100 days under the new MIA leadership

At a press conference given to mark the first 100 days under the new management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA], there was a lot to say and very little of it positive. Not only have the changes made by the new Minister Anatoly Mohylyov not brought any improvements, but they have cancelled the few positive trends that had been seen.

The critical assessment presented on Thursday was prepared by the former Adviser to the Minister on Human Rights and staff of the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police, dissolved soon after Mr Mohylyov took office. It is per force based only on material not classified as “For official use only”.

Increase in registered crimes

Over the last 3 months the number of crimes reported has risen by 31.7% throughout the country, while in the Dnipropetrovsk region the increase has been by 63.2%.

Particularly disturbing for members of the public is the increase by 43.6% of serious crimes of a general nature. The ratio of serious and particularly serious crimes to others remains very high and the new management has not succeeded in providing preventive measures against the most common type of crime – theft, with the figures here having increased by 18.9%

Despite promised tough reaction against corruption, not one case of legalizing money gained through criminal means has been uncovered.

Violations of freedom of peaceful assembly

There have been more infringements of the right to peaceful assembly than during 2007-2009 altogether.

On 25 March the Cabinet of Ministers addressed Instruction No. 14678/1/1-10 to the Kyiv City State Administration “on using comprehensive measures on organizing work with citizens and their organizations, including on preventing and stopping in future the holding of protests near the premises of the President’s Administration and the Cabinet of Ministers”. Such an “instruction” is a flagrant violation of freedom of peaceful assembly and a number of Articles of the Constitution.

The Minister of Internal Affairs recently stated that for peaceful gatherings one should allocate “some big field on the outskirts of Kyiv where nobody will disturb anybody”. 

Traffic Police officers prevented people from many regions getting to Kyiv for an opposition rally on 11 May. The transport companies were warned that they could have their licences removed if they took the people to the rally. Only one nationwide TV channel, STB, reported this.

The Minister on 17 June claimed that the action taken by the Kharkiv authorities in cutting down trees in Gorky Park was lawful, and therefore so was the dispersal of members of the public trying, peaceful, to defend their park.

During the 100 days of the new management, regional and national media outlets have published more than 350 critical publications regarding the work of the police during peaceful gatherings.

This is a record number for one specific area and over a short period of time.

The grounds:

  • interference by the police in peaceful assembly
  • unwarranted bans;
  • protection of only one side which is a sign of police politicization.

Equivocal statistics

The contradictory statistics bandied around by the MIA of late regarding unlawful circulation of arms and other weapons are also disturbing. Analysis of confiscation of weapons, ammunition and explosives carried out by police stations suggest overt fiddling of the records. Most of the confiscations, in order to meet targets for reporting purposes, were carried out by illegally entering people’s homes or other property, this being a gross infringement of constitutional rights and liberties.

Normative activity with grave consequences for human rights

Instruction No. 292 from 23.04.10 on creating a working group on implementation by the police of the information and search system “Search – Main line roads”

This initiative is, according to the MIA, “aimed at preventing potential terrorist actions, particularly on Ukrainian Railways, searching and detaining dangerous criminals, establishing those who have gone missing without trace.

Yet how can one check a person who is deliberately hiding and avoiding contact? This is to be achieved, supposedly, by introducing passport details on railway tickets.

Instruction No. 236 from 08.04.10 “On additional measures aimed at increasing the level of safety of passengers on the railway”

Item 13 of this gives unwarranted power to police officers since the heads of departments are instructed to ensure: “constant control over the stay of foreign nationals on service objects, carry out thorough checks of foreign nationals’ documents, give particular attention to whether they have registration cards issued by border guards”.

Constant surveillance and checking of documents are specific procedures which are strictly individual and regulated by law. They must not therefore be applied as wide-scale practice with regard to Ukrainian and foreign nationals.

Staffing police of the MIA

All, save one of the Minister’s Deputies have been replaced, as well as 90% of the heads of departments, most heads of regional divisions. Only three of the 27 heads of regional divisions have retained their position.

Changes to MIA structure have been made without prior expert analysis and the relevant planning. This includes the creation of a department of financial and economic security, whose functions and tasks are unknown.  This is when the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police was dissolved supposedly in order to save money.

Stress is placed on the need for decisive reductions of up to 50-55% of the central apparatus, without any clear criteria or arguments given.

A number of appointments of new heads have been inexpedient with the people not meeting the proper level of professional and organizational skills, knowledge, etc.

There have also been appointments which are questionable from the point of view of criminal legislation. For example, the appointment as Heads of the MIA Divisions in the Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk, Transcarpathian and Cherkasy regions of people who had been on the police wanted list over suspected actions falling under the Criminal Code. In the case of V. Dernovy, the behaviour of the Prosecutor General is also incomprehensible. Despite the lack of grounds for terminating the criminal investigation under the law on amnesty, the Prosecutor General has not appealed against the court ruling.

The addition to the collegiate of the MIA of so-called “human rights activist” Edward Bagirov. The latter has a dubious reputation and is far from civic organizations, representing that civic society which did not delegate Bagirov. This is in breach of normative legal acts.

Overall around Ukraine during 4 months of this year, around 4,200 members of staff have left their jobs, with over 2,300 in April only. Most of those dismissed are under 40. In some regions the management has been 60-70% replaced.

Are we supposed to believe that they were all working so badly?  And how lawful are such mass changes if those dismissed are replaced by people who have previously had criminal investigations brought against them? These are simple questions which the new leaders of the MIA must answer. After all they are all paid by public funding.

Against a background of mass staffing changes with numerous infringements of departmental instructions and labour legislation, there have only been isolated cases where people have succeeded in upholding their rights.

Removal of the public from control over the activities of the police

It was by order of the Minister that the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police which was a serious preventive measure against abuse and violations of human rights was dissolved. All MIA human rights projects have been stopped. Yet only a person who is blind or entirely biased could fail to see the enormous work done in the police aimed at ensuring respect for human rights in the work of the police and reform of the MIA achieved by the Department in less than 2 years. Hundreds of ordinary citizens who complained of unlawful actions by the police received assistance from the staff of the Department. With their help significant abuses by the police were uncovered

It was thanks to members of the Department that the mobile groups on monitoring observance of human rights in places of detention under the MIA began working systematically and conditions in temporary holding facilities improved.

The number of visits by mobile groups during the first five months of 2010 fell by 89% against 2009. 70% less meetings of public councils in the regions were held.

Implementation of initiatives by the MIA in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs has been stopped. Yet statements come from the management about the need for creating public councils even at district level and forming unbiased mobile groups as though they have no idea how long such structures were working and what they had achieved.

The claim that the police are now controlling their own ranks is erroneous and dangerous. Experience of European neighbours demonstrates that there must be developed mechanisms of public control and cooperation between the police and the public.

These issues all need careful study and demonstrate the clear need for continued dialogue.

It is vital to understand that the methods seen over the last 100 days can in no way return the trust of the public to their police force.

From a press release. There is considerably more information on and regarding all the issues mentioned above. 

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