Is it vain to resist?


27 November 2009

Police abuse cases are getting more and more numerous in Russia, but Minister Nurgaliyev provokes the public as if he has forgotten about the Criminal Code.

   The Committee against Torture cannot ignore the events that have been much spoken about recently and where police agents are involved, likewise it cannot be indifferent to the statements of the authorities and non-governmental organizations in respect of such events.

We have long ago noted that the cruelty of the law enforcement staff was about to reach the “boiling point” and take such a monstrous shape that it would be considered almost as a national disaster. The Committee has for several years reiterated that the ineffective system of responsibility distribution present in law enforcement bodies, the atmosphere of impunity and condonation in respect of crimes committed by officers of the Minsitry of the Interior are, inter alia, a major reason of abuse of office, tortures and other forms of cruel treatment used by the police when dealing with the public. The Committee against Torture has been taking part in the initiative of a group of NGOs aiming at promotion of the police reform in Russia. However, all the efforts of the non-governmental sector to contribute to the police reform, create an independent control system supervising the law enforcement bodies, introduce compulsory training for the staff have been perceived negatively by the state.

Meanwhile, at present we can see that even the head of the Ministry of the Interior admits that the law enforcement bodies are not capable of protecting the public from the danger they themselves constitute. As a result, it is suggested that the citizens are to struggle with ill-treatment themselves to the best of their ability – and basically, defend themselves. Of course, self-defense is stipulated by Russian law and all of us have the right to fight back when there is a threat to us posed either by a policeman or a bandit. But after we manage to defend ourselves and our families from an inadequate police officer, do we have a possibility to protect ourselves from being charged with resistance to the police, for example? Or from being charged with violent treatment of state agents, as it was the case with one of the CAT applicants, Ms. Irina Rakhmanova? The practice of the Committee against Torture shows that a normal citizen does not have such a chance. In this case the police still remain “privileged” in our society.  

Thus, we have to choose again – either we turn the other cheek in response to unmotivated aggression of a law enforcement agent or fight back keeping in mind that almost 100 percent sure we are going to face prosecution and punishment. Therefore, the issue of whether it is possible to oppose unlawful actions of the police is still to be solved, notwithstanding Mr. Nurgaliyev’s assertions.

In any case the legislation in force is rather tasked to protect the police from the public than vice versa. And if we have a broader look at the situation, it becomes clear why a complete and fundamental reform of the Ministry of the Interior is of utmost necessity.

Interregional NGO “Committee against Torture”

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