“Investigative Committee and police crimes”, - Igor Kalyapin blogging on Grani.ru

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06 April 2012

When we submitted our petition, to which we later obtained a positive response from Alexander Bastrykin, we suggested a very simple and all-around cheap option. However, many mass media assessed our proposal in the following way: a special department under the Investigative Committee is a “bulkhead”, “supervisors of supervisors”, an extra level and “reinforcement of Bastrykin’s agency”.

In fact, we are not proposing an extra level. There is a huge army of policemen, around a million people, who sometimes commit malfeasance. Taking into account that there are peculiar subjects of crime and peculiar elements of crime (abuse of office), we simply believe that these crimes must be investigated by special investigators. Now Investigative Committee investigators are already doing this, we cannot reinforce Bastrykin’s agency at this point – according to the Constitution and federal law, his subordinates are in charge of investigating such crimes.   

We propose that investigators who at the moment investigate 1 police abuse case against their own colleague per 99 rape or murder cases should specialize. Our intention is to eliminate the conflict of interests and personal attitudes. 

For instance, crimes committed by servicemen and federal Security Service agents are investigated by special military investigative departments. These are also Investigative Committee units, but they are singled out both due to the nature of crimes and confidentiality of certain materials. No one has ever perceived them as a “bulkhead” or reinforcement, these are just investigators specializing in crimes committed by the military and Federal Security Service staff.   

The same is to be done in respect of policemen, Federal Penitentiary Service and Federal Drug Control Service staff, because the issues of confidentiality and restricted access to documentation are also in place.  At the same time, practice shows that documentation should be studied promptly – within 1 day. Therefore, these investigators must know how everything works, should be capable of doing their job objectively without thinking of the consequences for themselves – as I have already said, many of them do not want to investigate into police abuse objectively, because they have to cooperate with the same policemen on a regular basis in the context of inquiry into general crimes. This is the way it is.

This is not an idle talk. Agora Human Rights Association, our Committee Against Torture, Public Verdict Foundation – for many years we have been directly involved in proceedings against the police. We see how difficult it is for us, victims’ representatives, and victims themselves to drag their cases to indictment and trial. The problem is common for all our cases – investigators are extremely reluctant to collect evidence, and most often we have to do it for them. We see that investigators are constantly issuing unlawful procedural decisions which we quite easily quash in courts because they are obviously unlawful.

But when we have a heart-to-heart talk with these investigators, they openly say: “How can I instigate criminal proceedings against him? I have to work with him tomorrow, and it’s a big question whether the case is going to reach the court. Even if I personally show adherence to principles, in the end my boss will tell me: “What are you doing? We live in this district and solve crimes together with this police department!”” That is how our proposal appeared.

Creation of a special department for investigation of law enforcers’ crimes under the Investigative Committee does not require huge organizational efforts on behalf of the Investigative Committee and Bastrykin. However, our second suggestion – recommendations published by the Public Verdict, Agora and us – require some will.

Although these are two different texts, the essence of recommendations is the same. This once again proves that they are logically inferred from practice. Our recommendations urge the Investigative Committee to develop methodology for investigating crimes by state agents, or, better to say, to check allegations from the point of view of whether or not criminal proceedings should be instigated. There are compulsory standard procedures which should be carried out under such crime reports. We and Agora have listed several points which we find most apparent and mandatory.

The main recommendation which the Public Verdict has also listed is removing these investigative departments from the jurisdiction of local Investigative Committee Administrations. The head of the regional Investigative Committee Administration needs good performance indicators, i.e. crime solution statistics for general crimes, such as rapes, murders, etc., and is interested in maintaining good relations with the police. If the special department dealing with crimes committed by law enforcers is subordinate to the head of the regional Investigative Committee Administration and at the same time performs its tasks effectively, one day the police head will come to the ICA head and say: “Slow down, otherwise we will quarrel.” At a higher, federal level such dialogue is not possible. Hence, we suggest that the special investigative department should be subordinate to the federal level of the Investigative Committee.

Special investigative departments must be present in each region – 15-20 people. These people can be taken from regional investigative administrations. We propose not increasing the headcount, but specialization.

Bastrykin has given way to our first address. Perhaps, creation of a specialized department is an evident idea which comes to everyone who studies the situation with unlawful refusals to instigate criminal proceedings. Moreover, this first step does not entail any expenses – no HR or equipment costs. This is not a plaster for all sores, I am not saying that this will eradicate tortures and all torture cases will be investigated effectively. However, in my opinion, this is a rather feasible and cost-effective step which can dramatically change the settings. 

At the same time I am afraid that now, when it is time to decide on subordination to the federal level, the idea may come to a standstill, as this would require some administrative efforts: it is necessary to introduce an Investigative Committee Deputy Head who would supervise the new structure, and there must be an office to ensure administrative and HR support. It is Bastrykin and his immediate environment who would have to take pains to implement this. If special investigative departments are subordinate to regional authorities, the idea will go to waste. 

We have attached descriptions of 107 cases we are dealing with to our second address to Bastrykin. These cases contain convincing evidence that people were really ill-treated:  there are medical records, eye-witness testimonies. Under all these cases the Investigative Committee has at least once (or many times) issued unlawful procedural decisions: either refusals to instigate criminal proceedings or decisions on termination of criminal proceedings.

Why have we done it? This is not just to indicate that there are many cases like that, but also to underline that tortures take place not merely in Tatarstan or Moscow, but everywhere (we have examples from 12 regions). I believe we do not need to explain to Bastrykin that tortures are a common problem. By means of our examples we would like to demonstrate that the approach is the same everywhere: investigators issue explicitly unlawful decisions guided by personal motives. 

Besides political will, readiness of the state to clean up the Interior Ministry, it is necessary to eliminate the links on the bottom level. Investigators are never tasked with checking allegations against their relatives, neighbors and close colleagues. But this rule does not apply to the police, although investigators have close personal and professional links with police officers formed throughout years of cooperation in different, including extraordinary, situations. Why would we place a bona fide investigator in such a difficult context? Why would we put the burden of personal relationship with the individual under investigation on him?

This connection is indissoluble on the local level, but is impossible on the federal one. Nurgaliyev will not meet with Bastrykin to plead for some perpetrator, this is just impossible. This is what the pile of case files submitted to Bastrykin maintains. It demonstrates exactly this problem the solution of which is crucial to ensure that the idea of creating a special investigative department for investigation of crimes committed by the police, Federal Penitentiary Service and Drug Control Service staff brings fruit.