators.

It is known that this leads to numerous cases of abuse with crimes being provoked, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions, other violations and in fact innocent people being convicted. Since all is determined by statistical indicators, and it is this that determines a person’s career and bonuses, than attempts will be made using any means to achieve this end. It is for this reason that they were previously revoked, in order to not generate human rights abuse. Not to mention the fact that the crime level in Ukraine is higher than in Europe, while the level of crimes solved is double, which suggests that our figures are somewhat artificial.

It is not clear as yet whether this policy will affect another mechanism for ensuring human rights protection in the police, that being the human rights public councils under the MIA and regional departments. These have yet to meet and there has been no clear announcement regarding their future work.

The public part of the MIA Human Rights Public Council has suggested a meeting in the last part of April, however there has been no indication as to whether this is acceptable.

The above makes it clear that the policy being carried out in the police force has little in common with the policy of the European police, and human rights are of ever less interest to the law enforcement bodies. In this case, there can be no question of reforms.

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