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02.08.2010 | Yevhen Zakharov

Minister Mohylyov and Human Rights

   

On 27 August 2005 the then Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Lutsenko signed Order No. 1243 creating an MIA Public Council on Human Rights (on Ensuring Observance of Human Rights in the Work of the Police) as a consultative advisory body. On 28 December the first meeting took place at which I was elected Co-Chair, together with the Minister. The Public Council functioned for more than four years, contacting with Yury Lutsenko, then with Vasyl Tsushko, then again with Yury Lutsenko. After the creation of a new government in 2010, members of the Public Council tried for more than three months to hold their next meeting, but to no avail. Yet Order No. 1243 has not been cancelled, and I consider that I must fulfil my duties. Without the possibility of giving recommendations, as usual, during Public Council meetings, I am forced to do this publicly.

Over recent times the Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylyov has often spoken about human rights. He even said on 9 July during the television show “Big Politics” on the Inter TV Channel that “in relation to each violation of human rights we will carry out the most rigorous investigation” (my underlining). Yet human rights violations by Internal Affairs officers arise in the main during certain ministerial instructions.

For example, with Instruction No. 236 from 8 April 2010 the powers of Internal Affairs officials are unwarrantedly increased since heads of divisions are required to ensure on the railways “constant control over the stay of foreign nationals on service structures, carry out thorough checks of foreign nationals’ documents, give particular attention to whether they have registration cards issued by border guards.”  Acting in this fashion constitutes wide-scale violation of the law. It is clear to anybody that constant surveillance over a person and checking of their documents are specific procedure which is quite strictly regulated by law. It may not therefore be applied on a mass scale whether in relation to Ukrainian or foreign nationals.

In addition, according to Instruction No. 292 from 23 April 2010, it is planned to introduce on railway tickets full name, date of birth, series and number of a person’s ID, The objective is supposedly for the public’s good, to seek out criminals. Yet the MIA management is entirely indifferent to the fact that such an approach is a flagrant violation of the right to privacy and treats all Ukrainians as to potential criminals. The introduction of such a system significantly hampers freedom of movement which can only be restricted in conditions of global social threats – war, terrorist acts, mass riots or natural cataclysms. None of these are taking place in Ukraine. Instead there is the overt wish by the MIA management to control the movement of citizens in an arbitrary and unhampered fashion as was the case with officials of police states. Do we really wish to show guests coming to Euro 2012 such a police state in Ukraine?

Another example of systematic and wide-scale violation of the right to privacy which have increased dramatically under the new management of the MIA is the mandatory fingerprint recording of people detained. This should be carried out against people accused of a crime, or subjective to administrative penalties in the form of deprivation of liberty, yet is applied much more widely against certain groups of the population, for example, the Roma who are specially detained for that purpose, then released. Such actions reinstate old forms of discrimination against the Roma which the MIA had, over recent years, got rid of.

During the 100 days of the new management,, regional and national media outlets have published more than 350 critical publications regarding the work of the police during peaceful gatherings. This was more than the number for 2007-2009 altogether. The nature and scale of these violations leaves no room for doubt that the police unlawful acts were carried out on the orders of the MIA leadership. These included preventing people taking part in peaceful gatherings; giving preference to one of the sides during them; unwarrantedly stopping peaceful gatherings and detaining their participants; unlawful failure by the police to respond to scuffles between opponents, and excessive use of force and special means against participants in peaceful actions. One can cite many examples.

I am forced to state that the course chosen by the new MIA leadership with regard to freedom of peaceful assembly has been aimed at the development of largely repressive measures despite the lack of any threat of mass riots or terrorist acts. In fact, the police should gain skills in as large as possible a spectrum of law enforcement tactics with minimum use of force.

Reports of torture and other forms of unlawful violence by the police, some with a fatal outcome, have recently become more frequent.  Just in the period from 11-14 June there were reports of 4 deaths as a result of police action, while another person ended up in emergency care. I consider this to be directed linked with the incorrect and unprofessional orientation of the MIA management to such indicators of work as the number of people prosecuted which Minister Mohylyov spoke of during the TV programme on 9 July. This is even worse than assessing work by the percentage of crimes solved as was the case until 2005 since it will lead to wide-scale falsification of the figures in order to have good readings and get bonuses. Is this not where the 30% increase in the number of registered crimes during the first six months of 2010 comes from?

One can be safe in predicting that this quantitative figure will rise at the expense of trivial crimes, while the organizers and those who order serious crimes, drug traffickers and the leaders of organized criminal gangs will remain at large. There will also be widespread demands that those accused confess to some other crimes which they did not commit purely so that they can be added to the list and improve reporting. This is not to mention the entirely forgotten presumption of innocence.

In the analysis made of the first 100 days under the new MIA leadership by the former Adviser to the Minister on Human Rights and staff of the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police, it is conclusively demonstrated that no less than 60% of cases involving removal of weapons, ammunition and explosive substances are regularly falsified, again to create the appearance of improvement in police work.

There is equal pretence in the assertions about the MIA’s attention to human rights. All projects which concerned human rights in the work of the MIA have been stopped. As the authors of the above-mentioned report write: “the new MIA leadership, headed by Anatoly Mohylyov, has returned to a model of a police department as a closed and self-sufficient system with its own interests which are radically divergent from those of the public. The nature of the “reform” measures over the last several months leaves no room for illusions and clearly demonstrates that the police do not like civic activity and intend to significantly restrict it. We are forced to note also that the publicly declared statements from the MIA about the need for cooperation with the public have no practical application and remain merely populist slogans.

However much officialdom at different levels may assert that the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the police is working, this is not the case since it was dissolved by ministerial order back on 18 March, and its regional staff made redundant with flagrant infringements of labour legislation. During the television show, the Minister also insulted them, saying to the entire country that half of them were personal acquaintances given the jobs because of their connections. This is an arrant lie and there was no such job-giving to cronies. Only a person who is blind or entirely biased could fail to see the enormous work done in the police aimed at ensuring respect for human rights in the work of the police and reform of the MIA achieved by the Department in less than 2 years. Hundreds of ordinary citizens who complained of unlawful actions by the police received assistance from the staff of the Department. With their help significant abuses by the police were uncovered.  It was thanks to members of the Department that the mobile groups on monitoring observance of human rights in places of detention under the MIA began working systematically and conditions in temporary holding facilities improved.

In summing up, one can differ in assessment of the changes in the country over recent years. However there is a clear awareness among Ukrainian citizens of the fact that the government should serve the people, and not vice versa. If the authorities on the taxpayers’ money employ the police to protect human rights, this is how it should be. Therefore the police do not have the right to act without taking the population’s needs into account, it cannot pretend that it doesn’t matter how many people lose their life or health as the result of the unlawful behaviour of law enforcement officers. In view of this the MIA leadership should radically change their attitude to cooperation with the public and to human rights, and stop violating them. They should reject work statistics which only foster unlawful violence and the imitation of fighting crime. If it is not capable of this, it needs to be changed.

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