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Russian Rights Campaigners Criticize New Police Law

Russian Policeman Near Police VanMoscow, 7 February: According to human rights activists, the federal law 'On the police' does not meet the interests of the citizens of Russia or provide for their involvement in the maintenance of law and order.

A statement adopted by a working group of human rights organizations on reform of the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs), a copy of which Interfax received on Monday (7 February), says that "the founding principle of police work - public control over police performance and citizens' participation in resolving issues to do with the maintenance of law and order, and the assessment of police performance - is in practice not covered by the law".

"The version of the law 'On the police' which has been adopted contains provisions that reduce guarantees of the observance of citizens' rights and allow police to 'easily' exceed their powers. In particular, this applies to the use of force and special equipment against citizens, and to the grounds for going to organizations and studying documents as well as summoning citizens when checking complaints that allow their personal data and information about bank accounts to be demanded," the document says.

According to the rights campaigners, "the fact that police functions have not been significantly reduced and, in particular, the fact that tax checks, property protection in agreement with property owners and other types of activity that in practice lead to growing corruption and distract police from performing their main functions remain within the competence of the police, is cause for serious concern".

At the same time, according to the document, the law registers the founding principles of a law-governed state: prohibition of torture and the priority of the observance of human rights. "The working group welcomes this. But these principles are not supported by the provisions of the law itself which turns them into declarations without the prospect of them being directly applied in practice," the statement says.

In the opinion of the authors of the document, work on the law must continue, including the monitoring of its application and the drawing up of changes, amendments and new normative acts.

"The working group will monitor the application of the law 'On the police' in Russian regions and afterwards draw up and submit to Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev and parliament amendments to the law," the statement stresses.

The working group on reform of the MVD is a pressure group of Russian human rights organizations. It was set up in 2008 on the initiative of the Public Verdict Foundation and the Moscow mission of Amnesty International. It includes 14 human rights organizations.


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