Human rights activists, MPs: Competitive election of National Police chairman should be regulated by law

Modernization of law enforcement agencies has been a key public request since the Maidan. In 2015, the Soviet-style militia began to transform into police in accordance with the best international practices. In November of that year, Khatia Dekanoidze, who had been a member of the reformist team in Georgia, headed the National Police. International donors, including the US, Canada, EU and Japan also engaged in reforming the Ukrainian law enforcement. In November 2016, Dekanoidze left the office. According to experts, the main reason was political interference in police work, which made the reform process too complicated.

The Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov created an advisory committee to elect candidates for the vacancy. This was not required by law. The commission included three Ukrainian community experts and three foreign experts. 46 applications of 70 have met the qualification requirements. The contest committee chose three candidates. The Minister of Internal Affairs appointed one of them – Serhiy Knyazev – the National Police chairman. The public calls Knyazev an “old system person”. He has 25 years of experience in law enforcement. Investigative journalists also released information that casts doubt on Knyazev’s virtue – his ex-wife owns several apartments, land plots and three expensive cars. Human rights activists insist that the competition was not transparent from the start and actually was a “screen” to hide Avakov’s appointment.

To avoid this, the contest on the post of the National Police chairman should be settled at the legislative level, stated human rights activists and MPs at a briefing held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Why we need a law for the competition

“The competition is not regulated by law and is a source of political risk. The Law on National Police provides that its chairman is to be appointed by the Cabinet. In fact, the only one person in the country decides who will head the National Police – it is the Minister of Internal Affairs,” said MP Ihor Lutsenko. Instead, a separate law on the competition procedure must be adopted. “It must specify stages, criteria for candidates and a selection process. The stages include a test of legislation, anti-corruption check, interview and polygraph. […] The commission must consist of the public, legal professionals and National Police representatives,” said Taras Huk, Expert of NGO Lead Office.

Competition should be open to the public

The current procedure of competitive selection remains closed to the public. “E-declarations of the candidates and their programs of reforming the police and the way they give interviews should be open to the public. However, the committee does not consider our requirements,” noted Mykhaylo Kamenev, expert of NGO “Human Rights Initiative”, former lawyer of the National Police of Ukraine. It is necessary to regulate de jure the commission members; who delegate representatives there; transparent selection and committee meetings. Besides, the results of tests and interviews should be also publicly available, experts say.

Order in the streets or human rights

Human rights activists fear that competition winner Knyazev represents the kind of law enforcement officers, for whom human rights are rather a hindrance, and the main goal – safety in the streets. However, MP Mustafa Nayem thinks differently about Mr. Knyazev. “Safety in the streets does not contradict human rights. If Knyazev’s deputy, for example, is Mr. Bushuyev (one of the three candidates selected by the competition commission – UCMC), he will have a chance to continue the reforms,” said the MP.

National Police depoliticization

The National Police chairman should be depoliticized, and all managerial personnel issues should be outside the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Under current law this post is limited by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It coordinates the course and scope of reforms as well as all personnel issues,” noted Yevgen Krapivin, expert of the Ukrainian Association monitors of human rights in law enforcement. “Deputies should not be appointed by the minister. The chairmand of the National Police should be freed from political pressure,” explained Bogdan Chumak, human rights expert of coalition “No – to police state!”, representative of the “Foundation of Regional Initiatives.”