The Belarusian police in the light of the international legislation.
The independent media and social networks have been full of videos, even live streams sometimes, showing detentions of politicians, journalists, civil activists, ordinary citizens, in the recent days. In most cases these detentions are committed by the people in plain clothes, who show neither their documents, nor arrest warrants.
The mankind has gone a rather long, often bloody historical way, which allowed the people to elaborate certain laws and rules, letting or at least striving to make this world better and more secure, and to increase the value of a human life. This concerns even such extreme form of human activity as leading a war.
In the provision on laws and customs of a land war of the Convention "On Laws and Customs of War on Land", adopted back on October 18, 1907, there was "Chapter 1. On Who Are Considered at War", enlisting the categories of citizens fulfilling the following conditions:
1. To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
2. To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
3. To carry arms openly; and
4. To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
In countries where militia or volunteer corps constitute the army, or form part of it, they are included under the denomination "army."
So we see, one of the principles of leading a war has always been and remains that the party at war should be distinguished from the civil population. This guarantees additional protection for the peaceful population, and protects the military men as well. If someone has no uniform, no insignia, they, in fact, are a gang-like formation, not an army, so absolutely different laws are applied on them. That is why the Germans called the guerrillas bandits, as they in most cases violated this international law on leading a war.
If such laws are applied even during the war, when it would seem, there are no laws in general , then imagine how taking care of the civilian population and the people who are in the line of duty should be higher in peacetime. It would seem reasonable that such laws must be devised and work for other armed persons, obliged to protect the rule of law. They should surely wear a uniform. So it is ... In a civilized world only, not in Belarus.
The "European Code of Police Ethics", adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on September 19, 2001, says the following:
14. The police and its personnel in uniform shall normally be easily recognisable.
There is a detailed commentary to this article, referring to the "principle of crucial importance for the traditional police in a democratic society governed by the rule of law ; it should be easy for the general public to recognize police stations and the uniformed police. This also covers equipment used (cars etc.). The paragraph indicates that, unless there are special reasons, such as the proper exercise of police functions, the police should be distinctively recognizable from other bodies. This forms part of the general requirement of openness and transparency of police organization, however, it also serves the purpose of easy access to the police in emergency situations."
Thus, the police not only should wear uniform, this uniform should be noticeable and easily recognizable. I repeat, this is the "principle of crucial importance for the traditional police in a democratic society governed by the rule of law".
What do we see in Belarus? In the old law of the Republic of Belarus dated February 26, 1991 #637-XII "On Police" it was said:
"Paragraph VII. POLICE SERVICE. Article 35. Police Officer
A police officer is a person serving on a position in the body, division, educational institution or establishment of the police, who are duly awarded a special rank. A police officer is issued free uniforms, samples of which are approved by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus. Police officers have the insignia and certificate of employment."
The current Law of the Republic of Belarus dated July 17, 2007 # 263-З "On internal affairs bodies of the Republic of Belarus" somehow bypasses the issue of uniform, insignia and certificates. In this respect, it does not fully corresponds with the international practice. Herein, the very logic of life speaks for the police officers to be obliged to have uniform, insignia, and service certificates. Those who don't have one of the above, or don't show it when detaining a person, cannot be perceived as police officers by the citizens.
It is clear that the work can be different. If an investigator is sitting in the office and working with papers, he maybe wearing even underpants for all we care. And if an operative officer is following a criminal group, he can be masked even under his environment, pretending to be a bush. But if police officers come to the city to work on the protection of order, they are obliged to have the following: free uniforms, insignia and certificates. These rules must be followed when police officers are present at a mass event, conduct searches with metal detectors and frames, and especially when they carry out an arrest. Well, why citizens must respond to the comments of a stranger or a group in black jackets, sweatpants, sneakers and black hats? And why should they obey such people, risking their health, and perhaps life? I do not know who it is - maybe a burglar, maybe a bandit. Especially when these citizens in sports pants attack me - I have to resist. For all international laws, I have every right to protect my life, health, honor and freedom. Just as in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus:
Article 34. The necessary defence
1. Every citizen has a right to defend themselves against a socially dangerous encroachment. This right belongs to the person regardless of the possibility to avoid enroachment, or to address for help to other persons or authorities.
2. Any action, committed in conditions of the extreme necessity, that is, to eliminate the danger which threatens the interests of the State, public interests, an individual or the rights of the given person or of other citizens even by inflicting injury to the encroacher, shall not be a considered as a crime unless the limits of the necessary defence have been exceeded.
Moreover, if I see such blokes nearby dragging somebody into their car, I am obliged to render help to that person, otherwise I become either a partner in crime or a criminal:
Article 307. Leaving in Danger.
Failure to give a person, who is in a state dangerous to life, the required help which obviously cannot be postponed; or poor or improper fulfillment of rescuing obligations by a person in charge of rescuing people, which caused death or severe bodily injuries by negligence, shall be punishable with a fine, or limitation of freedom for a term of up to 3 years, or imprisonment for the same term, with the deprivation of right to take certain positions or conduct certain activities, or without deprivation."
Thus, every citizen not only has a right to defend themselves, but even more so, is obliged to provide assistance to those who are grabbed by the people in civilian clothes. As a result, such a situation is dangerous for all parties of the conflict. One is sure he is attacked by bandits and resists in every possible way, the others are confident in their impunity, because they think that they are the representatives of the authorities. Imagine for a moment that this situation is happening in the United States, where citizens are allowed to carry weapons - there would probably be casualties on both sides.
The thing which is practiced in Belarus for many years, when politicians, journalists, social activists and ordinary citizens, ie unarmed people, obviously not representing serious danger, are grabbed by the people in civilian clothes, who don't show either their documents or detention warrants, and drag them into a car with no markings - this, in my opinion, should be regarded as a manifestation of the state banditism.
Of course,uniform is an additional protection for police officers. In addition, it disciplines: a representative of the power has to watch out not to defame the honor of his uniform, and consequently, this very power. Meanwhile, those plain-clothed people most often behave like thugs. Herein, Interior Minister Shunevich, who prefers to wear on holidays the NKVD uniform, which has become a symbol of the Punisher, likes to say that someone is trying to discredit the police purposefully. So maybe they should try to become real legal guardians of public order, and not behave like a punitive or occupying army? Why should we have to respect such police, who are ashamed of wearing own uniform (because, perhaps, the authorities, giving orders to wear civilian clothes when detaining, understand that not quite right, and especially not exactly legal deed is done), violate the laws and consider the society as their enemies?
Dzmitry Drozd, the Belarusian Documentary Center