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Translation from Russian

December 29, 1998





Mr.O.O.Mironov, human rights ombudsman in the Russian Federation, sent a letter to Mr.S.V.Stepashin, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. The letter, inter alia, reads:

"Dear Sergei Vadimovich,

Socio-economic changes in Russia have significantly affected the human rights situation, including the rights of those who have violated the law, and whose rights cannot be addressed outside the context of human rights in Russia in general.

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs has undergone major changes which fall in line with the construction of a state based on democracy and the rule of law. The reform process has been completed, federal ministerial tasks and functions have been clearly defined.

The law enforcement system is overcoming shortcomings in solving and investigating grave crimes.

Efforts to strengthen law and order and public safety undertaken by federal and regional bodies of state power and by law enforcement agencies have produced certain results.

However, procuracy inquiries show that in 1997 30 thousand police officers were administratively punished, more than 1.5 thousand police officers wereprosecuted for service-related crimes, 853 police officers were prosecuted for abuse of power. 50.6 thousand crimes, previously unregistered, were put on record.

Similar violations, directly connected with breaching civil rights and freedoms, were committed by law enforcement officials in 1998 as well.

Wide-spread violations by law enforcement officials, such as concealment of crimes, ill-treatment during investigation, various cases of abuse of power are of special concern.

Letters to the Russian ombudsman from citizens show that officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs violate the constitutional norms and provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, though these officials are supposed to ensure law and order and protect legitimate rights of the citizens.

Citizens refer to numerous cases of violence and cruel treatment of defendants during police inquiry, detective activities and preliminary investigation.

In most cases, such requests are sent by persons who are suspected and accused of having committed grave and extremely grave crimes; they claim that police officers resorted to physical and psychological violence in order to get confessions. /.../80

During personal meetings of the ombudsman with inmates in pre-trial detention facilities and prisons, every second person claimed that police officers subjected him to beatings and humiliation from the moment of detention until transfer to a pre-trial detention facility.

Press reports also mention torture, in particular, electroshock being used by police officers against detainees. /.../

On February 12, 1998, the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia convicted seven police officers of the Republic of Mordovia for abuse of power, violence and personal humiliation against detained persons./.../Six out of the seven officers were convicted to prison terms ranging from 3 to 9.5 years. The court has instructed the republic's Ministry of Internal Affairs to pay compensation to the victims. This six-month trial was widely covered by the media. The court ruled that torture was of a systematic nature and was committed in complicity with high-ranking officials. The Court issued a separate statement to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Another cause for concern is the use of force by police officers against participants in economic and political protests. Thus, practically all newspapers published after October 10, 1998, mentioned about forcible dispersion of the miners' picket on the "Gorbatyi most" [a bridge near the building of Russia's federal government] (for example, "Cleansing at the `hour of the jackal'", Sovetskaia Rossia, 13.10.98.). However, no one is responsible, everything is covered with secrecy and vagueness. It is essential that the public should know who gives orders to use force.

The public is quite concerned by the facts of certain police officers directly violating the law by openly cooperating with criminals. This has been repeatedly mentioned in the press. For example, Ie.Ukhov in his article "Werewolves in uniform" (Trud, 3.11.98) mentions the exposure of two police officers on the payroll of criminals.

K.Voronov in his article (Kommersant daily, 6.11.98) reported that a Novosibirsk regional court convicted two high-ranking police officers who took a 125 million ruble bribe to close a criminal case.

Having conveyed to you the above mentioned facts in accordance with clause 1, Article 31 of the Federal Constitutional Law on the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Russian Federation, I request you to take appropriate measures to prevent the officials of your ministry from violating constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens.

I am awaiting your information on the measures taken.


80 The names of the victims whose cases the ombudsman raised with the Ministry of Internal Affairs had been deleted from the copy of the letter that the ombudsman gave Human Rights Watch.

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