February 19, 2009

Crimean Tatars: Police and Minorities Brought Together

Active ImageThe Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office of the High Commissioner starts police training programmes for Crimean Tatar population.

 

Below is an article published by: The OSCE

Written by Dmitri Alechkevitch and Oleg Smirnov

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, thousands of Crimean Tatars came back to their homeland in Ukraine after decades in exile following their 1944 deportation by Stalin. Estimates of the numbers deported range from 180,000 to 200,000.

The Ukrainian State is widely and rightly credited for facilitating the repatriation of the Crimean Tatars, who now number around 250,000 according to the 2001 census.

However, although the return of the Crimean Tatars went smoothly, their reintegration into Crimean society has been problematic. Lack of employment opportunities, unresolved land issues and under-representation in the public sector have become part of everyday life for them.

Desperate people do desperate things. On several occasions, the Crimean Tatars have blocked roads, organized tent camp protests and staged demonstrations, straining relations with the police.

Need for greater confidence

Knut Vollebaek, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM), believes there is an urgent need for confidence-building between the Crimean police and minorities.

"The police and the ethnic communities have much to gain from working closely together. One has to bear in mind the perils of police and minorities only seeing one another through the protective visors of riot police helmets," he says.

Easier said than done, sceptics would say. There are, however, good examples of police-minority partnership that have emerged despite tough circumstances. Highlighting them and promoting co-operation between the police and minorities was the aim of a conference co-organized by the HCNM and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry in late 2008.
But when the regional police management and minority communities gathered at the Crimean police headquarters in Simferopil on 6 November [2008] for the conference, passions were running very high.

On the night before the meeting, Nadir Berinkulov, a 21-year old Crimean Tatar from the village of Solontsovo, was shot by a police officer and later died in hospital. The circumstances of his death are currently being investigated.

Heated debate

The conference's morning session gave people an opportunity to air their feelings. Needless to say, the shooting was hotly debated.

"It may sound cynical but we are not surprised at the 6 November incident," commented Emine Avameliva, a lawyer from the Mejlis, a Crimean Tatar NGO. "Crimean Tatars have grown used to abusive policing."

After the heated opening, the roundtable focused on many aspects of police-minority interaction. The police brought up the lack of minority co-operation in solving crimes. Crimean Tatars criticized the absence of any police response to the hate propaganda against them in the mass media and among young people. Other minority communities decried the lack of police outreach and information sharing.

The representation of minorities in the police figured prominently.

"Distorted mirror"

"The High Commissioner has recommended that the police service must mirror the demographics of the population," said Refat Chubarov, one of the Mejlis leaders.

"In Crimea, the mirror is distorted," Chubarov noted, referring to the fact the Crimean Tatars account for 12.1 per cent of the total population of Crimea, but only 4.0 per cent of police personnel.

The HCNM's experts from the UK and Russia showed convincingly how the police and minorities can benefit from working together, and how an emphasis on training, recruitment and communication can turn them into partners.

Follow-up needed

"While the very fact that police-minority dialogue is taking place is encouraging, it has to be followed up," High Commissioner Vollebaek says. "Concrete projects in Crimea, such as police training in management of inter-ethnic relations, will boost confidence and trust."
The High Commissioner has found like-minded partners in the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

Two advisers to the Minister, Yurii Lutsenko, and senior police management from Crimea took part in the Simferopil event, listening patiently and engaging constructively.

"We have been given food for thought," says Maryna Novikova, one of the Minister's advisers. "Now it is time to turn thoughts into action."