Federal legislation 446526-5, better known as “The Law on the Police,” is now sitting on President Medvedev’s desk, approved by both houses of the Russian legislature. When he signs it in the next few days, the law will take effect March 1, 2011, closing another chapter in Russia’s re-embrace of bourgeoise aesthetics, finally killing off the Bolshevik-named “militsiia.” Champions of the legislation, like United Russia Duma Deputy Vladimir Kolesnikov, have compared it to serf emancipation and the Stolypin Reforms. The law’s opponents sometimes downplay it as nothing more than a change of two letters (from militsiia to politsiia), and other times denounce it as the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ victory over the interests of the Russian people.
The Law on the Police made headlines last Fall, when a government website went online hosting the entire text of the draft legislation, inviting random citizens to post their raw feedback. When this process ended, the President’s office then spent another couple of weeks revising and rewording various sections of the law. In late October 2010, the bill was submitted to the Duma, where it entered committee for yet another round of discussion and rewriting. Deputies would next offer more than 600 revisions — 398 were rejected by the committee, 144 were accepted, and the rest were returned to their authors for more work and later abandoned.
The structure of this post will be as follows:
- A review of the most significant changes to the legislation’s original language. This involves summarizing the seven key revisions made to curtail the authority of the police, and the nine key revisions made to expand the authority of the police. There could very well be important changes that I’m missing here, but I’ve done my best to capture the most. (This does not cover expansions or contractions of police powers that were included in the law’s original language and left unchanged by the final draft.)
- A review of the twenty-six rejected revisions submitted by a coalition of Duma opposition members, plus two United Russia deputies. (This group also authored 17 revisions that were accepted, but I won’t be covering them here.)
- Background on the opposition’s revisions, focusing mainly on Aleksandr Khinshtein and Andrei Makarov, two United Russia deputies who played important but different roles.
THE LAW’S BIGGEST, MOST IMPORTANT CHANGES
Many of the changes you’ll read below were the result of President Medvedev’s brainstorming powwow that took place after the online public “discussion” closed, but before the law formally went to the Duma. (Pay close attention to the revisions involving taxation and businesses, as these are widely regarded to be the most significant in the battle against corruption.) The original text of the zakonoproekt (from August 2010) can be found here. The final draft approved by the Duma (and then the Federation Council) can be found here.
CURTAILING POLICE POWERS (7)
Glava 3, Stat’ia 30, Chast’ 3
“The demands of a police officer or any action he undertakes should be considered legal as long as the manner prescribed by the law is not established to be otherwise.” This language changed in the final draft to this: “The legal demands of a police officer must be obeyed by citizens and officials.”
Glava 4, Stat’ia 14, Chast’ 13, Punkt 5
A prisoner’s right to a lawyer and translator changed “from the moment of being confined to a special area” to “from the moment of being detained.”
Glava 4, Stat’ia 14, Chast’ 7
No later than three hours after being detained, a prisoner has the right to a “telephone conversation” with a friend or relative — not a telephone “call,” as previously drafted, meaning that prisoners will be allowed to redial until he or she can reach someone.
Glava 3, Stat’ia 15, Chast’ 5
Entering a residence without warning or permission will now be restricted to emergency instances when there is “an imminent physical threat to civilians or police officers, or if the situation could lead to other serious consequences.” Also, after breaking into a home, police will be required to guard the home and protect all property inside.
Glava 3, Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 11 (in the original version)
This clause was removed entirely: “Police may, in the presence of signs that an organization is preparing or has prepared a criminal act, conduct inspections and audits of the financial and economic activities of that organization.”
Glava 3, Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 7
The right of police “to remove a citizen from the scene of a crime” became the right “to require citizens (or groups of citizens) to leave the scene of a crime.”
Glava 6, Stat’ia 25, Chast’ 4 & Chast’ 5
“Police officers are to be given a special certificate, a special tag with a personal number, and a badge for their chests [...]. On the officers’ street uniforms, the badge is to be positioned to allow the officer to be identified.” The language about “badges” and “being identified” was not in the original draft of the legislation.
EXPANDING POLICE POWERS (9)
Glava 3, Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 3
The legal justification for demanding to see and inspect a citizen’s documents was dropped from “must have sufficient grounds or evidence” to just “must have grounds or evidence” that the suspect is involved in a crime.
Glava 6, Stat’ia 32, Chast’ 7 (in the original version)
This clause was removed entirely: “The testimony of a police officer in a criminal or administrative trial shall be considered equal to any other legally obtained evidence.”
Glava 1, Stat’ia 7, Chast’ 3
The phrase, “A police officer should show tolerance and respect toward the customs and traditions of the peoples of Russia,” was changed to “should show respect toward the national customs and traditions of citizens, taking into account the cultural and other characteristics of different ethnic and social groups, in order to promote interethnic and interfaith understanding,” with the word “tolerance” being removed.
Glava 8, Stat’ia 43
“Insurance covers police officers and compensates for damages caused in connection with their official duties.”
*Kommersant claims that the language about “official duties” was added to protect against Evsiukov incidents, but it can be found in the original text as Stat’ia 45.
Glava 5, Stat’ia 21, Chast’ 2, Punkt 1
“Rubber nightsticks” became “special nightsticks.”
Glava 3, Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 17
Officers will now be able to search the “technical and other kinds of documents” of any organization “that demonstrates any signs of preparing or having prepared a criminal act.”
Glava 5, Stat’ia 24, Chast’ 1
Officers were to be allowed to ready their firearms “if the present situation legally warrants it.” This was changed to “if the present situation could lead to conditions that legally warrant it.”
Glava 5, Stat’ia 22, Chast’ 2, Punkt 1
“It is forbidden to beat someone with a rubber club in the head, neck, clavicle, stomach, genitals, or in the area of the heart, or to strike multiple times in the same place.” In the final text, the last line about “multiple times” was removed.
Glava 2, Stat’ia 6, Chast’ 6 (not in the original text)
“The federal authority of the Internal Ministry oversees the legality of decisions and actions made by police officers.”
*This is perhaps the trump revision — one ring to rule them all.
‘THE COALITION’ AND WHERE IT FAILED
A group of nine deputies (including members from all the four parties that hold seats in the Duma) coauthored 43 revisions to the Law on the Police. Sixty percent of those suggestions were rejected in committee. The coalition was made up of the following people:
Gennadii Gudkov (Just Russia), Aleksandr Kulikov (KPRF), Boris Reznik (United Russia), Anatoly Aksakov (Just Russia), Andrei Lebedev (LDPR), Svetlana Goriacheva (Just Russia), Viktor Iliukhin (KPRF), Andrei Lugovoi (LDPR), and Aleksandr Khinshtein (United Russia).
Khinshtein made some of the biggest waves in the lead-up to the Duma’s final vote in late January, earning shout outs from the Communists and enjoying newspaper coverage that elevated his name above the rest. We’ll explore Khinshtein’s story more below, but first what follows is a review of the twenty-six revisions his coalition failed to pass in committee. Gennadii Gudkov told Kommersant that the revisions to the Police Law were handled unusually, with haste and without any discussion. “It’s unclear who even prepared the decisions, and all the opposition’s fundamental revisions were rejected,” he said days before the committee’s deliberations were made public.
“(##)” refers to the popravka (“revision”) number.
(32) Strikes Glava 2, Stat’ia 4, because it fails to explicitly identify the composition of the police force.
~Grounds for rejection: contradicts the concept of the law.
(38) Revises Glava 4, Stat’ia 4, to distribute the “establishment, reorganization, and liquidation of the police” from the President to “federal internal affairs authorities.”
*It’s unclear to me why (1) the deputies submitted this revision (as it seems to empower the MVD), and (2) why the Duma committee rejected it. Perhaps there was no desire for friction with the President’s office.
~Grounds for rejection: contradicts the concept of the law.
(70) Revises Glava 3, Stat’ia 8, to specify that the police are not only obligated to publicize the details of their activities, but also to guarantee access to public information. Plus language protecting “legal persons and other organizations.”
~Grounds for rejection: confuses the subject of regulation. [Смешение предметов регулирования с частью 2 данной статьи законо-проекта]
(76) Adds to Glava 4, Stat’ia 8, a clause that the police operate in the name and interests of the state, explaining that this serves the principle of transparency.
~Grounds for rejection: duplicates other part of the legislaton.
(80) Revises Glava 3, Stat’ia 9, to force management — not the offending officer — to apologize in the event of misconduct. Also applies to misconduct against “the legal interests of organizations” (in addition to violations of the rights and freedoms of citizens).
~Grounds for rejection: the legislation doesn’t define “legal interests.”
(86) Revises Glava 4, Stat’ia 9, to read that the police are forbidden from disseminating false information, and promises “compensation” (vozmeshchenie) in accordance with federal law.
~Grounds for rejection: duplicates other part of legislation.
(98) Revises Glava 8, Stat’ia 9, to make Public Councils (which function like watchdogs) composed of candidates from lists submitted by political parties and public organizations, to be approved by the legislature. The original legislation says nothing about party lists, and assigns Council “formation” authority to the President and the MVD itself.
*The is one of the key issues that demonstrates the degree to which the Ministry of Internal Affairs self-governs.
~Grounds for rejection: an “excessively concrete definition” of the formation of Public Councils.
(122) Revises Stat’ia 12, Chast’ 1, Punkt 9, so that operational activities like detention and arrest are legal only on the written orders of an investigator, not court decisions or the orders of investigative branch heads. There is also a technical rewording of the language concerning detention and arrest (removing mention of “suspected or accused”).
~Grounds for rejection: lack of clarity regarding the subjects rendering procedural decisions.
(133) Revises Stat’ia 12, Chast’ 1, Punkt 16, so that the police’s anti-extremist measures (prevention, detective, and suppression) are conducted “assisting [other] federal agencies” rather than independently.
~Grounds for rejection: contradicts the concept of the legislation.
(143) Revises Stati’ia 12, Chast’ 1, Punkt 20, to require the police to cooperate with the Ministry of Education in the verification of citizen’s knowledge of gun safety.
~Grounds for rejection: [sole] police participation in this process is provided for in Stat’ia 13 of the police rules.
(157) Adds to Stat’ia 12, Chast’ 1, Punkt 23, a clause setting out monitoring of qualifying examinations for private security certification. Also notes that this function is shared with the Ministry of Education.
~Grounds for rejection: excessively concrete definition. [Излишняя конкретизация]
(164) Adds to Stat’ia 12, Chast’ 4, to restrict monitoring of educational institutions offering professional training and development of private security and detectives to “specifically authorized police officers.”
~Grounds for rejection: unduly restricts the jurisdiction of federal authorities in internal matters.
(169) Rejects Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 3, which grants police the right to call citizens into the station for various investigative and administrative purposes, and allows expanded powers involving individuals who fail to appear when summoned.
~Grounds for rejection: contradicts the concept of the legislation, and denies the police already-existing powers.
(177) Revises Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 5, to restrict the police’s access to private homes and offices to instances of immediate emergency or an occurring crime. Removes language enabling police to seize documents and personal information.
~Grounds for rejection: Not applicable to this regulation and duplicates other rules in the legislation. (Other articles more directly address entering private property.)
(184) Removes Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 11, which grants police the power to seize documents and materials. This seizure power was removed from a separate, previous militsiia law in 2008.
~Grounds for rejection: unduly restricts the powers of the police, and existing federal laws already establish similar powers.
(192) Adds to Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 20, a line that traffic police shall only check a driver’s documents if there is sufficient reason.
~Grounds for rejection: generates uncertainty about the implementation of police rights, and limits traffic police’s to upload road safety.
(195) Revises Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 21, to require “visible signs” of foul play (such as a fake or hidden license plate) to justify the inspection of a vehicle. Also, specifies that “checks of organizations and individual entrepreneurs” will be to verify compliance with Russian law.
~Grounds for rejection: the concept of “visible signs” lacks clear legal substance. As for the second revision, state monitoring is always to check compliance with the law.
(200) Revises Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 22, to alter the police’s ability to search facilities supplying or connected to illegal weapons trafficking. Under the revision, they would be explicitly allowed to search the place weapons were suspected of being stored. The revision also removes the police’s automatic right to search any facilities housing weapons owned by private security firms.
~Grounds for rejection: this is a “substitution of concepts” regarding sites of legitimate search. Weapons trafficking is the subject of the search.
(203) Removes Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 28, on the grounds that it empowers the police to perform a function carried out by other agencies (tax compliance monitoring).
~Grounds for rejection: the revision contradicts the concept of the legislation and ignores the rules of tax law.
(205) Removes Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 29, on the grounds that it empowers the police to perform a redundant function (prevention and detection of tax law violations).
~Grounds for rejection: the revision contradicts the concept of the legislation and ignores the rules of tax law.
(218) Revises Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 2, to limit the right of uninhibited spot inspections of guarded buildings and sites to specially authorized officers.
~Grounds for rejection: restricts the authority of the federal officers.
(290) Revises Stat’ia 27, Chast’ 1, Punkt 4, to require officers to direct any technical or official questions to their immediate supervisor (not their formal “direct” supervisor). [Прямый vs непосредственный]
~Grounds for rejection: inconsistent with the police’s chain of command principles. This is the subject of [other] specific legislation on internal affairs personnel.
(349) Adds to Stat’ia 44, Chast’ 1, a state housing guarantee for retired police officers (with 20 or more years service, or with 10 years service and a related job injury), in accordance with Article 51 of Federal Housing Codes.
~Grounds for rejection: the revision demands additional funds, and the issue is not the subject of the legislation’s regulations. [Вопрос не является предметом регулирования законопроекта.]
(391) Adds to Stat’ia 54, Chast’ 1, to include a requirement that police continue their responsibilities regarding the deportation of illegal immigrants until a new special agency is created to take over. (The law requires the police to abandon this function by the end of 2011.)
~Grounds for rejection: deporting or detaining illegal immigrants does not correspond to fundamental police actions. Currently, the confinement of illegal immigrants is carried out on the decision of Internal Affairs courts in special Internal Ministry detention centers, or — if they are unavailable — in temporary Internal Ministry isolation wards [изоляторы].
(392) Adds to Stat’ia 54, Chast’ 3, to specify how performance review boards should function. Promotions for senior positions also require the approval of these committees. The boards would be comprised of federal, municipal, and local authorities. No less than one-third of all members would be elected from legislative bodies.
~Grounds for rejection: the issue is not the subject of the legislation’s regulations, and the President
(396) Adds a clause to Stat’ia 54 to extend certain police obligations to guard various government property and structures until 2015.
~Grounds for rejection: contradicts the concept of the legislation.
ALEKSANDR KHINSHTEIN & HIS AMAZING OPPOSITION ACT
In the weeks before the Duma ultimately passed the Law on the Police, Aleksandr Khinshtein seemed to personify the authorities’ best efforts at reform. The relatively young (thirty-five-year-old) Deputy from Nizhny Novgorod told Kommersant that empowering the police to seize tax documents (Glava 3, Stat’ia 13, Chast’ 1, Punkt 4) contradicted President Medvedev’s call to “stop scaring business.” He warned that the government will only have to return to the legislation in the near future, to readdress its flaws and shortcomings.
In fact, it turns out that Khinshtein has something of a history with the MVD. In May 1999 (at the age of 24), he was detained by the GIBDD after a traffic violation. When the officers inspected his car, they discovered that he was in possession of identity papers belonging to Secretariat Chief of Staff of the Russian State Duma, the press secretary of the Moscow Administration of Customs, and Deputy Assistant to the President of the Moscow Regional Duma V.I. Aksakov. When Khinshtein refused to explain how he got the materials, he was taken into custody and charged with using counterfeit documents. He was released the next day and the charges were later dismissed by a court. Then, in January 2000, investigators from the MVD came back for Khinshtein, trying (and for some reason failing) to force him to the city of Vladimir for a “forensic psychiatric expert examination.”
After all his history with the MVD and all his opposition to the Law on the Police, Khinshtein voted to pass the legislation in the end. His objections ultimately seemed to coalesce around Revision 391 (see above), the rejection of which removes the police from immigration enforcement by the end of the year. Shortly after news broke that many of Khinshtein’s revisions (including 391) were rejected in committee, he posted an announcement on his website that mourned the illegal immigrant issue specifically. United Russia’s official website also carried his remarks.
ANDREI MAKAROV HAD A BONE TO PICK
Andrei Makarov is a television personality, a lawyer, and a member of parliament. Of the 315 United Russia Duma deputies, he was the only one to vote against the Law on the Police. Shortly after the law passed the Duma, he joked with the Communists that he was the most oppositionist of anybody: “KPRF voted against the name,” he said, “and I voted against the law.” Before that, he declared that “all the opposition parties together didn’t say even 1% of the negative things I did about this law.”
The media focused on Makarov’s revision No. 276, a change to Stat’ia 22, Chast’ 1, Punkt 1, to ban the police not just from beating pregnant women, but from beating women altogether. This apparently caused an usually heated debate in the parliament, leading Defense Committee Vice-Chairman Vladimir Kolesnikov to imply that Makarov would have the police protect female suicide bombers (the feared shahidki, or ‘black widows’). This wasn’t the only popravka Makarov proposed. In total, he independently authored 54 separate revisions to the Police Law. All of them were rejected. In Revision 243, he wanted to revise Stat’ia 15, Chast’ 7, to require the police to inform the owners of any homes they entered without their knowledge or presence to be “notified immediately, but no later than 12 hours.” The revision was rejected for setting an unrealistic standard. In Revision 298, he proposed removing Stat’ia 28, Chast’ 4, Punkt 2, in order to refuse police the right to inspect citizens’ documents for the sole purpose of confirming their identity. In Revision 229, he suggested changing Stat’ia 14, Chast’ 11, to eliminate ‘people who fled the law’ as one of the categories of prisoners denied a telephone conversation. And so on.
For the better part of 2010, Makarov hosted a talk show on REN-TV called “Spavedlivost’” (‘Justice’). The show always started off with the nifty motto, “Welcome to ‘Justice,’ the show for those who believe in justice and are ready to fight injustice.” The formula was generally the same for each episode: bring people into the studio who had suffered some manner of social injustice, and have them tell their stories to panels of experts and public figures. Makarov hosted the program without hiding his own views, and objectivity was not the top priority. The show was designed to shame the perpetrators of wrongdoing — “to fight injustice.” Spavedlivost’ addressed many of Russia’s hottest controversies, including Sergei Magnitsky’s death and the Daimler bribery scandal. In an August 2010 interview with Radio Svoboda, Makarov said that he was unable to raise the issue of the Strategy 31 protesters because of “internal censorship.” He said that he did not attempt to discuss the Yukos affair “because the second that they forbid me from doing a topic, I’ll leave television.”
In September of 2010, the Ministry of Internal Affairs saved Makarov the trouble of quitting TV by removing his show from the airwaves itself. That, anyway, is what Makarov told the media, when his two-part series titled “The Law on the Police: the Path to the Rule of Law or to a Concentration Camp?” failed to air on the 22nd and 23rd of September as advertised. (You can catch the second episode, titled “Firing Honest Cops,” here on YouTube). The banned episodes featured former staff from the MVD (sacked for getting in the way of upper management’s thievery), civil rights experts, journalists, and gave center stage to Mikhail Pashkin, leader of the Moscow Policemen’s Union. Makarov refused to ask the producers at REN TV for the names of the officials who censored his show. “I don’t like putting people in an uncomfortable situation,” he said, explaining that they wouldn’t be free to answer honestly.
For those who wish to see Makarov’s full rage at his show’s cancelation, check out his appearance on Ekho Mosvky the day after Spavedlivost’ stopped airing.
The single most thoughtful analysis I’ve read about the Law on the Police belongs to Dmitri Kamyshev, who published in Kommersant’s Vlast’ edition an article is titled “My zhdem perement” (We’re waiting for a change[d cop]) — a pun on the song “My zhdem peremen” (We’re waiting for a change) by the famous Russian rock band ‘Kino.’ Kamyshev describes the legislation as a balancing act between progressives and reactionaries. His breakdown was the kernel I used to create the “curtailing/expanding police powers” popravki list.
The role of competing interests and at-odds priorities is central to understanding the final shape of the Law on the Police. In this post, I’ve addressed only part of the story, reviewing the background and specifics of the Duma revisions that failed to satisfy the warring factions.
The law will take effect in less than a month now, and it will gradually become clear who foresaw best: the optimists (this is Serf Emancipation 2.0), the pessimists (this is the GULAG 2.0), or the cynics (this is changing two little letters)?