It has been almost a month and a half since the decision was taken to dissolve the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police [the Department]. During that time there have been voices heard for and against. There was hope that the decision would be revoked, then disappointment. There were appeals from civic organizations, statements, address on radio and TV, press conferences and even a recommendation from the President not to destroy the Department. There were on the other hand gleeful articles that it was being dissolved and a lot of dirt hurled at the Human Rights Assistants to the Minister. There were meetings with ambassadors and representatives of international organizations. There was also the appointment by the Minister of Internal Affairs of the head of a public council (not clear which) and a statement that the MIA would be creating public councils at the level of regional and district departments.
The list can be continued. There were a lot of words, however reading them, you understand that they conceal the true processes, twist many facts providing assessments which are far from reality. It becomes clear that those who write about the Department know little about it.
The main problem is that the current leadership of the Ministry know so little and this makes it possible to circulate myths and overt lies, and slander those who worked in it.
Since I was directly involved in the creation of an action strategy for this department, its creation and work, I believe that the MIA management should know the history from first hand, and not from unprincipled advisers. This text is not an attempt to whitewash the Department, but is aimed at giving an account of the entire system of human rights monitoring in the work of the police. I cannot claim that it attained top peak efficiency. I will describe here how it was conceived and created, how it worked, what it was able to achieve, what it was not. It is about the Human Rights Public Councils, the mobile groups, public hearings, and the people who helped the Department, working together with it.
Stage 1: The appearance in the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] of a strange-sounding post “Adviser on Human Rights and Gender Issues to the Minister” - 2004
The creation of this post against the background of the election campaign in autumn 2004 went almost unnoticed. It came about as the result of a joint meeting in 2003 between the Human Rights Ombudsperson and the MIA reviewing cases of flagrant human rights violation in the work of the police. One of the recommendations was to create the post of Adviser.
The functional duties of Adviser, as well as the requirements for the post, were drawn up together with the Head of the Office of the Minister, V. Shapoval. The main rights and duties included:
- analysis of the situation within the police regarding observance of legislation in the area of human rights and gender issues;
- coordination of cooperation between the MIA and international organizations (UN, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the International Labour Organization, OSCE, the International Organization for Migration and others) and consultations with their specialists, representative offices and sections responsible for overseeing observance of international norms on human rights and gender equality;
- consultations with members of civic organizations, including human rights and women’s organizations and involving them in joint measures;
- informing the management of the Ministry on recommendations from research, national and international theoretical and practical conferences on human rights, gender equality;
- supporting regular contact with the Human Rights Ombudsperson, profile committees of the Verkhovna Rada, the Ministry for the Family, Children and Youth, other executive bodies within the constraints of the above-mentioned competence;
- monitoring of the situation regarding observance of human rights and the introduction of gender issues into the work of the MIA;
- promoting the drawing up and implementation of human rights and gender equality programmes in MIA educational institutions (www.umdpl.info )
Even then it was clear that the introduction of this post should bring something new into the work of the police; that the work needed to be systematic and not just reaction to complaints and appeals from members of the public.
Fairly serious qualifications were demanded of the holder of this post in order to ensure that the person could effectively carry out the duties involved. These included a higher law education; fluent command of one foreign language recognized in international organizations; practical human rights defence experience of at least five years; research experience; academic works on human rights and gender equality.
A post’s a post, but the main thing is what was done in 2004-2005.
Dialogue was initiated and contacts established with civic and international organizations. That was at a time when in the MIA they were wary of civic organizations, especially those like the Kharkiv Human Rights Group [KHPG] and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union [UHHRU]. Appeals and letters from the latter organizations aroused genuine indignation that anyone should be “interfering” with their fight against crime.
A fair number of organizations were also wary of even the possibility of dialogue with the police. The first step was therefore to break down stereotypes and suspicion.
What now seems simple – invitations and participation of the Adviser in civic organizations’ measures, including those where criticism was voice of the MIA; coverage of the MIA’s position; provision of information sought by civic organizations, etc – was then worked on step by step with a certain breakthrough in the system of interaction between the police and the public.
This was interaction of a new kind which envisaged dialogue and open and systematic criticism of the police by the public.
Meanwhile there were radical changes in the management of the Ministry and at the same time in the attitude to cooperation with civic organizations. A major role in this was undoubtedly played by Yury Lutsenko as Minister. However there were also public expectations of positive change, for the restructuring of the police on principles of democracy and openness. There was also willingness to take part in the creation of new structures and models of management.
Stage 2: Mobile groups for monitoring human rights observance in the work of the police – 2005
The issue of public control over the work of MIA bodies had long been the focus of attention of human rights organizations, and the fact that such public control was needed was generally undisputed. So was the need for its implementation, however the question arose, how this should be done.
Through asking for information from internal affairs bodies? This was tried, but the information even where given, was not comprehensive. Public participation in joint measures? The traditional form was participation in protecting public order. These were the same voluntary police assistants that to some extent turned into a parody of cooperation. Studies of public opinion regarding the police showed that confidence was gradually increasing regardless of the quality and results of work. The figures were also several times higher than in other European countries.
The police remained a closed institution and that needed to be changed. Within the constraints of current legislation: the Law on the Police, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Law on Civil Control over Military Organization and Law Enforcement bodies, and others.
An interesting idea was conceived and developed in Kharkiv. This city in general played a very important role in the creation and development of the system of human rights monitoring in the work of the police. It was a positive role, that of initiator, lobbyist, human resource.
The idea of developing mobile groups on monitoring human rights in the work of the police was initiated by the Kharkiv Human Rights Group together with the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs.
There were extremely serious problems with human rights abuse in places of police detention - temporary holding facilities [ITT], special reception units for those under administrative arrest, units for those detained for vagrancy. It was these that became the focus of public monitoring.
, From 2004, on an experimental basis, mobile groups functioned in three regions [oblasts] – Kharkiv, Sumy and Poltava regions (pursuant to MIA Order No. 286, 2004).
In 2005, at the suggestion of the Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, and in implementation of a Ministerial instruction, their experience was thoroughly studied by the Minister’s Adviser, with a report being presented on the results of this study. This resulted in MIA Order no. 536 which stipulated the rules of procedure for mobile groups anyway in the country.
Mobile groups were created in 2005 on the basis of departmental academic institutions with one group for a specific oblast or railway according to the distribution. Personal liability for this process was borne by the deans of the MIA academic institutions. An Order envisaged enclosure in the mobile groups of specialists from permanent staff with experience of practical and academic work in the area of observance of constitutional civil and human rights and protection of their legitimate interests. The Order also envisaged inclusion in each group of two representatives of civic human rights organizations, registered according to established procedure. This involvement was decisive.
A lot can be said about the difficult process of getting these groups off the ground, the lack of acceptance by departments of the MIA in a number of oblasts. There were also difficulties in cooperation with civic organizations, and a lack of professionalism in their work, a lack of understanding of the principles of interaction and attempts to interfere in issues which concern criminal investigation and investigative operations; as well as preparation of ITT before the arrival of a mobile group. Organizational difficulties connected with mobile groups being linked to academic institutions which are only in 12 oblasts. Difficulties in organizing trips – time, transport, fuel; and in preparing reports sent to three addressees – the Head of the division in which the check was carried out, to the Head of the Department of the MIA and to the Office of the Minister. There were problems in mutual relations with the Prosecutor’s Office with this resulting in some oblasts with instructions prohibiting the functioning of mobile groups.
However the work had begun. Civic organizations had become more active in the oblasts. From 2006 training seminars began for staff of civic organizations and police stations on organization of mobile groups, the powers, rights and duties of their members. In cooperation with the Office of the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and the International Renaissance Foundation, a manual entitled “Mobile groups on monitoring human rights in the work of the police” was produced which is used to this day. There was the will to make them effective.
In 2006 a new MIA Order No. 894 stopped the linking of mobile groups to MIA academic institutions. What was very important was that this was registered with the Ministry of Justice.
In 2008 amendments to this were introduced making it possible to carry out night and spot visits, as well as talk with detainees with a maximum level of confidentiality (MIA Order No. 389 www.umdpol.info ).
The amendments were to 4.1: “In accordance with the MIA normative legal acts, at any time without prior arrangement, to enter and examine territory and premises of bodies and divisions of Internal Affairs bodies, including premises of police stations, as well as immediate access to places for holding those detained, brought for questioning or remanded in custody, detained according to administrative procedure, as well as people serving administrative arrest.”
4.2: “According to current legislation, to hold talks with the maximum possible level of confidentiality with those detained, brought for questioning or people serving administrative arrest, in order to identify any violations of the norms regarding their treatment, procedural periods and the grounds for their detention, being brought in for questioning, remanded in custody; informing them of the rights of people detained, brought for questioning or remanded in custody, as well as other rights as envisaged by Ukrainian legislation”.
The grounds for these amendments were in the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture OPCAT ratified by Ukraine in 2006. This envisages the creation of national preventive mechanisms against torture. These are based on the principle of visits to places of confinement by not only international experts, but also those from within the country. Such places of confinement include not only ITT and special reception units, but also reception and distribution units for children; preliminary detention cells in police stations, even police offices where people are held against their will.
The number of visits rose sharply each year: 86 in 2006, 145 in 2007, 353 in 2008 and 422 in 2009. There was also an improvement in the quality of monitoring and professional level of the civic members of the mobile groups.
There was also an undeniable improvement in the situation in ITT. Despite the fact that there are still a lot of problems and the material level in many of them doesn’t even meet national, let alone European standards. Improvements include the appearance of bed linen; in detainees receiving food; using quartz in cells as a means of preventing the spread of tuberculosis; a help line in the courtyard where detainees have their walk; information about rights and duties of detainees placed directly in the cells. Toilets are being built, and bunks removed. ITTs which are seriously substandard are being closed. In July 2008 the issue of the work of mobile groups was reviewed at a meeting of the MIA Board.
It is not possible to measure what has been done in words like much or little. If we give an assessment like the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, then we can speak of changes for the better. One of the indicators of positive change was the fact that the experience of organizing the mobile groups on human rights in the work of the police was studied and adopted in other countries. When in 2009 members of the mobile groups met at the Second East European Conference organized by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research, in cooperation with the Open Society Institute, the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine and with the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in he Work of the Police, it transpired that such monitoring institutions had been created in Bulgaria, Armenia, Moldova and a number of other countries. Furthermore, in 2009 such experience began being applied within Ukraine by the Department for the Execution of Sentences.
This experience gained the support of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Committee against Torture, from the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Council of Europe and European Community specialists.
We can ask if it’s possible to make the work of such mobile groups more useful and the answer will be affirmative since there are no limits to improvement. The main improvement does not involve making visits unexpected, so that the heads of district stations don’t know where the group is going. The main thing is to react to the comments contained in the report, on eliminating shortcomings (and many of them can be eliminated by the institutions themselves) so that this is under the permanent control of the MIA Department’s managements, and so that the public have access to information about the results of the response.
The following civic organizations have members delegated to mobile groups: the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research; the civic organization “Spivdruzhnist” (the Crimea); the Kharkiv Human Rights Group; the Vinnytsa Human Rights Group; the Odessa Human Rights Group “Veritas”; Donetsk Memorial; the International Women’s Human Rights Centre La Strada – Ukraine, the Rivne Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine; the Union of Drivers of Ukraine (Rivne); the International Human Rights Society – Ukrainian Secition (Kyiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipropetrovsk); the Chernihiv Women’s Charitable Centre; the Civic Network OPORA (Lviv); Men against Violence (Luhansk); the civic organization “Dobrobyt” (Mykolaiv); the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Civic Organization “People’s Control”; the Poltava Civic Organization “Press Club” and others.
So what is wrong with a mechanism for exercising public control if it works? – if there is interest from both the police and the public? - if criticism is acted on? Nothing wrong and it needs to be developed further. Yet will there be the wish and the political will for this? This is at present in question.
Stage 3: The Public Council on Human Rights attached to the MIA, and public councils attached to regional departments of the MIA
According to Article 1 of the Constitution Ukraine is a democracy. The characteristic feature of democratic governance is public involvement in the process of formation and implementation of State policy. This is enshrined in Article 38 of the Constitution which states that “Citizens have the right to take part in the administration of State affairs…” One of the forms of this public participation is seen in public councils.
The idea of creating an MIA Public Council on Safeguarding Human Rights in Internal Affairs bodies arose in autumn 2005. Active cooperation with civic organizations, thanks to the work of the Adviser to the Minister on Human Rights and Gender Issues, constant participation in measures carried out by civic organizations, as well as a huge number of questions which civic organizations had to the MIA, led to the idea of regular roundtables of the MIA management and civic human rights organizations. While preparing for the first roundtable (November 2005) it became clear that interaction with civic organizations needed to be placed on a more regular, and mainly, more systematic footing and this was seen as a Public Council.
A major role in drawing up the documents of the Public Council was played by staff of the Office of the Minister and it’s Head whom we have already mentioned – Volodymyr Shapoval. They took direct, active and interested participation in this work.
The process of creating the Public Council on Human Rights attached to the MIA, and public councils attached to regional departments of the MIA took almost three years (2005-2007). It then activated again at the regional (oblast) level in 2008 in connection with the creation of the posts of Human Rights Assistants to the Minister, since representatives of human rights organizations on the one hand, and the management of regional department of the MIA on the other, proved unprepared for cooperation and joint work. Yet the difficulties, duration and sometimes even conflict with this process cannot negate its importance.
On 28 December 2005 Order No. 1243 on the creation of the Public Council was signed, and its first meeting took place the next day. This meeting set out the main directions of work, elected authorized representatives of the Council according to these directs, as well as a Co-Chair, and made proposals regarding Regulations and forms of work.
According to the Regulations, the organizational forms of work of the Council are its meetings, the meetings of the working and expert groups created by the Council in response to need. Meetings can be called on the instruction of the Co-Chairs of the Council by the Executive Secretary and the Council Secretary.
MIA officials enforce decisions of the Council which are of a recommendatory nature within the boundaries of their competence and in accordance with MIA normative legal acts.
The directions chosen as priorities for the work of the Public Council were:
- Civil rights during detention, detective inquiry [diznannya] and criminal investigation;
- Safeguarding human rights during elections;
- The right to peaceful assembly;
- Human rights education;
- Examination of complaints about police action. An institution for complaints;
- Prevention of domestic violence, ill-treatment of children, human trafficking;
- Gender equality in the work of the Internal Affairs bodies;
- normative legal and method backup for the work of the Council;
- The rights of migrants and refugees;
- Respect for privacy;
- The rights of minors.
Of principle importance was the norm about the recommendatory nature of Public Council decisions. This meant that the MIA manage could accept them as suggestions for action, but didn’t have to. Otherwise the members of the Public Council needed to seek means of influence on the management of the relevant body of the MIA in order to convince them that the proposed actions were necessary.
An even more fundamental question was the personal makeup of the Council. When it was first formed, the sole wish was to create it from members of the most well-known and influential civic organizations which could criticize the police in a professional manner, helping them move towards positive change. The first members were: Arkady Bushchenko; Volodymyr Chemerys; Oles Doniy; Dmytro Groisman; Olha Kalashnyk; Ihor Popov; Roman Romanov; Andriy Sukhorukov; Andriy Toropilo and Yevhen Zakharov, as well as a representative of Amnesty International in Ukraine. Through the process of rotation, the following worked on the Council: Oleksandr Bukalov; Denis Kobzin; Henadiy Tokarev; Ruslan Topolevsky; Volodymyr Yavorsky. All are professionals in their field.
The principle was clearly followed that there should be no politicians, businessmen or representatives of the Church. New members had to be recommended by at least two members of the Council. Rotation of public representatives was a matter for the public alone. Admittedly when they wanted to exclude Ihor Popov [after he left his post as Head of the Committee of Voters and joined the President’s Secretariat – translator] and Oles Doniy [now a National Deputy – translator], both categorically refused to step down.
However the process of forming public councils showed that among the heads of the Central and Regional Departments of the MIA there was no unanimity on the principles of involvement on councils of member of the public, their role in interaction between MIA bodies and civic society. It was for this reason that these issues were discussed on 28 April 2006 during a meeting of the Public Council and set down in MIA Instruction from 15.06.2006 No. 499 “On the Rules of Procedure for Forming and Approving the Makeup of Human Rights Public Councils attached to the Central and Regional Departments of the MIA” http://umdpl.info/index.php?id=1238068149.
Through this instruction the heads of the Central and Regional Departments of the MIA were to involve representatives of the MIA Public Council in the process of formation of public councils confirmed through instructions for the relevant oblast. The formation of final lists of members of councils was scheduled for 01.08.2006, with there being a requirement to exclude from the lists people with no connection with the human rights protection sphere. No less important was the fundamental provision regarding the councils being made up of at least two thirds representatives of human rights organizations, activists of the human rights movement and academics.
Some of the results: regular monitoring and the introduction of a normative base on the police; participation in the work of staffing and attestation commissions attached to the Central and Regional Departments of the MIA; carrying out, together with police management, reception of members of the public; drawing up and implementing an Action Plan on Countering Racism and Xenophobia up to 2009; drawing up a Programme for Ensuring Gender Equality in Police Bodies; training of more than 110 mobile group experts; more than 50 training seminars for investigators, operational officers, members of the “Berkut” Units, ITTs, and so forth. “And so forth” covers the work of more than 120 organizations within councils at regional and national level.
Incidentally in 2006 it was at a meeting of the Public Council that members of human rights organizations were able to convince the former management of the MIA of the need to reject the use of passport details and people’s passport when buying railway tickets. Then it proved possible. Will it prove so in 2010? Who will read the Minister the appeals from civic organizations on this issue? Just in case, here is the URL (in English): http://www.helsinki.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1271166079 )
The Public Council could not be viewed as a body for swift response to information (or its lack) on human rights violations by the police; that could not be the urgent grounds for holding a meeting. Meetings of the Public Council consider issues involving systematic violations of human rights by staff of Internal Affairs bodies. However members of the Public Council cannot ignore such cases of abuse and forms of work are used, like formation of public opinion; meetings with the managers of the relevant department or subdivision of the MIA.
Some of the factors which impede the work of the Public Council are: the lack of clear coordinator of activity; lack of clear understanding of the ideology and functions of public councils within both the human rights community, and the heads of regional departments of the MIA; the lack of a developed mechanism for interaction between the MIA Public Council with regional public councils; dependence of the work of public councils on the will of the regional police management. If the latter is negative, this effectively renders meaningless their role as an effective instrument of public control.
For example, the rejection of the idea of such public control by the Head of Police for the Sumy region in 2009 totally paralyzed the work both of mobile groups, and of the public council. The issue was presented for review by the MIA Public Council and a separate decision was passed, however this did not convince the head of the regional police of the need to cooperate with the public. What if there are such heads in the majority of regions of Ukraine? The results are predictable.
At the level of MIA Public Council dissatisfaction was expressed with the provisions and regulations regarding the Council. New documents were created, however these need to be approved by Order, and it is unclear whether this will happen. The continued functioning of the Public Council is in general unclear.
State 4: The Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police
Cooperation developed in 2005-2007 between the MIA and civic organizations demonstrated that the police needed to develop an institutional mechanism for monitoring human rights. This experience prompted the idea of creating a separate department within the MIA with the proud title of Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police.
The idea of the Minister and public was supported by the President and staffing changes were introduced. The Department was created within the Office of the Minister and Provisions approved. Selection of candidates for the post of Regional Human Rights Assistants to the Minister began with more than 80 applicants for the 27 positions. The selection commission included three members of civic organizations: V. Chemerys, R. Romanov, Y. Zakharov. Each applicant underwent a written test and had an interview.
There was thus a real choice of candidates based on professional level, knowledge and motivation. And the motivation was one – to work in the sphere of human rights protection.
Those Assistants selected can be broken down in terms of professional experience as follows: 44% were retired from the MIA, with no experience of work in NGOs; 41% were representatives of human rights organizations (UHHRU, KHPG, the Sevastopol Human Rights Group, the International Human Rights Society, OPORA, the Chernihiv Women’s Centre and others); 15% of people retired from the MIA who had experience of work in NGOs. Up till then the MIA had had no experience of such staffing selection.
The formation of the Department specifically from Human Rights Assistants to the Minister made it possible for them to be as independent as possible from the regional departments of the police, since all were employees of the Central Office of the MIA and answered directly to the Head of the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police, the Head of the Office of the Minister and the Minister.
The areas of work of the Department were formed in accordance with main problem zones: the procedure for detention, arrest, pre-trial investigation; protection of public order; work with the public; analysis of systemic problems and identification of failings in the functioning of departments; increasing transparency and accountability of the police; support for the work of public councils and mobile groups; drawing up and improving the normative legal basis; initiating new areas of work of the police (countering racism, work with ethnic minorities, gender-oriented management); support for NGO initiatives on training seminars and educational programmes for police staff, etc.
The first training of the newly-appointed Assistants took place in May 2008 as soon as all had been selected. There were then training seminars on human rights issues, organized by civic and international organizations. The forms of work and reporting were developed, together with organization of reception of members of the public, outreach visits, new adjustments to the work of mobile groups, getting to know civic organizations and public councils in the regions.
The process was not easy. Already at the beginning of July 2008 a conflict situation arose around the Dnipropetrovsk Public Council. There proved to be opposition to mobile groups in the Ternopil region, the need to re-form public councils in a number of regions, and in Kyiv. There were negative reactions from some of the regional management to reports identifying problems in the work of the police.
A separate site for providing coverage of the work of the Department and efficient coverage of information was created, in cooperation with KHPG at http://umdpl.info.
Based on the results of the work of the Department, a report on human rights in the work of the police in 2008 was published and widely circulated (cf. www.umdpl.info ) This was the first time that the MIA reported on human rights issues. It is interesting not just for generalizing information about the work on specific areas, but also for its recommendations. Some of these were implemented in 2009. Again, the 2009 report is ready and awaiting publication.
In 2009 Assistants to the Minister saw 3705 members of the public (against 2606 in 2008), 698 of them during outreach visits. They received 2857 appeals; prepared 55 proposals for improving the normative legal base of the MIA with regard to human rights; initiated 2016 official checks; checked 966 subdivisions (against 625 in 2008); carried out 422 mobile group visits (against 356 in 2008); 86 meetings of public councils (89 in 2008). As a result of their cooperation with the media there were 1071 publications on human rights issues; 493 training seminars (194 in 2008) were organized and carried out for police staff in this area; as well as 340 press conferences, roundtables (671 in 2008), etc.
Given the unstable situation in the country, there was no certainty that the Department would be allowed to continue its work. The fact that it survived for 2 years is positive and something nobody dreamt of at the beginning of 2008.
On the other hand, the fact that it can be dissolved so swiftly, and as the first public step of the newly appointed Minister of Internal Affairs was also totally unexpected.
Stage 5: Dissolution
On 17 March 2010, a week after the appointment of a new Minister, information was circulated that the Office of the Minister was to be halved, and that this reduction concerned only the Human Rights Assistants to the Minister from the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of the Police
The first argument given was saving public money on the Office’s upkeep. This is without doubt a serious argument however the reduction in the positions of Assistant will not make significant savings. The increased number of Deputies to the Minister, appointed in March and April 2010 will eat away almost all money saved from dismissing the Assistants to the Minister.
The second argument presented by the new management is the claim that it is impossible to have departmental control over human rights violations. This is extremely debatable. Within the system of the MIA there is an Internal Security Service and a Staff Inspectorate which carry out controlling functions with regard to the lawfulness of police officers’ actions. Thus in itself departmental control exists. Therefore the creation of a division focusing on monitoring the activities of the police in the area of human rights comes within the existing normative framework and practice. It comes within it, but does not duplicate it since by its very essence it envisages the use and involvement of instructions of public control.
For this reason civic organizations, learning of the dissolution of the Department, addressed an open appeal to the leaders of the country in its defence.
“We are convinced that such actions by the new leadership are unwarranted, weaken national mechanisms for protecting human rights and demonstrate his priorities which do not include ensuring that the police respect human rights.
The folding of the work of human rights institutions created in recent years arouses outrage among civic organizations.
It is clear that without such a Department it is impossible to create a contemporary European police force which respects human rights in its work.
We would ask the new MIA management whether it is specifically this policy that they are rejecting when they state their intention to dissolve the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of Internal Affairs agencies. Do the police really not need to fight racism and xenophobia on the even of EURO 2010? Will the police not develop cooperation with international institutions and human rights organizations? Is there no need for mobile groups? Are public councils also not needed?”
The appeal was endorsed by around 200 civic organizations.
Information about the closure of the Department also reached international organizations which help carry out programmes in the area of human rights protection within the police and at the same time carry out monitoring of the government’s actions in this field.
The subject was also noted by the President (www.president.gov.ua). “Such a decision needs to be reviewed and conclusions reached. Steps must be taken to broaden measures to protect human rights, not the opposite. I would not advertise you to save public funding on human rights”, the President was reported as telling the Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylev.
This recommendation was not implemented which led to a new appeal: “We are disturbed by the stubborn determination of the Minister of Internal Affairs to fold programmes on safeguarding human rights in the ministry despite even a clear assessment from the President of such action.”
There was also a meeting with the Co-Chair of the MIA Public Council during which the Minister promised to “think about it”. In fact, however, the Order to make the cuts had been signed five days earlier!
The dissolution of the system of human rights monitoring of the work of the police has been the subject of concern for other countries which had welcomed Ukraine’s will and actions in reform of the police. Questions regarding this are raised at each meeting of the MIA with diplomats and leaders of international organizations. This subject is discussed during roundtables, seminars, and civic organizations’ measures. Everybody is concerned regarding the future actions of the MIA with regard to cooperation with the human rights community, implementation of recommendations, the work of mobile groups and public councils. All the more so since there are already grounds for such concern.
To calm the public at the beginning of April it was announced that public councils were to be created at the level of district police stations (?) and oblast departments of the MIA. There was also to be a Public Council created under the MIA (see more information here: http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1271864041 )
Given an existing MIA Public Council and public councils attached to regional departments, this statement is quite baffling. Equally so is the appointment by the Minister of a person with a more than questionable reputation as the new Head of the MIA Public Council without consultation with the public, without consideration of the provisions of the MIA Order No. 1243 or the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution.
We must be open, concern is raised by other actions of the leadership which are not in keeping with the norms of the law or morality, however that is another subject.
Ms Levchenko’s text ends with a number of questions to the current leadership of the MIA regarding the incomprehensible destruction of such a vital instrument for combating human rights abuse in the police.
Slightly abridged from the original by Kateryna Levchenko, Deputy Head of the Office of the Minister and Adviser to the Minister at www.umdpl.info