ROAR: “Renaming of Russia’s militia will not bring miracle”

Representatives of human rights organizations have proposed a revision of the draft law on police and consideration of the expediency of renaming the militia at a hearing of the Public Chamber.

The draft law on police “was criticized in the Public Chamber” on Wednesday, Vremya Novostey daily said. Many experts, lawyers and political scientists who took part in the special meeting believe the draft should be revised.

All the participants agreed that the document published for consideration “is one of the first and most important steps on the path of this reform,” the daily noted. But the renaming alone of militia into police “will not bring miracle and law enforcement officers will not reclaim citizens’ trust,” it added.

So far, the most positive side of the draft law is the fact that it was published on a special web site and everyone can express their opinion there, the paper said.

Deputy Interior Minister Sergey Bulavin, responsible for implementing the reform, said the ministry is still considering proposals. He described the publication of the draft law as “an unprecedented case, unknown in other countries.” The introduction of public control over the police is another most important aspect of the reform, he said.

At the same time, although the new law was intended to be clearer, it does not differ much from the old version, Vremya Novostey said. “The text is bigger, but it is mainly due to the fact that it has incorporated norms regarding police that belongs to other laws,” it stressed.

Thus, the new name – police instead of militia – has become “the main novelty,” the paper said. The draft law contains more minuses than pluses, said Andrey Babushkin, head of the For Civil Rights organization. He proposed a widening of the rights of citizens who deal with police officers. Among the pluses, he highlighted accountability of police before the executive bodies, their co-operation with the public and the need for members of officers’ families to declare their incomes.

Elena Dubova, representing Russia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the new law did not defend small businesses from arbitrary checks conducted by police officers.

During the Public Chamber’s hearings, it turned out that the draft law still contains “a lot of flaws,” Gazeta.ru online newspaper said. The draft will be submitted to the State Duma in December.

Since the document was published online in August, citizens have sent several thousands of comments and proposals, the paper said.

However, the director of the Human Rights Institute, Valentin Gefter, believes it would be senseless to discuss many articles of the document because “it will not work in its current version.”

Many human rights activists welcome the desire of the police to reform, he said, but the problem is that “the Interior Ministry is reforming itself.” The work on the draft law was not open for a long time, and now “we can see the document that should be completely revised,” he noted. The accountability of the police before citizens should be the pivotal factor, he stressed.

Many participants of the hearings proposed the consideration of the issue of dividing police into municipal and federal structures, the paper said. They also doubted the expediency of renaming militia into police.

Bulavin responded that “only several hundred million rubles” would be spent on the renaming. “When human rights activists speak about billions, this does not conform to reality,” Gazeta.ru quoted him as saying.

He also recalled that the experiment to divide police into federal and municipal bodies in regions in the end of the ’90s “had failed.”

At the same time, Bulavin promised to take into consideration the statements of critics and to discuss them at the next meeting of the working group preparing the law. It is expected to gather in November, the paper said. By that that time, according to the president’s intention, the discussion on the project will be closed to the public, it added.

The Russian government plans to allocate about 217 billion rubles ($7 billion) for police reform and increased allowances for officers in 2012-2013, Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin said on Wednesday.

President Dmitry Medvedev, who launched the reform in the end of 2009 after a series of police scandals, made it clear that the measures would require significant allocations from the state budget.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT