On September 15, 2010 the public discussion of the draft Police Act introduced by Dmitry Medvedev will come to an end. In the context of this discussion, on September 9, 2010 in the 2nd building of the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin there was a session of the Scientific and Advisory Board under the Nizhny Novgorod Legislative Assembly devoted to the draft federal law “On Police”.
The session was attended by representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Regional Legislative Assembly, teachers of Law Schools of leading regional universities, Human Rights Commissioner.
There were different assessments of the draft police act: both positive and negative.
The system of internal affairs bodies was represented by V.M. Baranov, aide of the head of the Nizhny Novgorod Academy of the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs for innovations and science. In his speech he underlined many weak points of the draft law: for instance, absence of relevant mechanisms of public control over the activities of the police, abundance of attitudinal concepts, inconsistency of some norms with the Criminal Procedure Code and Administrative Code of the Russian Federation.
Other significant shortcomings were singled out by the head of the Chair of State and Legal Disciplines of the Nizhny Novgorod Law Academy, PhD in law, associate professor A.R. Lavrentyev, associate professor of the Criminal Law Chair of the Law School of the Nizhny Novgorod State University S.S. Tikhonov and by the representative of the Main Directorate of the RF Ministry of Justice for Nizhny Novgorod region.
Other drawbacks of the draft law enumerated during the session include the absence of strict criteria allowing the use of force, special tools and weapon; presumption of lawfulness of policemen’s actions which together with lots of evaluation categories provide possibilities for abuse of powers; direct violation of human rights resulting from the fact that the right of the police to gather private information is not limited. Besides, it was noted that the text of the draft law was very poor from the technical point of view: many norms are declarative, there are numerous references to provisions of other laws, many concepts are ambiguous, some norms contained in other regulations are duplicated.
Other speakers found the graft law rather good, though they also mentioned some defects which did not have such a fundamental character as the ones listed above, however.
For example, Prosecutor General of Nizhny Novgorod region V.A. Maximenko believes the draft law to be rather well prepared. Nevertheless, he found some drawbacks: to be more exact, regulation providing for lawyer’s access to the detainee from the moment the detainee is confined in a special room (though a lawyer should be provided upon detention), as well as the right of the police to restrict the citizens’ freedom of movement for the period up to 1 hour in order to check the documents or perform other actions. Surprisingly, the Prosecutor General has failed to notice more striking flaws of the draft law which we have enumerated above. Their presence and number render the draft law unhappy. But the Prosecutor General praised the draft law, upon the whole, which is puzzling.
The opinion of V.V. Olnev, Nizhny Novgorod regional Human Rights Commissioner, causes as much bewilderment. According to him, the most serious defects of the draft law are its title, lack of the text of the police officer’s oath, lack of an article about moral values of a policeman and vague description of police officers’ sources of income. As for the rest, Mr. Olnev thinks the draft law should be passed and enforced.
Upon the whole, it should be mentioned that the majority of weaknesses of the police act detected by the chairman of the Interregional Committee Against Torture have been named during the discussion.
The only surprising fact is that criticism did not come from the people who were logically expected to notice the defects – from the Nizhny Novgorod regional Prosecutor General and Human Rights Commissioner.
We can only hope that the voiced drawbacks will be taken into account by the Scientific and Advisory Board when the final version of comments to the draft law is prepared.