Human rights defenders prevented the MIA from continuing its usual ways
How will the liquidation of such an institution impact, in your view, on observance of human rights in the police force? Did this Department really fulfil its function?
You know the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police existed for more than two years and demonstrated its worth. Hundreds of people received help from it and its regional assistants. Each oblast had a regional member of the Department answering directly to the Ministry’s Office, effectively, to the Minister. That meant that they were independent and could act in accordance with their own ideas and personal experience. It should be said that of 27 members of staff, 17 were former police officers who had been informed in human rights protection.
Why was the Department dissolved?
The formal grounds were given as a reduction in staff as a money saving measures. Although I should mention that after our letters on this matter, the President met with the Minister of Internal Affairs and said that one must not economize on human rights, and that human rights projects should on the contrary be expanded. I’m afraid however that that was merely a performance since nothing changed as a result of the meeting. The Department was dissolved as had been planned which makes me conclude that it was a bit of self-advertising on the President’s part. At a recent Amnesty International press conference they spoke of the same thing: of violations of human rights in the police force, in particular about torture. And it needs to be said that it was specifically the staff of the Department who were a certain mechanism ensuring prevention of torture. After all they intervened immediately in situations where unlawful force had been used, stopped it and initiated official enquiries.
You understand, they were a serious obstruction to the usual ways of the MIA. Now new people have appeared in the management of the police who are accustomed to working in the old way, in other conditions. And of course human rights defenders in the police also get in the way. That’s why they decided to get rid of them, any other explanations are laughable. The Minister, for example, told me that a police office cannot carry out public monitoring over the police since he is within the police force, uses a work car, technology, an office and receives a salary. Yet if we apply that logic, then in the MIA surely there can’t be a Department of Internal Security? And how can there be an institution of Human Rights Ombudsperson who on public funding defends human rights violated by the State itself?
Could there be other steps after this one - inroads into freedom of speech, for example, or the right of peaceful assembly?
There have already been such steps. The police have begun to actively violate freedom of peaceful assembly, mainly in Kyiv. This wasn’t happening before. By the way we found a letter here talking about how the police should prevent protest acts around the Cabinet of Ministers and President’s Administration. There is in general a lot of evidence of human rights violations in recent time. We need to definitely think about this.
Does this mean that we are returning to our sad past?
I wouldn’t go that far. We are not returning there. The situation is this way today, but it could change tomorrow. However we need oppose this. If there is resistance, we can stop it.
The interview was on 22 April, with the interviewer – Nina Krasnova