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5 Mar, 2010 15:50

ROAR: Prosecutors to play “special role” in reforming police

ROAR: Prosecutors to play “special role” in reforming police

President Dmitry Medvedev has outlined priorities for the Prosecutor General’s Office and urged prosecutors to strengthen control over the Interior Ministry.

Speaking on at the annual meeting of Prosecutor General’s Office Board on March 4, Medvedev stressed the need for effective coordination among law enforcement agencies in combating crime. It is especially important as the Interior Ministry is going through reform and new amendments are being added to the Criminal Code concerning economic crimes.

“Dmitry Medvedev praised Prosecutor General’s Office, but also indicated omissions [in its work],” Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said. The president “mildly hinted” that prosecutors are partly responsible for the problems in law enforcement agencies that “have led to the reform of the Interior Ministry,” the paper said.

“Prosecutor General’s Office has a special role in Russia,” the daily noted. “It not only defends the interests of the state and supremacy of law, but should also control the observance of ordinary citizens’ rights.” According to the president, “thanks to the work of prosecutors Russia has managed to avoid many socio-economic consequences of the world financial crisis,” the paper said.

“Although the most acute phase of the global crisis is over, it is necessary to keep a watchful eye on the implementation of employment laws,” Medvedev said. “Today, unemployment is our main social challenge,” he added.

Prosecutors should be also instrumental in coordinating law enforcement agencies as “half of all crimes still remain unsolved,” the president stressed. The need to reform police became ripe long ago, but it has been prompted recently by events and crimes that had attracted public’s attention, he recognized.

The president made it clear that the crimes committed by law enforcement agencies “have revealed problems” in the organization of the Interior Ministry’s work, as well as prosecutors’ supervision over police.

Law enforcement agencies often avoid registering crimes so as not to investigate it, Prosecutor General Yury Chayka agreed, adding that “prosecutors do not always respond properly.” However, 150,000 crimes were registered last year after prosecutors intervened he noted.

Investigative bodies themselves committed 350,000 violations in their work in 2009, and 120 prosecutors and investigators were dismissed, according to Chayka. The media highlighted his criticism of the work of the Investigative Committee under Prosecutor General’s Office, partly for insufficient work against high-ranking officials involved in corruption.

However, head of the Investigative Committee Aleksandr Bastrykin “for the first time presented the statistics of criminals and those involved in corruption that had a special legal status,” Kommersant daily said.

According to Bastrykin, “in 2009, some 900 mayors and deputies of local legislative assemblies were called to account, as well as 58 deputies of regional parliaments, 55 members of electoral commissions, 23 judges, 55 prosecutors, more than 160 lawyers and about 200 investigators,” the paper said.

Most crimes connected with corruption are committed in the North Caucasus, and their number increased by 67% in 2009, Bastrykin stressed. Of 514 people involved in corruption activities, 205 were officers of law enforcement agencies.

To strengthen the fight against corruption in the region, Bastrykin even proposed fingerprinting all local residents and conducting a new registration of all cars. The president did not comment on Bastrykin’s proposals, Kommersant noted.

Human rights activists in Moscow and the North Caucasus, however, has immediately opposed the idea of fingerprinting. Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseeva described it as “ethnic discrimination.” She also suggested fingerprinting state officials instead, the daily noted.

“Technically, any idea can be fulfilled, especially if it has financial support,” Alvi Karimov, press secretary of the Chechen president, told Gazeta.ru online newspaper. However he doubted that people in Chechnya or other republics of North Caucasian Federal District “would welcome the fact that they are considered suspect citizens.”

They would understand the move better if fingerprinting was conducted in all Russian regions, Karimov said. “We have one constitution for all citizens,” he stressed.

Among less radical proposal at the meeting was the prosecutor general’s idea to create a council under the president to improve fighting crimes. Those involved in investigative activities, as well as scholars and human rights activists could take part in the council’s work, he said.

“Such council is necessary, but we also need an ombudsman to defend rights of the victims of crimes,” believes lawyer Igor Trunov. “Our legislators are engaged in the humanization of criminal procedure and defense of the rights of suspects and those accused, but they have forgotten about victims,” he told RBC daily.

Speaking with prosecutors, the president also highlighted the fight against economic crimes and corruption among the main tasks for the current year in accordance with the new amendments in criminal and criminal procedure law.

A special meeting of the Anti-Corruption Council will be held in the near future, and the head of state is expected to approve national anti-cooperation strategy for 2010-2011.

Analysts, however, doubt that the work of law enforcement agencies can be improved quickly and the reform of the Interior Ministry will bring good results. Ordinary Russians seem to share this opinion. Some 66% of those surveyed by Levada Analytical Center on February 26 – March 2 believe the reform of the ministry will not be successful, Vedomosti daily said.

About 26% of respondents think the president has started “a really radical reform,” but 27% said the move does not concern the fundamentals of the ministry’s work.”

People trust police less than other law enforcement agencies, Aleksey Grazhdankin, deputy general director of Levada Center, told the paper. Besides, this is not the first reform of the Interior Ministry, which explains why people are suspicious of the new one, he said.

Sergey Borisov, RT