You don’t beat according to passport

Rivne police officers have provoked an international scandal. During their operation “Illegal Alien” [“Nelegal”] in a local café they unwarrantedly detained two Azerbaijan nationals who were entirely legally in Ukraine, visiting their father. The two Azerbaijanis have complained to the Presidents of Ukraine and Azerbaijan, to the embassy and the law enforcement agencies. They assert that in the police station they were beaten and humiliated.


That same day Rivne police officers also took for illegal immigrants the managers of the company Azercorp-Autoban which is building a beltway around Rivne.


“Law enforcement officers have checked the Dykoho Market” – this was the title of the report from the Press Service of the Regional Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA]. The joint raid on 30 July was carried out by several police divisions in Rivne, according to the report, with the aim of identifying foreign nationals illegally in the country. It goes on to mention two administrative protocols about people working at the market without work permits, as well as stating that the police identified an  Azerbaijani illegally living in Ukraine without even a passport.


“Rivnepost” notes that the laconic police report does not reflect the scale and nature of the special operation.


They spoke with one of the people involved in the events. Mursal Ramazanov, the owner of the above-mentioned café (“Garden of Eden”) says that he has lived in Rivne for 20 years and is a Ukrainian citizen. He has married here in Ukraine, but also has good relations with his family from a previous marriage and his two sons, 21-year-old Fuad, and 23-year-old Farid had come to visit him. One is studying to be an economist, the other a lawyer.


“They’re good lads”, he says, “They don’t smoke, they don’t drink at all, and I’m therefore very upset at what they had to experience in Rivne.


When they arrived for dinner in my café, on the street three men not in uniform called them and told them to show their documents. They replied that the documents were in the car several metres away, and that there father was in the café. To that the men answered rudely, with foul language, saying that they were not interested in their father, and their passports needed to be in their pockets. They were forced into the car and taken away.“


Mr Ramazanov says that employees who say what had happened told him immediately and he went to the police station. Yet he was told that his sons were not there, and that the car number plate he had given was for a different vehicle.  He wanted to fill in a report about his sons’ abduction there and then but was told to wait. Lo and behold after an hour they found out that his sons were there and he was told to bring their passports. Even after he brought them, his sons were still held for three hours. He suggests this may have been to regain consciousness after their beatings.


His sons recount that they were taken to the second floor, to the CID room. They were referred to in a moderately racist fashion and that “Islamists were not welcome in Rivne”. They threatened to plant drugs and periodically beat them on the head and back. They finally wrote down all numbers from their telephone, family photos and videos.


The men have described their ordeal in more detail in their formal complaint sent to the Presidents of Ukraine and Azerbaijan, to the Minister of the MIA, the Azerbaijan Ambassador in Ukraine, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, and many other bodies at regional level.


They are demanding an investigation, and that those guilty be held to answer.


Mykhailo Doboni, the Deputy Chief Engineer of the French company overseeing the road-works explains that one of his colleagues had finished his contract and invited them to the above-mentioned café. The evening was passing in a peaceful fashion when two young guys in civil clothes accompanied by two police officers in Special Force “Berkut” uniform came up and began to ask that all “swarthy” employees, i.e. Azerbaijanis came out onto the street. This included the Director of the Ukrainian Office of Project Manager for the firm Azercorp-Autoban, Magomed Mansurov; the Project Manager Fikret Nadzhafov and other leading engineers. Asked why specifically them, and not, say, Ukrainians, and what sort of discrimination was this, they said that they were checking documents of all persons from the Caucuses. Mr Doboni says that they explained that all the people were working quite legally, and that they had all the necessary documents. If the law enforcement officers have any doubts, they should come to the office to check.  They were told that today was the day, and that they wanted to check now. The argument on the street lasted almost an hour, and though the police did finally acknowledge that they were talking about engineers, not criminals, the mood was seriously dampened.


Apparently one of the police officers responding to indignation at such brutal and rude behaviour, said that they should be pleased “you’re in Ukraine, we have democracy. If, say, this was in Russia, you would long be living with your face to the ground and your hands in handcuffs behind your bank”.


Mamed Mamedov, another café owner, has lived in Rivne for 30 years and has long been a citizen.  He studied here, got married and is raising his teenage children. He says he’s tired of the constant, virtually monthly, checks. He says they are humiliating for him and his family who are law-abiding people.

He says that police officers came to him last Friday. He only had his driving licence, said his passport was in the car. They made him go with them to the police station, where they wrote down all the numbers from his telephone, saying they needed to check who he communicated with, whether they weren’t on the wanted list.  He adds that after they released him, he came back himself, to show his passport “to prove that I have lived in Rivne for a long time, and legally”.


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