The police is not born yet. The Public Chamber discusses the “Kazan case” –


26 March 2012

The police reform has failed: massive tortures of detainees in Kazan signify that the reform is stonewalled both on the regional and federal levels – human rights defenders and Public Chamber deputies stated. They proposed to conduct one more re-assessment and create a special structure under the Investigative Committee that would deal with police crimes. The Interior Ministry urges not to jump at conclusions and wait until “the new police is born”. On Monday human rights defenders, public activists, deputies and high-standing Interior Ministry officials gathered in the Public Chamber to discuss the situation in Kazan, where following 52-year old Sergey Nazarov’s murder in the Dalny Department of Internal Affairs it had turned out that tortures had been extensively used in other police departments as well. The meeting took place in the context of the Public Chamber session on the problem of security of individuals and interaction with the judicial and law enforcement system.

The first speaker, Public Chamber member Olga Kostina, spoke about her trip to Kazan. In her opinion, “the situation looks mysterious: “on the surface” the policemen now accused of tortures did not stand out at the time of re-assessment”. “Almost all of them had required qualifications and education, and their relatives said that they did not understand how such things could happen in Dalny. However, many officers currently on remand were not suitable for police service from the very beginning. Almost all police officers charged with tortures had psychological characteristics which did not allow them to become policemen. To be more exact, they were “partially fit” and required constant monitoring by a psychiatrist. The Internal Security Directorate for Tatarstan recommended not contracting two officers on the basis of their re-assessment results, however its recommendation was ignored! It turns out that conclusions of the Internal Security Directorate are not binding.  To tell the truth, I don’t understand how it could happen at all,” Ms. Kostina wondered.

Ms. Kostina continued by saying that the Interior Ministry required a human resources structure and psychologists which could take decisions independently. Agora Human Rights Association Head Pavel Chikov who took the floor next noted that singling out an HR structure with psychologists was not sufficient.

In his opinion, there must be a separate structure that would deal with violations committed by law enforcement agents: “Moreover, this structure should not be subordinate to the Interior Ministry. It must be created in the framework of the Investigative Committee.”

Ex-head of Interpol’s Russian Bureau Vladimir Ovchinsky stood up for the Tatarstan police saying that “the local Interior Ministry was one of the best in the country”, and in other regions, in particular, in Moscow region, the situation was much worse. “In Moscow region the environment is simply hideous from the point of view of police activities”, he added. Ovchinsky believes that the major problem of the Interior Ministry system is inadequate response to crime reports lodged by citizens, as well as ineffective checks of police performance: the number of applications is growing every year, while the number of instigated criminal proceedings is decreasing. He proposed to improve the situation by means of a “social experiment targeted at evaluating the response to crime reports in a certain region”. “WecanstartwithTatarstan”, he concluded.  

Then the floor was given to Interior Ministry representatives. Internal Security Directorate Head Yury Draguntsev reported that in 2011 6 officers had been fired from the Dalny police department and three had been held criminally responsible. “As for those two, the Dalny PD Head (Sergey Efremov, now dismissed – pledged his word for them, and the qualifications assessment commission extended their contracts”, he said.

– I don’t understand how this can be possible!? How could ISD’s opinion be ignored?  Mr. Draguntsev, maybe you should strengthen your position!? – the questions were addressed to the ISD Director by lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, moderator of the session, head of the Public Chamber Commission.

– You know, we sometimes fire generals, and sometimes such a row is raised because of one sergeant, – Mr. Draguntsev replied.

Deputy Interior Ministry head Sergey Gerasimov in charge of the personnel policy repeated that “measures of the Interior Ministry” taken in connection with the Kazan incident were “extremely severe and adequate”. He mentioned that a group of inspectors from the Central office of the Interior Ministry was working in Kazan at that moment, and basing on its findings the performance of the Kazan police in general would be evaluated.  He also reminded the participants that Dalny had been disbanded and “it would be subjected to complete qualifications re-assessment”. Kucherena asked if a larger-scale performance re-assessment of the police was possible. “You know, this means that we are going to cast doubt on the whole initial assessment”, Gerasimov replied.  

The Commission Head specified that he did not mean complete re-assessment of the Russian police, but local one.  The Deputy Minister replied that “it was possible, provided there was political will”.

Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Security and Anti-Corruption Committee Anatoly Khinshtein said that in his opinion the police reform was a complete failure and the reassessment had been carried out to observe formalities: “The incident in Kazan is not an exceptional case. No one has learnt or drawn conclusions from it. It is enough to mention that 875 300 law enforcement agents were re-assessed within 1.5 months. It is impossible to conduct a normal qualifications and skills assessment in such a short period.” In support of his conclusion regarding failure of the reform and re-assessment, Khinshtein once again recalled the fact that the opinion of the Internal Security Directorate had been ignored and that the main criterion of effective performance of regional interior directorates was good reports. 

At the end of the session human rights defenders and Public Chamber members switched the topic to the Investigative Committee.

Head of the human rights Committee “For Civil Rights” Andrey Babushkin pointed out that the Investigative Committee was to blame for what was happening in the police. “Investigators ignore numerous complaints about violations committed by police officers. It takes them half a year to provide a formal response, not even a proper notification!”, infuriated human rights defender saidHe was immediately supported by Committee Against Torture Chairman Igor Kalyapin who shared his experience of interaction with regional Investigative Committee Administrations. “We have 80 cases which we cannot bring to court because of the Investigative Committee. Investigators constantly issue unlawful decisions suspending or terminating criminal proceedings. The fact that their decisions are unlawful is confirmed by corresponding judgments which are also ignored, Kalyapin, sitting in front of Chief Investigative Committee Administration Inspectorate head Anatoly Korotkov, said.

“You don’t trust courts, do you?”, official representative of the Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin who had not said a word throughout the whole 2-hour session could not hold back his resentment.

Kazan Human Rights Centre Director Igor Sholokhov supported his colleague. “We have been working with police abuse cases for a long time already – for 8 years we’ve been doing this in Kazan. The last conviction of a policeman took place 2 years ago. Afterthat– nothingIn our opinion, the Investigative Committee head (head of the Investigative Administration of the Investigative Committee for Tatarstan is meant – is in cahoots with the Interior Ministry”, Sholokhov said.  

“It’s not true that the Investigative Committee does not instigate criminal proceedings. Only in 2011 it opened 4040 cases against internal affairs agents. We respond to almost every application”, Analoty Korotkov who had been patiently listening to criticism in his address finally said.

The right to deliver a closing speech was given to State Secretary and Deputy Interior Ministry Head Sergey Bulavin.  He had been waiting for his turn for two hours, perhaps, this accounts for the emotional nature of his harangue. “We are maintaining a common cause, we are protecting our citizens in different ways, Deputy Minister said slightly inclining forward. The audience grew silent upon hearing that. Bulavin, his face blushing, continued: “Don’t jump at conclusions. The reform took place just a year ago, the law on social guarantees for internal affairs agents entered into force only on January 1 this year. We want everything at once from them, while they have no families; they are working in hellish conditions”.  

“You insist on dismissing staff, but we need to clarify the situation first. What if the person is innocent? How can we fire Safarov without a judgment?! Whataboutthepresumptionofinnocence?  Have human rights defenders forgotten about it?!” – Bulavin addressed the participants.

The Deputy Minister urged the audience to “let the child get born”, meaning the police, since one of Interior Ministry’s main tasks is to “create a new policeman.” “Let the child get born. We can’t pour it out with water”, the Deputy Minister said in conclusion.

Human rights defenders were not satisfied with the meeting results and position of the Interior Ministry. They think that the Ministry has no intention to change the internal affairs system.