Human rights defenders concerned by reduction in control over human rights in police activities
At a press conference in Kyiv, former Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs on Human Rights and Gender Issues, Kateryna Levchenko, warned of an effective reduction in the system of control and monitoring of observance of human rights in MIA bodies. She pointed out that the system which had existed did at least provide the possibility for regular contact between police bodies and civic organizations, and at present that was being destroyed.
The former Head of the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of the Police, Oleh Martynenko, informed that the Department, created at the initiative of human rights organizations, had effectively been closed at the end of March 2010.
“We successfully completed the first stage in the creation of such a structure within the Ministry. Our objective was to create norms on human rights which should have guided the actions of each MIA department, in accordance with European Court of Human Rights judgments and international standards, and domestic legislation. The next step should have been to create such sections within the Ministry of Defence and Prosecutor General’s Office. Later to create an independent body for monitoring law enforcement activities. However the new MIA management took the decision that for the moment such a structure, working on public funding, is not needed. Minister’s Aides in the regions had their salaries halved and their offices and transport were taken away”.
Kateryna Levchenko notes that the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of the Police took five years to create. It was dissolved within a month. She explains that her post was created in 2004, while in 2005 mobile groups on monitoring human rights were introduced at the initiative of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group in the Kharkiv, Sumy and Poltava regions. The experience was then spread to the entire country. The mobile groups became the prototype for a national preventive mechanism as required by the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.
A vital feature was that these mobile groups included members of civic and human rights organizations. From 2005 they carried out right and spot checks on temporary holding facilities [ITT] and other police units. In 2008 there were around 400 such visits, in 2009 422. This made it possible to improve conditions in such units. She says that now the heads of regional MIA departments who must provide permits are blocking mobile group visits.
She points out that another important step was the creation of the Public Council on Human Rights under the MIA which included members of all prominent civic organizations. In 2006 and 2007 such councils had also been created at regional level.
Ms Levchenko stressed that the cooperation between the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of the Police and civic organizations had brought results, with crimes and torture being uncovered. She cites a number of cases just in 2009 when Minister’s aides directly intervened in complex issues against the wishes and actions of the local management.
More information about the Department, mobile groups and their fate can be found at http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1273496856