The Mari police prink themselves up


04 May 2012

On April 27, 2012 the Mariy El Interior Ministry published a press-release, which authors were complaining about the lack of objectiveness in mass media reports about the police. Mass media are blamed for mispresenting the work of law enforcement bodies, sometimes even derogating from their reputation and honour. In this context the Interior Ministry’s task is to respond to such distortions and use all possible legal ways to restore the good name of the police.  


Being all for correct information, I admit that Metro journalists could make a mistake and describe the situation with tortures in the Mariy El Interior Ministry incorrectly, and I confirm that facts related to the events of December 10-11, 2011 in Alexeyevsky given in the press-release are correct.  

I can only welcome the law enforcers’ intention to restore their good image by ensuring trust of the society. However, it can be inferred from the published press-release that the Interior Ministry is going to improve its image not by making the work of its staff better, raising law enforcers’ awareness of law, criminalistics basics, operational investigation methods, basic behaviour standards after all, but solely by “powdering up” its face in the mirror of the public opinion which reflects its work not the way it wants.  And mass media and human rights defenders are to blame for this, as usual.

Nobody denies that propaganda is useful for every public authority. We may recollect famous Russian poems for children about honest and helpful policemen loved by the whole country, but unfortunately, these characters are fictitious.  In general, the idea of creating a favourable image for the police is timely and has not grown stale yet.

Let’s get back to the press-release. I very much like this part of it: “Therefore, the task of the police is to promptly respond to mass media reports containing false information about the police and information besmearing the honour and dignity of law enforcers, their business reputation.” This is certainly important, but isn’t it equally important for law enforcers to respond to criticism based on true facts to eliminate fallacies of their work? 

I cannot but quote an interesting article of the Law “On police”: “The police should base its activities on the observance of and respect for human rights and freedoms.” (Article  5.1 of the Law “On police”).

It is high time to recall these “human rights and freedoms” that must be respected by the police in their everyday activities, just like the honour and dignity of law enforcers themselves.

There lived pensioner Boris Rzhavin.  His case was subsequently much spoken about. In 2001 he was dragged barefoot and with his hands twisted behind his back to one of Yoshkar-Ola police departments at -20 °C. For many years the elderly man had struggled for redress. In the end, the Mariy El Supreme Court agreed with the reasoning of investigative authorities refusing to instigate criminal proceedings against law enforcers.   

Then the pensioner had to apply to the European Court of Human Rights, and the Russian Federation represented by deputy Russian Minister of Justice Georgy Matyushkin acknowledged that Boris Rzhavin had been subject to inhuman treatment, unlawfully deprived of liberty, and investigative authorities had failed to conduct an adequate investigation of that fact. The state offered the pensioner to sign a friendly settlement agreement and paid him compensation. Then Yoshkar-Ola prosecutor Sergey Skvortsov confirmed that investigative authorities had been stonewalling the case for several years. Besides, Mr. Skvortsov officially apologized to the victim on behalf of the Yoshkar-Ola Prosecutor’s Office. 

What about the Mariy El Interior Ministry whose agents had ill-treated Boris Rzhavin? As usual, it stood up for the notorious honour and dignity of its agents claiming that in 2001 they had behaved properly and lawfully in respect of the elderly man. Even more so, they had a refusal to instigate criminal proceedings as a proof!

That was exactly the refusal which the Russian Federation had rendered violating the right to an effective investigation. That was exactly the refusal that the city prosecutor had called the result of odious work of his investigators and had had the courage to apologize for.  

“The culprits have not been apprehended because no one has tried to find them”, the state admits.
“Since no one has been caught, then there is nothing to talk about”, the republican Interior Ministry concludes.

Thus Republican Interior Minister Artem Khokhorin opposed the decision of the state he was serving. Such point blanc confrontation towards the position of the Government would mean immediate discharge from office in any state. However, Mr. Khokhorin has not only continued his service, but has been promoted and transferred to the central office of the Interior Ministry, and now is the head of the Tatarstan Interior Ministry.

But let’s get back to apologies. The Mariy El Interior Ministry has publicly refused to beg anyone’s pardon. He is not supposed to. The pensioner is a ruffian and troublemaker and is himself to blame. As we say, one more score for the positive image of the Interior Ministry. Although, I again bad mouth the police. It was so long ago. At that time the police was called militia. In fact, let bygones be bygones.

Let me briefly remind you another incident. Although it dates back to 2005, the European Court (another distortionist of facts and maligner of the immaculate image of the Mariy El police) has recently brought public attention back to it.  Several rabbits had been stolen in Sernur, a village in Mariy El, and the suspicion fell on three underage teens who were immediately detained and brought to the Sernur Department of Internal Affairs.  Following several prompt investigative activities conducted by agents of the aforementioned DIA with numerous violations the teens hanged themselves. 

An application was again lodged with the ECtHR, the Russian Government again proposed a friendly settlement to one of the teens’ mothers, acknowledged human rights violations by stating that the suicide could be caused by unlawful actions of the Sernur DIA staff. That case also received wide coverage in mass media. As we now know, the press-service of the Mariy El Interior Ministry is thoroughly monitoring the media scene, and most likely has come across information about teens’ suicide and acknowledgement of human rights violations by the Russian Government. However, it did not take pains to apologize at least by saying something like “we are improving our practice and would not allow such violations to take place in the future”. This is another detail to the good image.
Let me finish with a really recent case from the village of Sovietsky where in November 2010 a Mariy El Special Police Task Force (OMON) agent hit a young man, as a result of which the latter became disabled. On April 18 information about that incident was published on the Interior Ministry’s web-page. However, it’s been a year and a half since the OMON agents struck the man, it’s been more than a year since criminal proceedings were instigated, but none of the Mariy El Interior Ministry officials has apologized. And there are many examples like that. When talking about the honour and dignity of the police, it is worth remembering about respect for us, individuals.  

The ability to apologize, to acknowledge violations and to hold perpetrators liable is the factor creating a positive image of the Mariy El police, which definitely has both honour and conscience. And certainly, it has business reputation.  But so far it is worth recalling the words of a famous Russian fable:  “you must not blame the mirror for showing a crooked face”.

Head of the Mariy El representation of INGO “Committee Against Torture” Dmitry Yegoshin

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