“Police abuse – a serious threat to the rule of law”, Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, has stated recently. Among other things Muižnieks pointed out the responsibility of the states and of all the government officials to react against ill treatment of people by the police officers, to prevent such cases and report about them: “Political leaders should instill the clear message that responsibility for ill-treatment extends beyond the actual perpetrators to anyone who knows, or should know, that ill-treatment is occurring and fails to prevent or report it.”
This statement is especially crucial for those organizations which, like ADC “Memorial”, are being persecuted by the state for their attempts to react against police violence. ADC “Memorial” raised these issues in a report prepared to the UN Committee against torture.
Nils Muižnieks also stated that “ excessive use of force during demonstrations and/or apprehensions is, however, just the tip of the iceberg. Other forms of police misconduct occur out of the sight of the general public.” He went on to point out that “another serious form of police misconduct is violence targeting minorities, in particular Roma, and migrants. In Greece, for instance, regular threats and racially motivated ill-treatment of migrants and Roma by members of the police and coast guard have been reported. Institutionalized racism also plays a major role in ethnic profiling resulting in abusive stops and searches targeting minorities and migrants. In a recent report on France, the Open Society Justice Initiative highlighted the very negative impact of this practice on “entire sectors of the population [who] are left feeling that no matter what they do, they will always be second-class citizens”.
Thus, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe admitted the importance of counteraction against police arbitrariness especially when defending the rights of vulnerable minorities, such as Roma people and immigrant workers. He stressed that this was not less important than defending the rights of activists during public assemblies. It was the problem of police arbitrariness aimed especially against “Roma people, migrants and activists” that the report of ADC “Memorial” was devoted to. This report resulted in a court ruling against ADC “Memorial”, which – contrary to any logic and legal grounds – ruled to declare ADC “Memorial” a “foreign agent”. Later this ruling by Leninsky district court of Saint Petersburg was appealed by ADC “Memorial” in the city court.