Concerns over new law on security guards
On 18 October the Law on Security Guards came into force. The law which extends the powers of private security guards with regard to use of force and special means has been strongly criticized by human rights workers.
From now on private security guards are allowed to carry out searches of likely offenders, use physical force, special means and even dogs. Over the next 6 months the Cabinet of Ministers is supposed to specify which special means may be used. MP Oleh Novikov, member of the Parliamentary Committee on Crime-fighting Issues says that firearms are definitely not meant, and adds that security guards will have handcuffs, non-police use gas and rubber batons.
According to Serhiy Shabovta, Head of the Ukrainian Federation of Security Professionals it is possible that guards may carry and use shock pistols which are from a legal point of view regarded as special means. He says however that not all guards will receive these weapons, but only large firms where there are security points and response groups.
According to lawyer Vasyl Bilous, the new law could do with fine-tuning, but the main thing is that for virtually the first time in Ukraine there is a document clearly regulating not only who a private guard is and what kind of property is guarded, but which also sets out the rules for such security activities. A person may be searched only with their consent and only their personal things, for example, a bag, not pockets or clothing. Force and special means may only be used if verbal warnings have had no effect. If a person is injured, medical assistance must be provided. Security guards must immediately inform the police of any incidents.
“Control over the activities of private security guards has been seriously heightened. And even action will receive a legal assessment”.
Ludmila Klochko, lawyer and head of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group Public Advice Centre, on the other hand, warns that the law will result in an increase in the number of enforcement structures which can deprive people of their liberty. She points out that the law does not envisage stripping a security firm of its licence should they have infringed people’s rights and legitimate interests.
Ludmila Klochko believes that from now on any protester taking part in, for example, the peaceful protests against the unlawful felling of trees in Gorky Park or construction is in danger of being detained by private guards including with the use of special means. “Those with money have received a legal opportunity to guard themselves very well without any police bodies. Given the high level of police corruption, they will be able to get away with anything.”
From a report on the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service