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07.10.2010 | O. Martynenko

Police Crime: an analysis of steady trends

   

Dr O. Martynenko has carried out a comprehensive analysis of crimes committed by employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, examining statistics which could indicate the use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. 

In general the trends follow those for crime generally within the country, excluding the years 2006-2008 when the number of police officers convicted increased as a result of active efforts taken by the MIA. There was a sharp increase from 2007 to 2009 averaging 84% against 2006/

Most of those prosecuted from 2007-2009 were from CID teams, district police inspectors, investigators, public order guards, anti-drug officers and the traffic police.  Of those convicted, 61.2% were under 30 and 58.9% had worked in the police for less than 10 years.

Over 9,626 criminal investigations were initiated with regard to police officers between 1992 and 2010, with convictions against 4999 of these.

There has been an increase in the ratio of crimes of an official nature as against those of a general criminal character. (in 2009 there were 3.8 times more).

Among crimes of an official nature between 2002 and 2009 most prominent were bribery; exceeding official powers; abuse of official position.

Most common among crimes of a general criminal nature (22.2%) were road accidents. This figure is significantly higher than the figures for those causing bodily injuries (8.6%) and stealing (6.7%).

There is a category of crimes of a general nature rather lacking in transparency, but making up 37.9 % of the overall number. The category includes the number of people convicted of crimes against life and health (including torture); against a person’s freedom, honour or dignity; against human rights and civil liberties; against property; against public safety; against safety of traffic and others.

Closest attention from international and Ukrainian specialists is paid to crimes involving torture with these being an indicator of the level to which the law enforcement agencies adhere to the principle of the rule of law.

There are relatively few of such crimes in statistical reporting. Only 16 criminal investigations under Article 127 of the Criminal Code (torture) were initiated by the Prosecutor from 2002 to 2009.

 Number of   criminal investigations under Article 127 of the CCU (torture) 2002 - 2009  

 

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Criminal proceedings underway

1

1

1

6

11

12

15

16

- initiated that year

0

0

0

5

5

2

4

1

- terminated for rehabilitating motives

0

0

0

0

0

2

4

2

convictions

0

0

0

0

0

2

3

3

 

These figures should not be a source of comfort for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • A fairly large number of unlawful actions by police officers, linked with the use of torture or ill-treatment are not categorized properly by the Prosecutor’s office.
  • It is common court practice for actions by police officers linked with the unlawful use of physical force, beatings and other ill-treatment to be charged under two other articles of the Criminal Code: Article 364 (abuse of power or official position) and Article 365 (exceeding powers or official position).  Analysis of a selection of such cases showed that in at least 22.2% of cases, the courts “hadn’t noticed” elements of the crime under Article 127.

One example of an incorrect assessment of the unlawful actions of police officers can be found in the case reported here when in October 2008 Serhiy Kuntsevsky died from a closed skull injury in the premises of the Chernihiv Regional UBOZ [Department for Fighting Organized Crime] in Prytuky.  Video footage of the actual detention showed officers putting a polyethylene bag over his head.  Force was used in order to obtain a confession, yet the charges were only under Article 355 § 2 of the Criminal Code. (cf.  http://www.khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1262391340 and the links below).

There was even once a special Verkhovna Rada Resolution “On court practice in cases on exceeding power or official authority”, No. 15 from 26 December 2003, yet the stereotypes of judges’ logic have proved stronger than the demands of official documents.

In the light of the above and the small number of criminal investigations initiated under Article 127, it seems expedient to bear in mind all crimes which could a connection with torture. We need to take into account at least four such categories: deliberate homicide; the inflicting of various degrees of bodily injury; abuse of power and exceeding ones powers. Such crimes, according to statistics for 2002-2009 constituted 43.5% of the overall number of convictions of police officers.

25.9%   abuse of power

22.8%   exceeding powers

2.6%    bodily injuries

2.2%    homicide

54.6 % other crimes

It would be worth adding to this number those police officers who faced disciplinary proceedings over offences which could also indicate the use of brutal forms of behaviour with people detained or arrested. These include unlawful methods in carrying out an investigation; unlawful use of special means; unlawful actions with regard to detainees; as well as unlawful administrative detention or unlawful administrative charges; unlawful arrest and unlawful prosecution. The percentage here is only 6.1% of the overall number of people against whom disciplinary proceedings were brought.

Bearing in mind the above, one can gain a general picture of the so-called “risk zone”, or the potential scope of unlawful and illegal actions by police officers directly linked to the use of torture and brutal forms of behaviour.

 

Number of police officers held to criminal or disciplinary liability for actions which could be linked with torture or ill-treatment 

 

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Total no. of convictions

89

108

147

146

178

349

293

342

- of these for:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

murder

3

1

7

4

1

8

5

4

bodily injuries

5

4

9

2

0

7

7

5

Abuse of power

7

16

21

19

17

47

41

41

Exceeding powers

34

39

51

34

43

79

59

65

Total punished for infringements of the law

1649

2061*

2814

1451

1366

1474

2090

3291

- of these for:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlawful methods of running an investigation

6

1

1

0

0

3

0

2

Unlawful use of special methods

7

3

1

5

1

0

6

1

Unlawful actions with respect to detainees

1

0

0

13

0

5

0

9

Unlawful administrative detention

21

25

31

27

3

25

15

61

Unlawful use of administrative liability

20

34

74

56

34

75

56

210

Unlawful arrest

0

0

1

2

1

3

1

3

Unlawful use of criminal liability

6

5

27

16

44

21

8

16

 

*  figures for 10 months of 2003

 

In assessing the scale of torture by functioning divisions of the MIA, one cannot avoid analysis of statements, reports and complaints from members of the public over unlawful actions by police officers. It should be noted that the MIA’s statistical forms remain rather inadequate from the point of view of reporting to the public.

Complaints from the public recorded within the system are examined by other divisions and services within the Department which records them both in those services and in the general reports of the Ministry. However it is already impossible to keep track of such obvious things as the correspondence of the number of complaints over particular actions by police officers to the number of decisions under these categories taken.

This is caused by different categories of record-keeping used by the departments and services, as well as by the basic lack of such categories of complaints as “torture”, “beating and rough treatment”; “unlawful methods of running an investigation”; etc.

For these reasons analysis of complaints and appeals is rather fragmentary, yet even it enables us to state the following. Of the total number of complaints to the police regarding unlawful actions by police officers, on average 7.8% relate to beating or the inflicting of bodily injuries. Reports of torture make up a much smaller number – 1.3% of the total number of complaints. These are found to be justified on average, excluding certain years, in only 9.2% of the cases.

The overall number of complaints is influenced also by the fact that in a number of cases unlawful behaviour by police officers is supported by the public and even by the relatives of the victims.

For example, a senior inspector of the Irshansk Settlement Police Station in the Zhytomyr region on 27 July 2005 questioned a woman over a flat robbery in Irshansk. The court established that he had used inadmissible force and special means, inflicting blows to the head and a rubber baton on the buttocks to beat a confession out of her.

Having discovered later in the day that the woman was not guilty, he called her mother in to the police station, told her why her daughter had been there and also that the woman had had intimate relations with a person he knew.  The mother then took the rubber baton and hit her daughter with it.

This case also demonstrates the discrepancy between the aim and means established by the court, indicating the crime of torture, and the court’s qualifying the actions as exceeding powers, i.e. Article 355 of the Criminal Code.

Oleh Martynenko stresses that the information cited clearly requires further discussion and a study into the observance of human rights within the police force.

Abridged from the report at: http://www.helsinki.org.ua/index.php?id=1286292983

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