Anastasia Garina, coordinator of international programs at Memorial, former member of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission
In order to at least partially solve the problem, it is necessary not only to exclude employees of the FSIN, but also to take in their place new members of the POC, who will not be related to the work of not only the FSIN, but also law enforcement agencies.
When the POCs appeared, they included people who were active participants in civil society, i.e. these are people of different specialties, with different backgrounds, who were united only by the fact that they care. As a rule, they do not have any kind of professional deformation. It is clear that there are former law enforcement officers, but in this case it is necessary that they do something else, help someone, protect someone, be known as people involved in some civil initiatives, projects and etc. If this is not the case, then, with a high probability, a person whose only significant experience is experience in law enforcement agencies is not very interested in helping prisoners, helping people held in places of detention. In most cases, all this deforms.
In many ways, it is not their fault that the system is built this way when there is no introduction to work. There is an opportunity to work only at the limit of possibilities with dehumanization. Quite often, law enforcement officers are more inclined to justify the administration, to listen to the words of the administration, not to believe the words of the prisoners, not to delve into their problem, not to understand how it happens.
Of course, when such people became the majority, since it was law enforcement officers who were deliberately selected in the POC, and members of the POC of previous convocations, who fought with some violations, actively visited places of detention – they were not re-included, they were refused. They are inconvenient, it is difficult to negotiate with them, it is difficult to shut them up.
It is better to take people who will not go anywhere and will not do anything. Unfortunately, we have received such absolutely non-working or practically non-working POC teams. I think that simply excluding former FSIN officers from them will not be enough. I would suggest limiting the formal criteria as much as possible – to prohibit by this, to prohibit by this.
A man worked 20 years ago in the Federal Penitentiary Service, and since then he has become known for something else, in addition to being an employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service. Even if they now suggest expelling FSIN officers, it will not be enough to expel them, because they will expel and will not take anyone new, or they will take a former employee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. An awl for soap will work.
At least here you need to take instead of them those who are not related to the work of law enforcement agencies. In my opinion, it is better to focus not on this, but on the connection with some kind of social capital that has nothing to do with the work of law enforcement agencies. Formally and legally, I also worked in law enforcement agencies. Most of my life is associated with working in human rights organizations, with the help of people whose rights are violated. In this case, it seems to me that this is normal.
Evgeny Enikeev, member of the Moscow POC
I think that this initiative is generally good, it will have a positive effect. Starting in 2016, experienced human rights defenders, members of commissions began to be squeezed out by former employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service, police and other bodies. Since 2016, not a single human rights defender from the Moscow Helsinki Group has been elected to the POC. This undoubtedly played a negative role, and if now they start accepting human rights defenders again, it will somehow be able to change the situation.
Leonid Petrashis, former chairman of the POC of the Rostov region
This is not a completely correct idea, in our POC, and not only in ours, many former employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs worked great. It depends more on the person himself and has nothing to do with who he was before.
You just need to form and prepare in a different way the commissions themselves. We need people who are ready to work, they need to be trained, and not like now, when most commissions are ineffective or by a third. Nobody teaches them as it was before. This is more an imitation of public control than real public control, as it should be, and the real work of the PMC. From the fact that there will be no former employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service and other law enforcement agencies who are already retired, and they have no conflict of interest, such measures will not lead to anything positive, and public control will definitely not improve. This is my personal opinion, but my experience of 9 years of work as the chairman of the POC and more than 1000 visits to places of deprivation of liberty, I think, is enough.
But competent selection, education and training of POC members should be the main one. First, the main thing is preparation for the elections to the POC. We always prepared people in advance, conducted training seminars. People knew where and why they were going, what were the main goals and objectives. If a person got into the commission and did not work, then we first talked so that he would start doing it, or to write an application to leave the commission. Now this does not particularly bother anyone: if you work, it’s good, if you don’t work, it’s also good, and if you imitate, it’s also not bad. Like many things in our country, unfortunately.
There were presidential grants aimed at training POC members, there were various programs, including the “New Generation POC” program. A lot has changed, and in fact no one is training POC members, and the selection has become according to the principle of “dependent, convenient, familiar and inactive.” People who are independent, literate and ready to work do not actually get into the POC.
It is like local government and legislative elections. If a person is capable, adequate, independent, ready to work and study, this is enough. And these should be the main selection criteria for the PMC. We had excellent former employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service on the commission, who worked perfectly, and representatives of civil society and human rights defenders who were not working or who grossly violated the law on public control, with whom, unfortunately, we had to legally say goodbye.
Yuri Blokhin, former deputy chairman of the POC of the Rostov region, lawyer, previously worked in the Ministry of Internal Affairs
Of course, such a proposal raises questions from me as a lawyer as to how this can be guaranteed. Such a proposal must pass legally, so I don’t understand what the FSIN has to do with it if the Duma is to make changes.
As for the essence of such proposals, this is not a solution to the problem of torture. How are they trying to present? There were tortures because there were former FSIN officers in the POC and did not provide control. I think this is an oversimplification of the problem.
First, if you add to the law that a former employee of the FSIN cannot be a member of the PMC, then this will create legal uncertainty and the possibility of abuse and discrimination. How old is he? How many years ago did he work? What position? What are the reasons for leaving the FSIN? Therefore, it is not clear why, for example, pensioners are singled out? Where did he go from and how many years ago? Do not know. Maybe the person left due to the fact that he could not put up with torture and found his calling in control so that this would no longer happen.
This prohibition in the law, which was added later that members of the PMC cannot be those with close relatives in prison, this is the same discrimination, and I am against any discrimination.
I am often called a former employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service, but this is not so. I worked in 1996 in a pre-trial detention center and then it was still the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Later I worked at the educational institution of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. You can probably consider me a former employee. A person can work as an accountant or director of a research institute. The problem is that in the POC there are people who do not have a human rights outlook, and this must be checked substantively. And this is like in Soviet times, when the class was fought. Of course, this is wrong.
I know a former FSIN member, he is a former employee, the deputy head of the colony resigned. He has received positive feedback from the human rights community, and he has done a lot to ensure human rights as a member of the POC. The saddest thing is not that the employees of the GUFSIN pass through the POC, but that human rights defenders do not pass. If we talk about affiliates from the FSIN, we must understand that affiliates can be not only among former employees. Completely civilian people.
I know that some public councils have loyal people, but they are not former employees, and they are ready to assist in any undertakings, including not entirely legal ones. How do we calculate these? I know a public oversight commission, where there is not a single former employee, but two people worked there, and the rest, at best, only appeared when they received a mandate. If we exclude employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service, but do not provide passage to human rights defenders, then the situation will not change in any way. How will this be done? On what grounds? This is contrary to the basic law. This is some kind of half-measure.