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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08PRAGUE72 2008-02-05 13:06:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Prague
Cable title:  

REFORMS AND POLITICAL INTERFERENCE PUT PRESSURE ON

Tags:   PHUM PREL PGOV OSCE ASEC EZ 
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VZCZCXRO9797
RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHPG #0072/01 0361306
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 051306Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0017
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PRAGUE 000072 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/NCE ALEX TRATENSEK, DS/T/ATA AND DS/IP/EUR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2017
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV OSCE ASEC EZ
SUBJECT: REFORMS AND POLITICAL INTERFERENCE PUT PRESSURE ON
CZECH POLICE

REF: PRAGUE 01153

Classified By: POLEC Counselor Michael Dodman for reasons 1.4 (b) and (
d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: The United States has enjoyed excellent
cooperation with Czech legal authorities, as demonstrated,
for example, by last year's extradition of terror suspect
Oussama Kassir to stand trial in the United States. However,
mass resignations of experienced police officers in response
to new retirement rules and alleged political interference
could cause at least a temporary set-back in the country's
efforts to build up and clean up its police system. While
these developments should not have a significant impact on
our day-to-day law enforcement and counter-terrorism
cooperation with the Czech Republic, they represent a
potential weakness in the Czech police structures and
staffing that post has sought to address through training,
including courses focused on transparency and
anti-corruption. END SUMMARY.

POLICE REFORM?


--------------------------





2. (C) The United States has had very strong, if not always
seamless, cooperation with the GOCR on law enforcement,
intelligence, and counter-terrorism. The 2006 arrest, and
2007 extradition, of terrorism suspect Oussama Kassir was
perhaps the best public example of this cooperation. While
we have long had concerns about corruption and politicization
in the Czech law enforcement sphere, cooperation has been
consistent and productive. However, several trends underway
in recent months call for some level of increased USG focus
on the underpinnings of our bilateral cooperation.



3. (U) In October 2007, the head of the Czech Organized
Crime Police Unit (UOOZ), Jan Kubice, tendered his
resignation. Following Kubice's resignation, several dozen
senior UOOZ investigators also resigned. The head of the
country's Public Corruption unit (UOKFK), Renata Strnadova,
followed suit, citing a lack of support from the Ministry of
Interior (MOI) leadership to achieve her unit's goals. In
all, 111 positions in UOOZ were left vacant by the
resignations, and the Corruption Unit lost 77 officers. The
National Drug Headquarters also lost experienced officers in
what became a wave of resignations at the end of 2007.
Post's Regional Security Officer (RSO) reported that his
contacts in local police forces were also facing staffing
shortages in their rank and file.



4. (SBU) Law enforcement officers have told the Embassy that
the losses constitute a serious blow to their investigatory
efforts and will likely hinder law enforcement agencies'
ability to apprehend and prosecute criminals for years to
come. By the end of 2007, some 5000 positions, or
approximately 10% of the total general police force, remained
unfilled. These deficits have been attributed in part to
inadequate pay and benefits packages, as well as better
opportunities in the private sector. However, some observers
have discounted this gap by noting that the Czech Republic
has far more police officers per capita than most European
countries. Moreover, the country's entry into the Schengen
zone may free up hundreds of former border guards to fill
some of these openings.



5. (U) The "Law on Public Service," which became effective
January 1, 2008, may partially explain these departures.
According to the law, retirement packages will only be
offered to those officers with more than 15 years of service
(compared to 10 years under the former system).
Additionally, heads of police agencies will be required to
possess university degrees and speak a foreign language.
These new requirements effectively disqualify many of the
most experienced and motivated police officers from continued
service.



6. (C) The law has its supporters. Adriana Krnacova, the
former director of the Czech branch of Transparency
International, believes the Public Service Law is necessary
to reform the police. Without it, she says, young and
educated professional officers would stand very little chance
of promotion. Similarly, Vojtech Cepl, a professor of law
and the principal drafter of the 1993 Czech Constitution,
believes the law could serve as a model for other reforms,
especially in the judiciary where he finds it ludicrous that
"communist-era judges are deciding complex commercial
litigation cases worth millions of dollars" when they lack
the necessary education and experience.

OR A POWER GRAB?

PRAGUE 00000072 002 OF 002




--------------------------





7. (C) However, some of the police officers who resigned
cite insecurity and low morale within the police as the real
reasons for their departure. In private conversations with
embassy officers, they allege that political leaders have
attempted to influence many investigations for political
reasons. Some officers go so far as to say that Minister of
Interior, Ivan Langer, is using the police restructuring as a
maneuver to gain control over the police so that he can
continue to influence criminal investigations that could
negatively impact the ruling Civic Democrats (ODS). They
also allege that Langer exercises his control over the police
through the three deputy chiefs of police, whom he had very
carefully hand-picked. Critics also cite Langer's decision
to dissolve the country's well-regarded Financial Police Unit
as further proof that Langer's reforms are little more than
political machinations and a power grab.



8. (U) Most notable among Langer,s critics is former Czech
President Vaclav Havel. In an interview with the Czech Press
Office (CTK), published on November 2, Havel underscored the
current problems at MOI and Langer,s responsibility:
"(W)hen the whole leadership of the squad for uncovering
organized crime, with 50 of its best criminologists and their
spokeswoman (leave), followed by the leadership of the
Corruption Service the next day, I think that the Interior
Minister and the Police President should be held responsible."


COMMENT


--------------------------





9. (C) Politicization and public sector corruption are
nothing new in the Czech Republic. The government of PM
Topolanek came into office a year ago, promising sweeping
reforms in many different areas. Few would argue that the
police which, with the exception of the specialized units, is
generally viewed as corrupt and unresponsive, would not
benefit from changes and reforms. However, the Ministry of
Interior's steps in its first year do not inspire much
confidence that the direction it has charted is the right
one. Indeed, the mass departures of experienced police
officers may exacerbate the situation, since junior and less
experienced officers may find it difficult to maintain their
independence in politically charged investigations (although,
to be fair, the new Public Service Law that is behind much of
the police resignations was passed by the previous
government). In addition to the widely publicized
departures, the most visible aspect of the police reform has
been a rebranding exercise with the motto "chranit a pomahat"
(to protect and assist), which will likely have little -- if
any -- impact on the problems faced by the police.



10. (C) We do not expect the problems described here will
have any immediate impact on our cooperation with the Czechs,
which to date has been very strong and productive. While
critics of Interior Minister Langer abound, he has
demonstrated that in priority areas, for example the Czech
Republic's entry into the Schengen zone, he can deliver
excellent results. However, in particular because of the
large turnover of staff in key police branches, and the
vacancies already present, USG agencies need to be aware that
it may not be business as usual with Czech counterparts. We
may face delays in cooperation. We will likely face more
relatively inexperienced interlocutors; we could see
increased political bias. It is too soon to tell how
significant these impacts will be, how long the transition
will last, and what the long-term holds in terms of law
enforcement effectiveness and bilateral cooperation. But
certainly these developments highlight the need for continued
USG ethics and rule of law training for the police. Our
training programs have always been well received and remain
much sought after. In the absence of leadership from the
top, it is even more critical to give those at lower levels
of authority the tools necessary to transform the law
enforcement system over time from the bottom up. END COMMENT.
Graber