16 February 2009, Moscow. Five years ago a group of Russian human rights defenders created the Public Verdict Foundation. Within these five years the Foundation has processed more than 300 cases connected with police abuse. Due to its efforts 78 mala fide police officers have been convicted and sentenced (49 have been sentenced to imprisonment, for other 29 officers the sentence has been suspended).
The Foundation does not only seek to hold perpetrators liable, but also helps victims to obtain compensation of moral and material damages incurred by police abuse from the RF Treasury or responsible officials directly. During five years the Foundation has recovered more than 10 million roubles to victims’ benefit.
Today the Public Verdict Foundation is a human rights organization working in the majority of Russian Federation territories. The Foundation continues helping people in the Central Russia, in the Far East, the Republics of Tatarstan, Basdhkortostan, Khakassia, etc., in the south of the country, in Krasnodar and Stavropol regions, Siberia, in the Urals and Chita region.
According to the latest all-Russian sociological opinion poll conducted together with Yuriy Levada’s Centre, 10% of the population know about the Public Verdict Foundation, for Russia it’s a very good figure.
The Foundation appeared in 2004. Before that human rights defenders had for a long period speculated on the necessity to create an organization that would render professional legal assistance to victims of abuse of powers. There was a critical need for such an organization felt both by human rights defenders and the society. Besides, in the middle of 2003 charitable organization Open Russia proposed human rights defenders to create a Foundation that would support police abuse victims. That’s how the interests of human rights advocates and the largest Russian charitable initiative merged.
That was one of the few undertakings within the human rights and charity sectors with such a great variety of participants. Those were largest Russian human rights NGOs, such as Memorial International Society, Moscow Helsinki Group, most famous lawyers and legal scholars, such as Boris Zolotukhin, Tamara Morschakova, Sergey Vitsin. Among active participants and co-founders there were Arseniy Roguinskiy, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Sergey Kovalyov, etc. Open Russia’s chairman Mikhail Khodorkovskiy was also deeply involved in elaborating the principles of the Foundation’s activity.
16 Fenruary 2004 witnessed registration of a new NGO, Public Verdict Foundation, aiming at developing intolerability towards all types of arbitrariness and abuse in the Russian society, establishing civil control over law enforcement and promoting a law enforcement reform based on the principles of respect for human rights.
Thanks to the Foundation’s highly qualified personnel, at the present moment the organization is an expert and analytical centre closely cooperating with regional and Moscow NGOs, initiating and taking part in the development of a strategy to eliminate arbitrary treatment in Russia, disseminate information about the facts of abuse and ways to protect one’s rights, create mechanisms of public control over law enforcement bodies.
At present the Public Verdict Foundation efficiently cooperates with such organizations as the Interregional Committee against Torture (Nizhny Novgorod), RNGO “Man and Law” (Mariy El), Komi Republican Human Rights Commission “Memorial”, South-Siberian Human Rights Centre, Ryazan Centre “Memorial”, Chita Human Rights Centre, “Mothers in Support of Detainees, Indictees and Convicts” (Krasnodar), “FRODO” (Novorossiysk), Perm Regional Human Rights Centre, Krasnoyarsk Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Initiative “OSA” (Khakassia), Human Rights Organization “Committee 29” (Khakassia).
Natalia Taubina, director of the Public Verdict Foundation:
“An important development in the sphere of human rights protection is an increase in specialists’ qualification, especially of those who work with cases of police abuse. This covers both protection of police abuse victims, education of law enforcement staff on human rights issues, elaborating recommendations to improve the situation and establish fruitful cooperation with law enforcement bodies. Special attention should be paid to the fact that there is more interaction among human rights organizations on this problem, we are sharing our experience with each other, performing analysis jointly and preparing joint reports.
The experience of the Public Verdict Foundation shows how important it is to continue helping victims of arbitrary treatment. At the same time it is evident that the level of compliance with human rights protection standards among law enforcement agents is rather low, and this again emphasizes the necessity of a law enforcement reform. Human rights NGOs should take both problems into account and, moreover, all of them should have similar priorities. In order to combat police abuse and arbitrary treatment, a change in the system is needed which might take long time, and the effect will become tangible even later. However, for victims of human rights violations it is important that they can access qualified legal assistance and protection during the whole period.”
Of the Public Verdict Foundation