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Police and Human Rights: Priorities grapple with Indicators

18.08.2011    source:
In a damning analysis, , Vladimir Batchaev writes that “Indicators in fighting crime at any cost” has become the slogan of every head of a police department. This leads to unlawful detentions; confessions being beaten out of people; falsification of documents and other forms of police crime.


In a new article, Vladimir Batchaev returns to the issue of police human rights infringements and their causes. He says that “Indicators in fighting crime at any cost” has become the slogan of every head of a police department. This leads to unlawful detentions; confessions being beaten out of people; falsification of documents and other forms of police crime. Clearly in such a situation they’re not interested in carrying out independent investigations into human rights infringements.  The infringements, in fact, are needed to get the good statistical results, and occur if not on the instructions of the police head, then with his tacit consent.

Only the irrevocability of punishment, he says, can make police officers treat people properly, yet it is the police who are responsible for such irrevocability and it is they who carry out initial investigations into allegations of abuse. The Prosecutor’s Office is supposed to have an overseeing role, yet that, he notes, is about all they do and do not take control, stop offences and ensure just punishment.

If you turn with a complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office regarding police actions, this will be sent on to the police.  It is only after the police have given their conclusion that the Prosecutor’s Office will decide whether to initiate criminal proceedings.  

There is a complicated mechanism for investigation of human rights abuses by the police which is of highly limited effectiveness. Internal investigations can be initiated by the heads of services and territorial Internal Affairs bodies, and the MIA Staff Inspectorate and Public Safety Service.

The structures exist, only the results of their work are lacking.  The author looks at the fundamental requirements, i.e. that the investigation is comprehensive, objective, lawful, timely, open, competent and efficient.

The author considers the theory as set out in statutes, etc, then looks at the reality. The latter, he says, is that investigations carried out by territorial police bodies are a fiction. The reason is simply: it’s more convenient for the police head and dangerous for his career to investigate human rights infringements.  He faces the same choice each day: safeguard observance of human rights in his station or get the indicators on solved crimes. The latter is directly connected with a policeman’s career prospects.

The author believes that in this situation, where at the lower levels, there is no motivation to uncover rights infringements, the MIA leadership are in all kinds of ways encouraging them to conceal such facts. The much trumpeted position taken by Minister Mohylyov that the boss will be punished for an offence committed by a police officer is wrong and dangerous, primarily for the public. Obviously police heads have no interest whatsoever in unbiased official investigations or even uncovering the infringement committed by their subordinates

It is this, Batchaev says, that in the first instance causes the high latency of rights abuse in the police. the very policy is wrong: management should answer for systematic violations, but not for actions committed by one subordinate.

Therefore the heads of police stations are clearly unable to ensure objective investigations. 

There is also the Staff Inspectorate whose main task is to carry out such investigations. Its staff couldn’t care less about police indicators. Theirs, after all, are for investigating violations of rights by the police.

Unfortunately they deal with complaint after complaint after complaint which, according to the author, arouses mounting irritation and animosity to those making them.

They are not professional investigators, but most importantly, they cannot be totally objective. They are subordinate to the heads of regional MIA departments on staffing who have no interest in highlighting rights abuses.  The press makes a lot of noise and then the above mechanism of looking for somebody higher to blame or punish comes into force.

With regard to the requirement of comprehensive investigation, the Inspectorate staff are simply not in the position to ensure this. They do not, for example, usually have access to particular documents and whole areas of police work.  There are normative documents actually prohibiting them from investigating official abuse by investigators.  This leaves only the head of the investigation body authorized to carry out such a check.

The author looks at other reasons: the fact that the Inspectorate is staffed by the same police officers recruited from local level departments.

The author also points out that according to the Law on the Police this Inspectorate does not even have the authority to carry out such official investigations. Complaints alleging a crime need to be added to the register of reported crimes and a decision whether to initiate a criminal investigation taken within 10 days. In practice the Inspectorate does not register such complaints and reviews them within a 30 day timeframe in accordance with the procedure set out in the Law on Citizens’ Appeals..

Official investigations into alleged rights violations of people held in temporary detention units are made more difficult by the lack of openness of the institution. The detainee often has no opportunity to tell people about the violence inflicted since he is totally under the MIA staff’s control. His conditions depend on them, and they can make his life much worse. Therefore detainees seldom complain about the personal to the Prosecutor and other controlling bodies. It is only when released or moved to a SIZO [pre-trial detention centre] that they dare to complain but by then time has passed and it’s hard to prove violations.

The victim of abuse has no opportunity to fully participate in the investigation, including reading the investigation material and using the services of a legal specialist. A police officer runs the investigation and he determines its strategy and tactics.

The author writes that one cannot talk of official investigations without mentioned the Internal Security Service  - the “police Oprichnina” [secret police, notorious for their methods of terror from around the 16th century – translator] who are directly subordinate to a narrow circle within the MIA apparatus.  The Service was created in 1992 because of the threat of an organized police criminal community forming in the wake of the momentous changes in the country following the collapse of the USSR.  Most of the human rights violations within the police force are outside the Service’s scope.

Batchaev says that it is not solidarity which prompts the Prosecutor’s office to work in step with the police in such matters, more that they know that this is guaranteed headache and that they will have to carry out the investigation. And relations between the investigator and the defendant are always confrontation, a dual of knowledge and experience.  It is not guaranteed that the Prosecutor’s investigator will come out the winner.

To insure themselves against an unsuccessful outcome the investigators demand ideal preparation of material from the Staff Inspectorate, totally proofing the guilt of the police officer. Often neither the Inspectorate nor the Internal Security Service are in a position to provide this.

The author says that it is impossible to speak of any success by the MIA in combating the above problems and believes that the Ministry will also focus first of all on tasks involved with fighting crime, leaving protection of rights and freedoms somewhere on the periphery.

He is convinced that the optimum system is where the public monitor the situation and force the police to behaviour in accordance with the law.

For this reason he believes it necessary to create a separate State structure, totally independent of the MIA, which will deal exclusively with control over observance of human rights in the law enforcement (and other) bodies, without being distracted by other tasks. This structure should launch a mechanism for full participation of the public in control over the activities of the police and ensure objectivity of investigations into violations of human rights within the police.

The text which this summarizes is by Vladimir Batchaev from the Association of Ukrainian Monitors of Human Rights Observance in the Work of Law Enforcement Bodies was published in Russian here:

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