A new independent structure will stop tortures in the police – Igor Kalyapin blogging on Grani.ru

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27 March 2012

TheKazancaseofNazarovandotherpoliceabusecasesthathavecometolightrecentlyarecommonplaceinfactSuchthingshappenonaregularbasisCheck out the news on our web-site – and we are only working in five Russian regions. Very few cases receive public attention, and which ones are going to be covered depends on some media laws incomprehensible to me, but not on objective criteria. Apparently, journalists simply cannot write stories about people like Evsyukov, for instance, every day, especially if the incident takes place outside Moscow. In my opinion, now we actually for the first time have a chance to make the authorities take at least some steps on the systemic level. And we have concrete proposals which I’m going to speak about, but first I would like to dwell on two issues: Interior Ministry reform and tortures by the police.

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The so called Interior Ministry reform did not have a single chance to be a success or improve the reality at least a little bit. In such context I am particularly worried by the fact that our authorities nevertheless conducted this expensive promotional event. It seems, they do not really understand how bad the situation is de facto, and sincerely believe that the police simply has a bad image spoilt by journalists, human rights defenders and other “orange pests.” Otherwise I cannot explain this strange and, I repeat, extremely expensive attempt to persuade the whole country that everything people see, hear from their friends, all this waterfall of negative information about the police, all that does not exist anymore, it has disappeared, we have left everything behind Nurgaliyev’s back (as he said himself).

To really change the situation in the police a whole set of measures is required: change the system of recruitment and training of staff, system of performance assessment, introduce public monitoring, radically change the Interior Ministry structure, including the structure of internal control of law enforcement bodies. Finally, it is necessary to create an effective system of external control, establish an independent body capable of effectively checking and investigating into the allegations of police abuse. When the Interior Ministry reform was announced, we created a task force consisting of several human rights NGOs which had been dealing with problems arising from Interior Ministry practices for a long time, and quite efficiently, in my opinion. We worked out a concrete recommendation under each of the above given points.

When the Interior Ministry finally proclaimed that the reform would be limited to the so called “re-assessment” which would be conducted by the Interior Ministry itself and as a result of which 20% of “low performers” would be revealed and dismissed, and following which the new police would meet all the requirements, we were plainly shocked.  We could never expect such a large scale and pointless profanation.

Both during the re-assessment and afterwards we saw what was going on in the police, and by the way, in various regions. It was clear that no reform had taken place and that re-assessed police officers had got completely convinced that no one was going to change anything. It was equally clear that the public would arrive at the same conclusion.

About tortures by the police and their “eradication”  

Tortures should be ACTUALLY prohibited. Of course, they are now prohibited by the Constitution, international treaties, codes, federal legislation, departmental regulations, and so on, even the job description of a mere patrol officer contains such prohibition. However, these bans are declaratory by nature, no one is punished for violating them. And the problem does not lie in the absence of a certain law – all laws are in place. The problem is that the authority charged with investigating every complaint, every crime report alleging violations committed by the police – the Investigative Committee – is doing nothing.

Inaction is caused by various factors. Earlier heads of investigative authorities under the Investigative Committee, as well as their colleagues from the Interior Ministry, reasonably asked: “ok, we can fire or prosecute SUCH officers, who is going to work instead of them? Who will want to work in the police?” (These questions were followed by complaints about small salaries, bad logistic and administrative support, lack of social benefits and incentives).

Salaries have been swiftly raised, all TV channels are working day and night to improve the police image, but nobody has taken pains to identify and dismiss perpetrators working in internal affairs bodies in abundance. Apparently, the Interior Ministry has reckoned that they will quit themselves in fear of the new big salary. But perpetrators are still there. And I am sure they will not quit, nor will they learn to work effectively and lawfully.

Why would they change their approach? They can reach targets with their methods – bottles, electrocution, “envelope” and other tortures. By the way, crimes are solved much faster in this way, and there is no need to study the criminal science. Screw-ups happen sometimes, to tell the truth, but they are extremely rare. As a rule, Investigative Committee investigators deal with general crimes – murders, rapes, etc. They are bound to closely cooperate with local policemen. In practice it turns out that people wear different uniforms, but work side by side with the same cases. Therefore, when an investigator receives a complaint about his colleague from the police with whom he interacts every day, an objective investigation is hardly possible. Moreover, the local investigative authority head maintains close contact with the local police department (Directorate of the Interior or Department of Internal Affairs) head.

As a result, we face the current situation. Crimes committed by the police against individuals are normally not investigated. Hence, police agents have good reasons to believe that impunity is guaranteed to them.  

Whatcanbedone

CAT lawyers’ efforts have led to prosecution of 89 policemen. If we did not interfere, perhaps, only three of them would be held responsible! As for other cases, the Investigative Committee (until 2009 – Investigative Administration of the Prosecutor’s Office) did not instigate criminal proceedings at all or instigated and immediately unlawfully terminated them. Many times we appealed to courts to have such unlawful decisions quashed (300 unlawful decisions of investigative authorities have been quashed altogether).

Ideally, we need an independent structure that would consider all crime reports filed by citizens in respect of the police. Urgently we need at least special investigation departments that would only deal with allegations against police agents (as well as Federal Drug Control Service and Federal Penitentiary Service staff).  

The idea is to make sure that investigators of special departments do not have service contacts with the police, i.e. do not cooperate with them in the context of solving general crimes. Besides, it is equally important to ensure that special investigative departments that must be created in every Russian region are subordinate to a federal level authority (Bastrykin and his deputy), and not to local Investigative Administrations.  

In connection with everything said above my colleagues and I have prepared signed an address to Mr. Bastrykin and started collecting signatures.