#11 - JRL 2009-219 - JRL Home
Russian rights activists, opposition demand police reform

Moscow, 28 November: The Interior Ministry (MVD) numerical strength should be drastically reduced and the salaries of the remaining staff should be increased several-fold, according to human rights activists and opposition organizations.

On Saturday (28 November), on Chistoprudnyy bulvar (boulevard) in Moscow they are holding a rally demanding reform of the law-enforcement authorities. "The rally has been agreed with the Moscow authorities," Lev Ponomarev, a veteran of the Russian human rights community and the leader of the For Human Rights movement, told Interfax.

According to him, in their application the organizers said they expected 300 people to attend. Among the organizers are the Solidarity and United Civil Front opposition movements, the human rights movement, For Human Rights, and Moscow antifascists. They are concerned by a growing number of police attacks on citizens.

"Our key slogan is radical police reform is needed, and policemen themselves should be interested in it," Ponomarev said. According to civil rights activists, in Russia there are more policemen "per capita" than in the EU countries or the USA, he said.

"We are proposing that police numbers should be cut two- or threefold, by reducing the head office, and the salaries of bobbies on the beat should be increased two- or threefold," Ponomarev said.

According to the organizers, the selection criteria for joining the police should be toughened, police heads should report to the population and, using the experience of law-enforcement agencies in the West, the MVD internal security department should become an independent body.

"We are also proposing that OMON (special purpose police units) should not be used at peaceful rallies for dispersing people who come to a mass rally peacefully and unarmed. This applies to rallies, demonstrations and football events. OMON always behaves too aggressively, ordinary police will be quite enough," Ponomarev said.

Last Wednesday (25 November), State Duma deputy and a member of One Russia's General Council, Andrey Makarov, put forward a proposal that went even further. "It is impossible to modernize or reform the MVD. It can only be dismantled," he told journalists. One Russia has distanced itself from this statement, saying it was the deputy's personal point of view.

The MVD leadership did not agree that it was impossible to reform the ministry. "We shouldn't talk of reducing the structure, we should talk of optimizing its work, Mikhail Sukhodolskiy, first deputy interior minister, said last Thursday (26 November).

"Optimizing the police work is our key task. And we are doing it. Police are executive authorities and when police come under criticism, the executive authorities come under criticism, we are not forgiven our mistakes," Sukhodolskiy said, adding that police officers "perform their duties in any weather".

"But they are human, and the human factor should be taken into account here. At the same time they do their job well," Sukhodolskiy said. (Passage omitted)

(In Novosibirsk, several dozen people took part in a rally in support of MVD reform, according to an Interfax-Siberia report.

In Novorossiysk, Krasnodar Territory, a rally was held today in support of Police Maj Aleksey Dymovskiy, who complained in a video blog about police violations, Interfax-South reported. The rally was addressed by Dymovskiy and people who suffered as a result of police actions. About 100 people attended.)

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