Valery Borshchev: Police officers punished for exceeding their powers at rallies, but so no one noticed

17 February 2020

Valery Borshchev is co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

The National Guard and the Ministry of Internal Affairs have punished law enforcement officers who exceeded their authority during the Moscow protests in the summer of 2019. This was announced on the 17th of February, 2020, by Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Federation Council Committee for Defence and Security.

Bondarev himself has acknowledged the violations on the part of law enforcement officials, and noted that many of them had ‘since experienced disciplinary action or been dismissed from law enforcement agencies.’

‘There were cases where law enforcement personnel exceeded their authority. We did, incidentally, quickly get to work on this problem: if their actions did not qualify as a violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens, their punishment was left at a verbal reprimand. If they did violate those rights, criminal investigations were opened,’ announced Bondarev.

Specific details of the violations in question have not been given. Nor has Bondarev reported the exact number of abuses of power during the Moscow protests. The senator believes that, in general, the actions of the Silovki security forces were ‘appropriate for the events and for the threats that arose there.’

The harsh arrests of protesters took place on the 27th of July and the 3rd of August, 2019, at the demonstrations in favour of fair elections. The protests took place after independent candidates were not allowed to run in the Moscow City Duma elections. One of the rally participants, Daria Sosnovskaya, was punched in the stomach by a police officer. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet released his name, and explained the actions of the officer by asserting that the activist herself ‘behaved emotionally and aggressively.’

Valery Borshchev, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, believes that the closed-off insistence on keeping the problem privately contained is almost instinctive for Russian law enforcement agencies.

“Even when employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are held accountable for their abuse of authority, it all takes place within closed proceedings, and punishments for such violations are negligible—the Golunov case is one example. They protect their corporate interest, which does not suggest there’s transparency or accountability for the public,” the human rights activist told SNEG.TV.

Borshchev agrees that law enforcement agencies do not, in fact, do themselves any favours by remaining closed-off and private. ‘Any open proceedings would, first of all, help to clear the atmosphere in the Ministry of Internal Affairs itself, because its employees would see that the system is fighting against ‘werewolves’ [Russian slang for corrupt law enforcement officers] and other intruders in their ranks. When everything is done behind closed doors, it’s hard to expect any systemic improvements from such private proceedings,’ says Borshchev.

Translated by Alice Lee

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