AGORA and the Committee Against Torture propose Interior Ministry reforms to the Presidential Council Head

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10 April 2012

On April 10 at a special session of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights “Police Reform: problems and prospectives of civil society involvement” Agora Interregional Human Rights Association Chairman Pavel Chikov and Committee Against Torture Chairman Igor Kalyapin have submitted recommendations regarding further Interior Ministry system reform and introduction of public control to Mr. Medvedev’s Counsel Mikhail Fedotov.

(Photo: web-site of the Presidential Council)

– At present there is no uniform Interior Ministry reform concept, – human rights defenders say, – Upon the whole, changes are the result of response to incidents capturing public attention: infliction of death to detainees, tortures. Therefore, the first step in 2012 is to develop and adopt an Interior Ministry reform concept for a period of several years with the participation of the civil society.  

Human rights defenders point out that the events of March in the Kazan police have brought public attention back to the problem of police abuse and it is a good moment for discretionary decisions aimed at systemic changes in the Interior Ministry. They mean development of principles in accordance with which a new law enforcement system should be created.

One of the recommendations is to start with pilot projects, since further Interior Ministry reform should be conducted in several Russian regions to mitigate risks, save resources, increase efficiency and chose the best options, and only after that positive experience should be extrapolated to the whole country.   

Besides, in their address to Russian President’s Counsel Mikhail Fedotov human rights defenders Pavel Chikov and Igor Kalyapin have singled out several key points, such as strengthening of eligibility criteria and decrease of the total headcount of police agents, further optimization of Interior Ministry’s functions, development of Public Monitoring Commissions and improvement of internal control in the Russian Interior Ministry. In particular, it is proposed to introduce a regulation imposing disciplinary liability on the superior who vouches for an agent to ensure his/her appointment, in case the agent subsequently commits a crime.  

Below you can find the full list of proposals voiced by human rights defenders at today’s Council session:

PROPOSALS
for further reform of the Russian Interior Ministry  system
and development of public control over it

In 2011 the Russian President started reforming the Interior Ministry system. Even within such a short period of time we can already draw preliminary conclusions and single out both positive and negative practices. The Interior Ministry reform must be continued with due consideration of these conclusions.

Adoption of the Interior Ministry further reform concept
At the present moment there is no uniform concept of the Interior Ministry reform. The majority of changes, in fact, present a response to incidents capturing public attention and receiving wide coverage: infliction of death to detainees, use of tortures, etc. Therefore, the first step in 2012 must be development and adoption of a further Interior Ministry reform concept for a period of several years with the participation of the public.

Elaboration of principles on which the new law enforcement system will be based
Before taking further steps in the context of the reform it is necessary to take into account that the struggle against organized crime, which began in the “slashing 90-s”, ended in the first decade of the 21st century. In that period it was necessary and important for the Interior Ministry to work in that area. However, the Interior Ministry, as any other state system, must evolve together with the society. Therefore, further reform of law enforcement authorities should be designed based on the current condition of the society. The first step in this direction was liquidation of Directorates for Combatting Organized Crime, as bodies with a special status, powers and concrete tasks, by the Russian President in 2008. Reforms in this direction must be focused in the first place on establishing a system preventing creation of criminal groups.

The events of March in the Kazan police have brought public attention back to law enforcement authorities, especially to the problem of police abuse. Now it is a good moment for discretionary decisions aimed at systemic changes in the Interior Ministry. Moreover, it must be noted that representatives of law enforcement authorities have realized the need for changes and are ready for them.

Pilot projects
To mitigate risks, save resources, increase efficiency and chose best options it is recommended to continue the Interior Ministry reform in selected regions (pilot projects), and only after that extrapolate positive experience to the whole country.

Strengthening eligibility criteria alongside a decrease in the total headcount of agents  
Since 2012 salaries of policemen have been raised almost twofold, an average police agent’s  salary in the country now amounts to 30000 rubles. Taken together with the social package, this salary can be considered adequate. We welcome such approach and find it necessary to further increase salaries. This will attract more candidates willing to work in the police. An increase in the number of candidates will trigger reassessment of performance assessment and eligibility criteria making them stricter.  For instance, the competitive selection now similar to that used for hiring judges (education, experience, knowledge, etc.) can be introduced.

A further increase of salaries must be accompanied by a decrease in the total headcount of Interior Ministry agents, it is recommended to bring the number of police agents in compliance with the average world ratio –   3 policemen per 1000 residents (with simultaneous optimization of Interior Ministry’s functions, see infra).

Further optimization of Interior Ministry’s functions
Witnessing the progress of the reform, we note a positive tendency of relieving the Interior Ministry of functions not typical for it:  elimination of medical sobering-up stations, authorization of private companies to perform technical inspection of vehicles.

In continuation of the reform it is recommended to eliminate the Investigative Department of the Interior Ministry and transfer all investigative functions to the Consolidated Russian Investigative Committee created on the basis of the existing Investigative Committee. The Interior Ministry system should only have inquiry departments which would deal with all cases of minor and medium gravity (extended jurisdiction). 

Psychological service: we propose to establish a psychological service for the police making it subordinate to the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development. The reform of this structure should consist of two steps: (1) dismissal of psychologists from state service preserving their salaries. Psychologists should be subordinate only to Psychological Service heads, there should be no double subordination. Psychological Service heads at all levels must have a degree in psychology with no exception. (2) making psychologists  subordinate to the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development instead of the Interior Ministry. Ensure that a psychologist’s conclusion in course of re-assessment of policemen is binding, but not a recommendation as it is now. 

We suggest that the Extradepartmental Guards Service under the Interior Ministry which is currently de facto engaged in entrepreneurship without complying with competition rules should be disbanded, its functions should be distributed between the Federal Guards Service (special state authority ensuring protection of statesmen and objects), private security companies and in-house security services.

Development of Public Monitoring Commissions institute
Currently the Public Monitoring Commission is one of actually active and effective institutes of public control over law enforcement authorities. However, recently the PMC has faced bureaucratic obstacles and various difficulties while exercising its powers.  

It is important to eliminate the monopoly in appointing PMC members. Now the law stipulates that PMC members can only be appointed by the Public Chamber. However, recent appointments have shown that centralization of such powers in the hands of one body may cause problems. Therefore, we propose that PMC members should be appointed by the Russian Public Chamber, Presidential Human rights Council and Russian Ombudsman in equal shares. 

The federal law contains a discriminatory provision which does not allow local public associations to nominate its candidates for PMC members. As a result, the majority of PMC members are concentrated in regional capitals, while in the provinces, where the majority of police departments and correctional facilities are located, there is almost no public control.

Public control over penitentiary facilities in remote locations can be strengthened by introducing reimbursement of travelling and accommodation expenses of PMC members (transportation costs, daily allowance, lodging costs). The reimbursement can be made by crediting the member’s account upon submission of reports and evidence of expenditures to the Russian Public Chamber. Such changes will encourage PMC members to exercise public control not only in their place of residence.  

It is necessary to install video cameras inside police departments in order to prevent false allegations both by police agents and individuals, as well as eliminate the possibility to commit an offense unnoticed by both sides. It must be prohibited to conduct operative and investigative activities beyond rooms equipped with video cameras.

It is also recommended to ensure that all individuals delivered to police stations are mandatorily registered with an indication of the reason for delivery. At the present moment only persons detained officially are registered, it is not documented who is led directly to criminal investigators’ offices and on what grounds.

Improvement of internal control in the Interior Ministry
The Internal Security Directorate of the Russian Interior Ministry is currently performing two mutually exclusive functions: (1) protection of victims from police agents’ actions (2) protection of the police. Moreover, regional Internal Security Directorates are reporting to regional police heads.

We suggest improving the internal control system by relieving the Internal Security Directorate from the obligation of protecting police agents.  The function of protection of police agents being victims or witnesses can be assigned to a special unit created in the framework of Federal Law “On state protection of victims, witnesses and other participants of criminal proceedings” already established in many Russian regions.

To ensure independence and impartiality, Internal Security Directorates should be subordinate to local police heads, and ISD’s conclusions regarding a certain police agent required for HR purposes should have a “banning” status instead of “advisory”. The Directorate should have an obligation to analyze complaints submitted to police departments and Russian investigative authorities. These complaints should be the basis for conducting checks in respect of relevant police agents in the context of operational activities both for the purpose of prevention and prompt disclosure of abuses of office.  

The ISD should be renamed, since the current name creates an impression that the Directorate ensures security of the Interior Ministry from external accusations. The name Internal Investigations Directorate would be more appropriate.

Finally, it is important to pass a regulation imposing disciplinary liability on the superior who vouches for an agent to ensure his/her appointment, in case the agent subsequently commits a crime.

Source: OpenInformation Agency