Russian lawmakers strip police reform of big change

The bill has been stripped of key initiatives aimed at curtailing the use of force by police officers.

Russian lawmakers strip police reform of big change

Russian lawmakers approved a new bill aimed at reforming the corrupt police force on Friday, but amendments aimed at limiting their use of physical force -- such as beating women -- were scrapped, greatly weakening it.

The bill -- introduced by President Dmitry Medvedev last year amid a wave of high-profile crimes by police that shocked the nation -- has been stripped of key initiatives aimed at curtailing the use of force by police officers.

The Duma, the lower house of parliament, dominated by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, voted unanimously to pass the bill without the amendments, which would have banned police from beating women, using batons on certain parts of the body and entering people's homes without suspicion of a crime.

Lawmakers said the amendments would have damaged the ability of the police to ensure national security.

Chastising lawmakers who clapped when the ban on beating was introduced to the debate, United Russia deputy Vladimir Kolesnikov reminded the house of the role women had played in recent deadly suicide bombings.

"Those who clapped, think for a second, only recently such women, if one can even call them that, bombed several planes," Kolesnikov, the deputy head of the Duma's security committee, said, referring to the bombing of two Russian planes in 2004 by women, killing a total of 90 people.

Under the previous legislation only women with "visible signs of pregnancy" were exempt from the use of force by police, and that will be unchanged in the new law.

Medvedev vowed to reform the Russian police because a spate of killings and other crimes by its officers have tarnished its image. Many Russians believe the police force is riddled with corruption and abuse of power.

"Only name change"

Critics say that Friday's bill is unlikely to secure any drastic improvements and that the only change is in the name of the organisation to "police" from the Soviet-era "militia".

"We are not getting any reforms," said liberal-leaning deputy Gennady Gudkov, arguing for a stronger bill.

"How are we going to control the Interior Ministry?" he asked, referring to the ministry responsible for the police.

The decision is also seen as a fresh alarm signal for a country where 9,000 to 14,000 abused women die every year and 18 percent of women suffer from regular abuse, according to the rights organisation Amnesty International.

Medvedev, steered to power in 2008 by his mentor and former president Vladimir Putin, came to office with an ambitious reform programme that ignited hope among Russian liberals, but it has so far produced little more than rhetoric.

Putin challenged "liberal" critics of the law enforcement forces to "shave their beards and don helmets" to keep the peace themselves.

Earlier last year, Putin, 58, an ex-KGB agent who remains Russia's most popular politician, said that those who took to the streets in unsanctioned rallies deserved to be "clubbed".

Reuters

Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2011, 14:14
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