Zero Corruption Police: Mission (Im)Possible?

The panel discussion on June, 15 took place at the same time of activists protesting at Shevchenkivskyi court in Kyiv during the hearing on Sternenko case, which add up to the recent cases of police power abuse and reveal the obvious necessity of deeper reform of police.

Minister of the Interior of Finland Ms. Maria Ohisalo presented the case story of Finnish police. “We know that Finish system works because we have public trust. Recently we had a challenge when we had to charge high-ranking police officer for misconduct, but our openness and transparent investigation helped to maintain the trust of public”. Contrary to what has been said by Ukrainian officials that numerous cases of tortures and non-human behaviour exists within police in any country, Finnish police “used gun on duty only 28 times in 2019”  according to Ms. Ohisalo. Finland remains one of the safest countries in the world, with few cases of police brutality being investigated outside of this Ministry by prosecutors and independent agencies.

6 years after the Revolution of Dignity and start of the reforms, Ukraine faces the aftermath of a failed police reform. MPs from different factions of Verkhovna Rada shared their vision on the reasons Ukraine has failed to reform the police. Ms. Ustinova, MP from Golos faction, was quite straight forward in her assessment of the police reform. “I was shocked when heard officials telling it was Ms. Dekanoidze responsible for the failure of the reform of the police. The only person who should be held responsible for the failure is Minister Avakov” she stated. It is inadmissible that Police is taking advantage of COVID-19 pandemic and allocates 2.7 bln UAH from COVID-19 fund to the police who are now receiving higher salaries than doctors and other healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients. Speaking of the police brutality, she stressed “State Bureau of Investigation should hold police violations accountable, but it’s highly politicized body that is not effective”. Ms. Radina, MP from Sluga Narodu faction, stated: “After what happened in Kaharlyk we are beyond the line to say that police is being reformed. Rapes, abuses, beatings, killings and tortures continue and no-one was held accountable or punished – this can’t be called ongoing police reform”. She believes “It is our political responsibility to find a person to replace Avakov”.

Chief of National Police of Ukraine in 2015-2016 Ms. Khatia Dekanoidze stated they “started the reform of the police with great motivation and enthusiasm, but the reform stopped because of the lack of political will”. Among the reasons of a failed reform Ms. Dekanoidze also names inappropriate political interference, necessity of demilitarization, necessity to clear the personnel of which 93% are from old militia, need for change of the high level management of police in order to show that nobody is above the law and need for laugh of criminal police reform.  “If there is no rule of law, there is no economic development, there is no democracy. President Zelenskiy has to realize that”. 

Representatives of Human rights organizations ZMINA and Freedom House also joined the discussion.  Ms. Tetiana Pechonchyk, Head of ZMINA, addressed the  institutional problem of police, which are attacks at civil activists and absence of investigation. She stressed, “Impunity is fuel for the fire of further attacks”. She believes that while there is no clear machinery of suppressing civil society, but the state of police makes it unsafe for activists and journalists to live in Ukraine. “We can introduce many great ideas like anticorruption units, but if there is no political accountability of leadership for violations and corruption, it doesn’t lead to anything good”, she added. Mr. Matthew Schaaf, Program Director of Freedom House in Ukraine, suggested focusing on the issue whether “police does everything they can to provide and protect human rights”. Mr. Matthew believes no. “What we need is a strong mechanism of a timely registering  the cases of violence within 24 hours and responsibility and accountability for violations”. 

Head of EUAM Mission to Ukraine, Mr. Antti Hartikainen, expressed his concern with absence of representatives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or senior management of National Police. Among the achievements of Police reform in Ukraine he named the introduction of patrol police in big cities and quick response teams in smaller, which decreased the response time significantly. With the Minister of the Interior being very politicized, but the patrol police managed to remain neutral during the recent elections. However, it has been a disappointment that the Ministry of Internal Affairs refuses to approve the Strategy plan 2023 supported by the EU. “ It is  impossible to follow the best European practices without it…EUAM have been waiting for quite long for this approval and this is a disappointment it hasn’t  happened yet.”

Ms. Matilda Bogner, Head of the UN Mission to Ukraine, shared what issue should be addressed first from her perspective. The systemic problem in police, according to her, is “the issue of immunity and lack of accountability». With her main focus on human rights violations she had to admit, that unfortunately “There are many cases of tortures, which are systematically closed. Witnesses, their families have to be better protected. There has to be video-recording of interrogation”. She added, “If you are a victim of a crime committed by police you should not report about that crime to the police”.  

The full recording you can access at Zero Corruption Conference Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrorRm_qUTNPt5rlUSWZguw

Online panel discussion Zero Corruption Talks are preceding Zero Corruption Conference aimed to produce innovative to gather 500 high level participants among prominent representatives of national governments, civil society and international organizations, activists, and investigative journalists.

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