Situation in the Russian law-enforcement system and its influence on human rights observance.
May 30, 2005 20:21
Public Verdict Foundation
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"Demos" Center for information and Research on Public Interest Issues
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The legal reform that has been implemented in Russia over the past ten years has had a positive impact on the human rights and freedoms guarantees. The progress that has been observed within the penitentiary system is especially noticeable.
Nevertheless, law-enforcement bodies of the Russian Federation, especially the police, continue to be a source of human rights violations.
Over the past several years human rights NGOs reported from various regions of the Russian federation (RF) multiple cases when police officers and representatives of other law-enforcement bodies violated human rights. Among such violations there are: arbitrary detention, torture and cruel and degrading treatment, and violation of the right to life.
The current state of the Russian law-enforcement system is the major cause of human rights violations by representatives of law-enforcement bodies. On one hand, low efficiency of law-enforcement does not provide for the required level of protection and security of individual and the public at large. On the other hand, protection of human rights and freedoms is not on the top of the agenda of law-enforcement authorities.
This problem is rooted in a compound of interrelated problems that distort interaction between law-enforcement bodies and the population. Taking into account the fact that a major portion of activities of law-enforcement structures includes interaction with the population, problems pervading the law-enforcement system directly affect the degree to which human rights and freedoms of concrete individuals are observed.
The most serious problems pervading Russian law-enforcement system are:
- low professionalism of law-enforcement officers, especially police;
- deficit of material and technical resources that does not allow to maintain law-enforcement activities at the level that meets contemporary standards of the law-enforcement service in a developed democratic state that guarantees human rights and freedoms;
- inadequate to social reality, ineffective system of management within the law-enforcement bodies that stimulates corruption, impedes the development of law-enforcement service, and facilitates replication of violation of human rights practices.
Law-enforcement officers continue to violate human rights also because there is no effective mechanism to control over the law-enforcement structures. Currently the controlling mechanism entails prosecution authorities but it does not include any public elements. Effectiveness of protection of human rights and freedoms from violation by law-enforcement structures is diminished by insufficient independence of prosecution authorities.
At the same time, current attempts to establish public control over activities of law-enforcement structures as a rule encounter a great deal of resistance. In addition, human rights organizations that constantly monitor violations of human rights by law-enforcement officers and assist their victims have been experiencing an ever-growing pressure exerted against them.
Apparently, this situation jeopardizes protection of human rights and freedoms. The practice of violation of human rights by police officers and representatives of other law-enforcement bodies results in growing distrust of the population which in turn impedes activities of law-enforcement structures and damages the state power upon the whole.
RF authorities realize the necessity to change this situation. In particular, problems in this area have been recognized in the statements of the RF Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Nurgaliyev, RF Prosecutor General, Mr. Ustinov, and Chairman of the RF Government, Mr. Fradkov. Yet, measures undertaken by the state so far have not resulted in any positive changes for the population. Surveys of public opinion demonstrate a stable level of distrust displayed by the population with respect to law-enforcement authorities, which in particular is manifested in the fact that victims of crimes refuse to seek protection from law-enforcement structures.
Problems of the law-enforcement system and their impact upon the human rights situation
One of the serious reasons why representatives of the Russian law-enforcement bodies continue to violate human rights is their low professional level. Low professionalism of officers is the result of a complex of unsolved problems in the area of personnel remuneration, employment policy, and personnel training. Research project "Arbitrariness in Law-enforcement: Roots and Practices" identified that the average salary of a police officer is analogous to the average salary of the general population. However, the risks and the level of responsibility implied by working in law-enforcement structures are incommensurably higher than in other areas. Higher workloads and the risk level are not adequately reflected in the payments received by law-enforcement officers. This reduces one's motivation to go to work to the law-enforcement structures.
In such situation human resources services of the law-enforcement have to give up proper selection of applicants. As a rule, law-enforcement authorities hire every applicant despite of his(her) lack of personal qualities (psychological aptitude, etc.) and skills required for the service. At the same time, those who have agreed to work for the offered salary do not have any motives to fulfill their duties properly and professionally. They choose easy means to accomplish their service tasks. It is achieved first and foremost by defying the human rights and freedoms guarantees. Necessary to note, that low ranking police officers do not even conceal such attitude towards their service. According to results of the interviews of police officers conducted in 10 regions of the Russian Federation they do not want to bear burden of the human rights observance for the compensation that the state currently offers them.
Such attitude towards work is also supported by the existing system of personnel training which primary goal is to produce a disciplined officer rather than an employee who is legally literate. In addition, initial training of law-enforcement officers often does not include a necessary volume of practical knowledge and skills. According to results of the interviews of police officers conducted in 10 RF regions most of the respondents had not received any additional practical training. At the same time they indicated that when they commenced their service they exceedingly lacked practical knowledge that they later filled up in the course of practical implementation of service tasks.
Apparently, in view of the low level of training of newly-hired law-enforcement officers the institute of mentorship becomes very important. This institute evolved during the Soviet times. According to officers who began their service back in the Soviet system support and experience of senior mentors not only provided them with required knowledge but they also stimulated their desire to grow professionally.
Today, the mentorship institute has ceased to be. A lot of highly-qualified officers quit law-enforcement structures and found other jobs due to the degradation of the law-enforcement sphere in the 1990s. In many subdivisions it is virtually impossible to put together a new professional core due to a high personnel turnover. According to heads of subdivisions who participated in the survey, officers must serve in the subdivision for at least eight years in order to form its professional core. In reality, however, officers tend to serve for 3-4 years on the average.
Results of the research project "Arbitrariness in Law-enforcement: Roots and Practices" clearly prove that high personnel turnover is a serious problem pervading law-enforcement bodies. High personnel turnover no only indicate that the salary of law-enforcement officers is inadequate but it also shows their vulnerability and dependence on their superiors. The rights of police officers are poorly protected.
Officer's dependence upon superiors is first and foremost accounted for by the order of salary calculation and payment of law-enforcement officers. In fact, officer's income consists of two parts: a fixed salary the amount of which is determined by the staffing schedule and a variety of supplementary payouts (bonuses, benefits, etc.). According to various data, supplementary payouts amount to 30%-60% of police officer's monthly income. At the same time, it is up to officer's superior to decide whether or not he or she will be paid extra in a given month. The order of such decision-making is not transparent. As a result, the income of a given police officer depends on whether or not he is favored by his superiors. Thus, the officer does whatever it takes to make sure that preferred treatment is guaranteed.
Being dependent on the superior, trying hard for preferred treatment, law-enforcement officers tend to obey orders without scrutiny, even those that contravene human rights. This is also aggravated by officers' insufficient legal literacy that prevents them from adequately assessing the legality of the order that they receive. Whenever illegality of an order is apparent the officer often cannot refuse to obey it not only because of his being dependent on the superior but also because the currently existing mechanisms of legal protection of those who refuse to obey an unlawful order are not effective.
Thus, when he obeys an illegal order the law-enforcement officer only strengthens his dependence on his superiors who from this moment on are in the position to determine not only the amount of his income but also decide whether or not he will be held liable for violations.
In the course of the interviewing police officers did not conceal their dependence. A number of them noted that each police officer has a record of violations for which he may be dismissed or even prosecuted and that superior officers can always use those records against an officer who has fallen out of favor. It is remarkable that half of the surveyed police officers who have sustained convictions for malfeasance stated that the offenses for which they had been convicted were rather widespread. At the same time, 70% of the surveyed officers in service responded that they had committed and continued to commit violations for which their colleagues had been convicted.
Irrecusably obeying superiors' orders the law-enforcement officer hopes that his superiors will turn a blind eye on violations that he commits on a daily basis. This means permanent reproduction of practices that negatively affect the human rights situation.
Law-enforcement authorities are not very concerned with the existence of such practices. According to interviewing results, representatives of law-enforcement bodies view fighting crime as a much more significant task than ensuring rights and freedoms of a concrete human being. Many law-enforcement officers consider violation of human rights and freedoms admissible for the purpose of apprehending and punishing a criminal.
This conviction is supported by the currently existing official system used to evaluate activities of the police force in general, as well as its particular subdivisions and officers. Effectiveness of the battle against crime is evaluated on the basis of quantitative data: the ratio between the number of registered crimes and the number of detected crimes. The larger the number of detected crimes is the more effective is the work of a certain detective or a police subdivision. Analogous quantitative indicators are also applied to apprehensions of petty offenders and the number of suppressed illegal deeds. Law-enforcement officers strive to ensure the highest possible indicators by all possible means.
In reality however it is impossible to ensure truly high work effectiveness due to poor financial and material support of law-enforcement bodies, as well as low professionalism of officers. During the interview police officers often spoke about insufficient supply of office equipment, computers, information resources, gasoline for patrol vehicles, etc.
Nevertheless, each year police subdivisions demonstrate high quantitative indicators on detected crimes, suppressed infractions, etc. For example, according to official statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for 2004 the detection rate of rapes and attempted rapes is 87.5%, whereas detection of this particular type of crimes is considered to be very difficult. High indicators are partially achieved through falsification of the real work on protection of population from crimes. People remaining unprotected is in itself a negative phenomenon in the sphere of protection of human rights and freedoms. The problem of falsification of report data has been mentioned in particular by the RF Prosecutor General.
In absence of resources good indicators can also be achieved through minimization of efforts applied to detection of each particular infraction or crime. It is often done at the expense of formal and perfunctory implementation of procedures designed to guarantee human rights and freedoms. For example, instead of explaining to the detainee his rights police officers simply have him sign a sheet of paper on which those rights are listed.
On November 23, 2002, the Minister of Internal Affairs issued order #1150 which was expected to radically change the system of evaluation of police activities by abolishing the detection rate and including public opinion into evaluation parameters. In reality however this order and instructions thereto only confirm the "crime detection rate" as one of the key performance evaluation criteria. The order does not provide for any specific instructions on how to gauge public opinion for performance evaluation purposes.
Apparently, in the conditions of lacking material, technical, financial, and professional resources unrealistic crime detection goals will continue to account for violations of human rights and freedoms.
Practices of human rights violations by law-enforcement officers.
Analysis of circumstances under which law-enforcement officers commit particular human rights violations demonstrates an interrelation between the existing problems pervading law-enforcement system and typical situations in which law-enforcement officers commit particular types of violations.
Within the framework of the research project "Arbitrariness in Law-enforcement: Roots and Practices" representatives of the "Demos" Center used case studies to identify typical situations in which law-enforcement officers violate rights and freedoms of individual.
The first situation is when violations are committed "in the interests of the service." Judging by the obtained materials this situation is the most widespread. In this situation police officers break the law to successfully fulfill their duties on detection of crime and maintenance of the public order or, at least, to ensure good performance indicators.
In particular, it was established that the police use torture and cruel and degrading treatment as a crime detection method. Police officers use violence to obtain information about crimes, accomplices, location of purloined property, etc. from suspects and defendants. For example, police officers suspected that underage B. was in charge of stealing circular saws because he had the keys to the warehouse in which the saws had been stored. A detective summoned B. to came to the police station as a witness. When B. showed up at the inquest however the detective began to beat him up demanding that he should confess in stealing the saws and indicate where he was keeping them.
Having obtained lead information using violence law-enforcement officers conduct investigative activities (searches, inquests, etc.) and obtain proof required for judgment. It significantly simplifies the work of police officers on detecting particular crimes.
The second situation is when commercial or political structures use law-enforcement bodies to suppress their competitors or political opponents. It follows from the case-studies materials that influential clients communicate their desires to heads of large law-enforcement subdivisions. For example, an authorized picket of environmental activists was chased away in Voronezh. The police detained the picketers and brought them to the police station. When the detained picketers pointed to the police officers that their actions were illegal the latter attempted to justify themselves by claiming that they had obeyed the orders they had received from their superiors.
The third situation is when police officers use their authority for personal benefit or to solve problems of their friends and family.
The fourth situation is when law-enforcement officers protect the interests and status of their colleagues using illegal methods and violating rights of individuals. Most frequently law-enforcement officers use their authority and means of coercion to penalize individuals who have acted against other law-enforcement officers, as well as to help their colleagues avoid liability for violations that they have committed. For example, police officers apprehended Mr. Sazhin, groundlessly held him liable for an administrative offence, and then beat him up. This all was done as revenge for his previous attempts to prove in the court of law that police officers had stolen a gas weapon from him.
Types of violations committed by law-enforcement officers in the aforementioned situations vary. The Public Verdict Foundation analyzed information on violations of human rights committed by law-enforcement officers received from human rights organizations. The following typical violations of human rights committed by law-enforcement officers on duty were identified in the course of the analysis.
- The use of physical and psychological violence during arrest, detention, and questioning of a suspect.
For example, on July 4, 2004, Zarechny district police officers in Yoshkar Ola unlawfully detained Mr. Almakaev. He was taken to the police office and tortured, both psychologically and physically, in an attempt to force Almakaev to confess the theft of a bag from a woman.
On 22 January 2004, Mr. Kanakhin was summoned to the Department of Organized Crime Control (UBOP) in the city of Pavlovo following allegations that he had extorted money from Mr. Stozhkov. In questioning him, UBOP officers beat Mr. Kanakhin, inflicting bodily harm.
Police officers Averin, Svyazhin, Baskov, and Pluzhnikov were convicted for abuse of power which they committed on March 4, 2003, in Yekaterinburg. They unlawfully searched a room occupied by husband and wife Yazovskikh, at night and with procedural violations. After the search, they took the victims to Verkh-Issetsky District Police Department, where officer Averin beat Mr. Yazovskikh forcing him to confess a theft, and broke his nose.
- Unjustified use of firearms and physical force in arresting drivers for traffic offences.
For example on May 24, 2003 in Krasnokamsk police officer Gusev, without any reasons authorizing the use of force by police (Article 13 of the Russian Law on Police) and in contravention of conditions and procedures established for any official use of force (Article 12 of the same law), in the presence of many passers-by, cruelly beat and kicked underaged Mr. Tuzhilkin who had been driving a motorbike without a license, inflicting injuries to the boy. At the same time, police officer Sazhin forced the motorbike passengers, underaged Agafonov and Bolotov, to drop to the ground and held them down, although they had not committed any formal offence.
Criminal police agent Fatykhov of Alkeevsky District Police Department was convicted for abuse of power, which was an unjustified use of firearms, on October 4, 2003, in chasing two minors - Mr. Shamsutdinov driving a motorbike and his passenger Mr. Kharitdinov, who suffered from bullet wounds of the thorax and stomach, respectively.
- Unlawful detention and use of force against non-offenders, disproportionate or unreasonable use of force.
For example Ms. Martynova reports that on August 13, 2003, she suffered an unprovoked beating by police removing her from the premises of Tetyushsky Police Department, Tatarstan, where she was trying to obtain information about the destiny of her husband detained by police. The police beat her causing bodily injuries.
A prosecutorial review found that on December 20, 2003, Mr. Mardanov was detained by police officer Ivanchenko of Krasnokamsky Police Department, Perm Oblast, during a quarrel between Mardanov and his wife in their own apartment. The policeman broke Mardanov's arm while detaining him.
- Unlawful detention and use of force against individuals for reasons unrelated to law enforcement or procedure.
For example on September 1, 2003, Mr. Shishkin was unlawfully detained by police in Naberezhnye Chelny, Tatarstan, and taken to Avtozavodsky Police Department, where he was severely beaten and abused, which resulted in medium-degree damage to his health. The reason for the beating was that two years earlier, Mr. Shishkin had reported similar police abuse, and two officers of Avtozavodsky Police Department had been prosecuted and convicted as a result.
On June 5, 2001, Mr. Kuzmin, a teacher at High School [Lyceum] No 10, Stavropol, was summoned to the local police station during his workday by the precinct police officer in Promyshlenny District of Stavropol, where a civilian man unknown to Kuzmin, while physically pushing him, demanded that Kuzmin pay damages to the father of a pupil he had had a conflict with. Then police officers Belenko and Chernov beat the teacher, handcuffed him and locked him up in a cell.
Toleration and absence of preventative actions Police officers Use of force, in the presence of, by their former (resigned or removed from active duty) colleagues, or by police off duty
The number of examples of different human rights violations committed by law enforcement is too high to list all of them in the report. However it is necessary to mention that analyzing certain cases of such sort the Public Verdict Foundation identified types of violations that law-enforcement officers commit to conceal their own crimes and breeches of law.
- Causing the death of the victim of police abuse.
For example, the criminal investigation found that on January, 2, 2001 in Grozny, the Chechen Republic, after officer Lapin of the anti-terrorist group inflicted potentially life-threatening injuries on Mr. Murdalov, Lapin took Murdalov away from the detention prison to an unknown destination. So far, the whereabouts of Mr. Murdalov and his destiny have remained unknown. The initial investigation into the abduction of Mr. Z.A.Murdalov, whose body has not been found, was implemented as part of criminal case No 15004 by the Department of General Procuracy in the North Caucasus. Witnesses were interviewed, and investigators were instructed to search the well where, reportedly, corpses had been dumped before. Later the search was effectively stopped and the file was forwarded to the Chechen Republic Procuracy. Currently, the proceedings have been suspended and nothing is being done to search for Mr. Murdalov's body.
After two years straggle of Murdalov's relatives and their representatives for justice Lapin finally has been sentenced for murder of Mr. Murdalov.
- Attempts to discredit a victim.
For example, when police officers Ivanchenko and Drachyov of Krasnokamsky Police Department realized that excessive use of force and injuring Mr. Mardanov during a quarrel between Mardanov and his wife in their own apartment was unjustified, they claimed that the victim was drunk and delivered him to a sobering clinic [vytrezvitel']. However, the paramedic at the clinic refused to admit him, so Mardanov was locked up in a temporary detention house for no legal reason.
- Withholding the fact of detention from a detainee's relatives.
On September 13, 2002, police of Tukaevsky District Department in Naberezhnye Chelny found that Mr. Khairullin summoned to a questioning was in a state of coma and had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance. In an attempt to conceal the fact, on the following morning, September 14, 2002, police lied to the victim's son that the victim had been sent to a temporary detention house in Naberezhnye Chelny.
Similarly, the police officer on duty in Zarechny Police Department of Yoshkar Ola withheld from the victim's mother that her son, underaged Tulovchikov, beaten by police on the day before, was still detained there.
- Pressure against witnesses of abuse.
For example, the judgment by Kanavinsky District Court of Nizhny Novgorod of May 28, 2003, says that in November 2000, precinct inspector of the Kanavinsky Police Department Nelidov who was in charge of official review following the complaint by Mr. Oleinik regarding abuse by policeman Khoryakov, coerced witnesses Khavroshechkin and Popov to testify contrary to Oleinik's statement. The judgment says that "False testimony prevented investigators from finding out the actual circumstances whereunder Oleinik suffered bodily injuries from being beaten by Khoryakov and Frolov."
- Falsification of documents
For example, having read the findings of prosecutorial review of Mr. Ochelkov's application regarding being beaten by police on January 17, 2002, the victim's lawyer lodged a formal complaint saying that police officer Makarov of Zavolzhsky Police District reported an administrative violation by Mr. Ochelkov on January 17, 2002, i.e. being found drunk in a public place in Zavolzhye. However, the review also found documentary proof that on that day Mr. Ochelkov was actually detained at the police station as a theft suspect.
Control over law enforcement
The commitment of all the above mentioned violations became possible also because of low effectiveness of the external control over law enforcement, which ensures the law enforcements officers in their impunity for abuse of individual rights and freedoms.
Investigation of crimes by police officers is the responsibility and competence of prosecution bodies. The prosecution bodies must undertake an inquiry within three days of receiving a complaint. Should such an inquiry generate "sufficient data showing signs of a crime," i.e. suggest that the complaint is well-grounded, the prosecution authorities decide to open criminal case and investigate; otherwise they refuse to open criminal proceedings.
The Law on the Prosecution Authorities and the RF Criminal Procedure Code give prosecutors broad powers to review and investigate complaints. Nevertheless prosecutors sometimes fail to investigate arguable claims of the use of torture and other human rights abuse.
The Public Verdict Foundation having looked at findings of prosecutorial inquiries and investigations of different complaints against the police, pointed out a pattern of digressions from the standards of effective investigation arising under international human rights treaties.
Investigation of torture complaint shall serve to clarification of the facts and establishment and acknowledgement of individual and state responsibility for victims and their families. This means first of all thoroughness of investigation which should employ all relevant means to establish facts and identify those responsible. The RF Criminal Procedure Code has established the obligation of prosecutorial bodies "to undertake measures to determine the event of the crime and to identify person or persons guilty of the crime." In violation of this provision, prosecutorial inquiries and investigations of torture complaints are often incomplete. In most cases examined by Public Verdict Foundation, investigators of such complaints failed to examine the locus delicti or to conduct searches, to line up police for the victim to identify, or to arrange a confrontation between the victim and suspected police officers. In many cases, prosecutors were reluctant to identify and question civilian witnesses and delayed medical examinations.
International instruments require the investigation on police abuse to be independent. Such requirement obviously implies objective evaluation of evidence. The RF Criminal Procedure Code postulates that the prosecutor and the investigator in assessing the evidence must be guided by their inner conviction based on the sum total of evidence available in the criminal case and acting in accord with the law and their own conscience. The findings of a survey of prosecution officials in 10 Russian regions show that prosecutors generally distrust complaints filed against police officers. The Public Verdict Foundation conducted analysis of decisions made by prosecution offices based on their inquiries and investigations of torture complaints. These decisions demonstrates that prosecutors are often a priori convinced that the complaint is untrue - and tend to disregard any evidence of torture, such as bodily injuries. In addition, prosecutors often dismiss as unreliable any statements by witnesses who are not police officers. On the other hand, prosecutors tend to be less than critical with regard to statements by police officers, including those identified by the victim as perpetrators of the torture. In general, investigations of torture complaints often fail to result in a plausible and consistent explanation of the events.
The international instruments also imply the access for the complainant to the investigatory procedure. The RF Criminal Procedure Code provides the victim of crime with an option of filing a request for certain investigatory actions, also giving him/her the right to take part in investigatory actions with the investigator's consent, the right to be informed of any decisions taken in the case, and the right to access the materials of the investigation. However, a person complaining of torture can access these rights only if he or she is recognized by the investigator or prosecutor as victim in the case. As it was established by the Public Verdict Foundation, in practice prosecutors tend to delay giving the torture complainant the status of victim. However, a complainant is usually permitted to file requests, access the materials of investigation and be informed of the decisions. Still in some cases complainants are denied there rights on the ground that she is not formally the victim in the case, i.e. the complainant's access to the investigatory procedure is left at the prosecutor's discretion.
According to international standards investigation on complaints of police abuse should be prompt. The RF Criminal Procedure Code has established timelines for inquiries and investigations of criminal cases. An inquiry into a reported criminal offence should take no more than 3 days, and in exceptional cases no more than 10 days. An investigation should be completed within 2 months, and an additional investigation should not take more than a month. While extensions are permitted only in exceptional cases, there may be a long delay between the moment a torture complaint is filed with the prosecutor and the moment the final decision is taken in the case.
As it was established by the Public Verdict Foundation, during the analysis of particular cases, very often, inquiries into torture complaints take ten, rather than three days. Prosecutors do not always comply with the established timelines for investigation. But the main reason for long delays in processing torture complaints is the so-called 'ping pong practice', where a complaint is forwarded back and forth between different authorities for years without much progress.
By the rules of competence, inquiries and investigations of torture complaints are usually carried out by district prosecutor's offices. As mentioned above, they often fail to carry out all necessary investigatory measures and to assess evidence objectively, so they either refuse to open a criminal case or close it if it has already been opened. By the request of the claimant higher instances - prosecutors or courts - usually overturn such decisions as unlawful and ungrounded, and the case is sent back for additional inquiry or investigation to the same prosecutorial bodies, which again fail to collect evidence, misinterpret the evidence already available, exceed allocated timelines and pass just another unlawful decision to reject or close criminal proceedings. This decision, again, challenged by the claimants and subsequently overturned by a higher prosecutor or a judge, with the case being resent for additional inquiry or investigation. Due to this practice, complaints of police torture may go in circles many times.
The Public Verdict Foundation has in its possession information on high number of cases of non-effective investigation on grounded complaints against police officers. Here we would note some of them:
In Krasnokamsk, Perm Oblast, the local prosecution office had to open a criminal investigation under Article 286(3a) - abuse of power with aggravating circumstances - against policemen Sazhin and Gusev only after the underage victim's father, Mr. Tuzhilkin, effectively challenged a number of unlawful refusals to initiate criminal procedure and investigation. However, the investigation into the crime committed by the policemen on May 24, 2003, has not been completed as of this writing.
In Almetyevsk, Tatarstan, the local deputy prosecutor, having verified the circumstances and found all legal reasons for criminal prosecution of policemen Ismagilov, Martynenko, Gubaidullin and Ashirov, and having confirmed that the detention of underaged Safin, Tukhbatullin and Faizutdinov was unlawful, nevertheless issued decisions that investigation and prosecution is not necessary on five consecutive occasions in the course of one year following the incident in response to complaints by the victims and their parents; each of the five refusals to prosecute was found unlawful by the higher Prosecution office of the Tatarstan Republic and by courts, including the Supreme Court of Tatarstan, but criminal investigation of this obvious crime has not been opened as of this writing.
The prosecutorial investigator of Avtozavodsky District in Nizhny Novgorod initially refused to prosecute policemen who beat the underaged Gusev on May 8, 2001, but then the prosecutor had to open a criminal case on July 10, 2001, after the victim complained.
Reporting on the performance of prosecution authorities in 2004 the RF Prosecutor General seriously criticized those prosecution subdivisions that were responsible for identification and detection of violations of citizens' rights and freedoms committed by law-enforcement bodies. Thus, the problem of lack of effective control over activities of law-enforcement authorities is recognized even by prosecution- body that is there to exercise such control. Nevertheless, prosecution's criticism is confined to the quality of prosecution's performance. Officials do not say anything about the fact that prosecution bodies are organized in such a manner that prevents them from exercising effective control over police and other law-enforcement structures.
The reason why prosecution control, including inspections and investigations of complaints about torture executed by police officers, is so ineffective is because the various functions carried out by prosecution authorities contradict each other.
The law requires that prosecution authorities carry out criminal prosecution functions simultaneously with control over legality of investigation and inquest. Within the framework of criminal prosecution, prosecution authorities investigate various types of crimes and represent public prosecution in the court of law, including on cases that have been investigated by other authorities (for example, by the police). Representing public prosecution in the court of law the prosecutor relies on data that have been obtained in the course of investigation and operative detection (ORD). Identifying violations committed in the course of investigation and ORD the prosecution questions the admissibility of evidence on the criminal case and undermines the position of prosecution in court.
In practice, the conflict between the function of criminal prosecution and control over inquest and investigation is most frequently solved in favor of strengthening the position of the prosecution rather than investigation of complaints of suspects and defendants about torture and other violations. In particular, the interviews with prosecution officers conducted in 10 RF regions identified that they view prosecution of criminals as their primary task.
When it comes to control over legality of investigation, inquest, and ORD, they view registration of crimes as their top priority, not suppression of violations of rights of suspects and defendants. A number of respondents among the representatives of prosecution authorities were disdainful about citizens' complaints about police officers reasoning that suspects and defendants use complaints (including those about torture and illegal pressure) to avoid liability for the crimes they committed or to express their offense on account of being held criminally liable.
The problem of conflicting functions of prosecution authorities that results in ineffective control over observation of human rights in the course of investigation, inquest, and ORD, and impunity of tortures, causes a great deal of concern among scholars of law. This problem, in particular, has caused concern of the Human Rights Commission under the RF President. The explanatory note to the packet of proposals on improvement of legal, judicial, and civil (public) mechanisms of control and responsibility guaranteeing observation of legality and human rights in the activities of law-enforcement structures developed by the Commission, specifies that conflicting functions of prosecution authorities result in impunity of torture and other violations of human rights.
Law enforcement and society: public attitude to the law-enforcement
The only realistic method to ensure observation of human rights and freedoms in association with activities of law-enforcement is immediate reformation of the law-enforcement system. Competent authorities also understand this. But measures that have been undertaken over the past several years have not proven to be effective. They did not help reduce application of torture and cruel and degrading treatment, illegal detentions, and other violations of human rights and freedoms by law-enforcement officers.
Over the past two years the number of prosecuted representatives of law-enforcement authorities has grown. But the volume of violations, the number of facts of torture and cruel and degrading treatment and illegal detentions has not diminished. Punitive sanctions with respect to representatives of law-enforcement authorities may not result in improvement of the human rights situation unless the law-enforcement system undergoes reformation.
The population continues to distrust law-enforcement authorities. Independent sociological centers demonstrate extremely low indicators of population trust with respect to law-enforcement bodies. For example, the most recent all-Russian survey conducted by the "Public Opinion" Foundation showed that approximately 40% of Russians do not trust the police.
The Public Verdict Foundation has commissioned Yuri Levada's Analytical Center to gauge the index of arbitrariness of law-enforcement authorities on a monthly basis. The monitoring clearly shows that negative attitude towards the police and uneasy expectations of citizens with respect to law-enforcement authorities are a permanent value. It proves that the general public does not view law-enforcement authorities as an institute that ensures individual safety. Approximately 70% of the population is of the opinion that they or their relatives may fall victims to illegal actions of law-enforcement officers. Note, that people do not have any hopes to find protection from arbitrariness of law-enforcement officers because approximately 60% of the population views prosecution authorities and courts as ineffective. Results of sociological surveys conducted by Yuri Levada's Analytical Center at the request of the Public Verdict Foundation also demonstrate the scale of the problem of violence and inadmissible treatment used with respect to citizens.
According to survey "Police violence with respect to the underaged" one third of adolescents aged 14-17 have been in focus of police's attention. Although police officers are required to be polite, in half of the cases their treatment of adolescents did not comply with this requirement. In 12% of cases interaction of adolescents with the police ended up with the former being beaten up by the latter (for more details see Table 1). More than 70% of Russian adolescents and their parents expect law-enforcement officers to break the law. The value of this indicator is such that one cannot help considering it the statistical norm of life and consciousness of modern Russians. In other words, behavior devoid of rules and limitations, as well as demonstration of dominance by any means is expected by most Russians ever more often from law-enforcement officers as they interact with the population.
Table 1: Violations of rights of adolescents by law-enforcement officers (% of those who encountered the police in a year)
|14 years old||15 years old||16 years old||17 years old||Average|
|Detained for no reason / would not let go home||15||18||19||35||23|
|Nothing like that ever happened||68||50||58||42||53|
Employees of health care institutions indirectly confirm the existence of the problem of violence executed by law-enforcement authorities. According to research "Physical violence in law-enforcement authorities" 73% of physicians and medical nurses providing initial medical aid to victims of accidents or assaults are of the opinion that the problem of violence executed by law-enforcement authorities with respect to detainees is quite serious.
Physicians working in emergency rooms and trauma stations encounter victims of police violence more often than others; they are well aware of the typical character of bodily injuries sustained by the victims. Thus, their assessments are based on a long-term practice of providing initial medical assistance to victims of police violence. For example, 77% of medical personnel of ambulance brigades and 87% of trauma station doctors had to provide medical assistance to patients who had suffered from actions of law-enforcement officers. Most frequently it is police officers who resort to violence, physical assault, or other types of coercion. To the question: "To your knowledge, representatives of which authorities injured the victim?" addressed to medical personnel of emergency rooms and trauma stations the following answers were received (Table 2).
Table 2 "To your knowledge, representatives of which authorities injured the victim?"
|Law-enforcement bodies||Total||Emergency room brigades||Trauma stations personnel|
|UIN (pre-trial facilities, convoy)||12||12||12|
|Did not respond||20||23||14|
The problem of pervasion of violent practices exercised by law-enforcement officers is exacerbated by the fact that in the majority of cases ambulance personnel, and even more so - personnel of trauma stations, are obligated to report traumas inflicted by the police to the police. Such facts are often not registered and law-enforcement officers who use violence walk away scot-free.
Law enforcement and society: suppression of NGOs raising the problems of the human rights violations by the law enforcement
Having despaired to ever receive protection from violation of human rights by law-enforcement officers some individuals seek protection from human rights organizations. Over the past five years Russia witnessed the emergence of a network of human rights organizations that professionally monitor violations of human rights by representatives of law-enforcement authorities and provide legal assistance to victims of such violations. The number of such organizations in Russia is not significant but those that do exist have demonstrated their effectiveness. They have won cases in courts as a result of which representatives of law-enforcement authorities that were culpable of violation of human rights were held liable. These organizations actively interact with international human rights bodies and inform the general public of facts of violations.
Many of these organizations attempt to trigger reform of the law-enforcement system and reduce the number of violations of human rights committed by law-enforcement structures. To that effect they try to interact with competent Russian authorities.
Instead, the state has been lately increasing the pressure against such organizations and their employees. For example, in April of 2004, following the publication of a book about illegal actions of representatives of law-enforcement authorities of the Republic of Tatarstan by the Kazan Human Rights Center a series of events occurred around that organization. Hand grenade F-1 ("limonka") with a removed pin was found outside the apartment of parents of one of the founders of the Center and co-author of the book. Luckily, the grenade did not go off due to manufacturing flaw. Two men in masks broke into Center's office and crashed all the office equipment. In informal conversations representatives of law-enforcement authorities threatened to Center's employees. Media controlled by local authorities showed negative material about Center's activities and its leaders. The Department against Economic Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tatarstan initiated an audit of Center's financial activities which practically paralyzed organization's work for almost a month. The audit however did not identify any legal infractions in Center's activities. There are solid grounds to state that events that occurred around the Center and its employees were caused by their professional activities on protection of human rights from illegal actions of law-enforcement authorities.
In October of 2004, an employee of the Yoshkar-Ola nongovernmental organization "Man and Law" that works in the Republic of Marii El and is also active in the area of protection of human rights from illegal actions of law-enforcement authorities, was shot when two men in masks broke into his apartment. According to organization's employees this assault is a result of professional activities of their colleague on protection of human rights.
Pressure exerted against human rights organizations and human rights activists as such is a violation of international obligations assumed by the Russian Federation. At the same time, persecution of human rights activists who work with the problem of violation of human rights by representatives of law-enforcement structures creates the impression that competent authorities do not want to take into account the public interest in the reform of the law-enforcement system.
Summing up the above said, one cannot help emphasizing that the complex of interrelated problems currently existing within the Russian law-enforcement system combined with the lack of political will to solve them, as well as the ineffectiveness of reforming measures undertaken so far, will continue to be the source of systematic violations of human rights.
Recommendations to Russian Government:
- Competent authorities of the Russian Federation must acknowledge the pressing nature of the problem of violation of human rights by representatives of law-enforcement bodies and conduct an effective assessment.
- Competent authorities of the Russian Federation must undertake measures to develop and implement programs to reform the law-enforcement sphere.
- When developing such programs competent authorities of the Russian Federation must adhere to modern internationally recognized ideas of law-enforcement standards in a developed democratic state that guarantees human rights and freedoms.
- For the purpose of development of such programs competent authorities of the Russian Federation must seek contributions from representatives of civil and human rights organizations specializing in problems of law-enforcement bodies, as well as experts whose professional qualifications are recognized internationally.
- Competent authorities of the Russian Federation must ensure publicity and transparency of the process of development of programs designed to reform the law-enforcement sphere, as well as account for a broad public debate of proposed solutions.