Civil liberty I
The Constitution of Mongolia states that the law shall protect the immunity of residence and the confidentiality of letters and other forms of communication of a citizen.
Civil liberty is the backbone of democracy. Any decision coming from a democratic government must have the ultimate purpose of strengthening civil liberty in general, civic rights and freedom in particular.
A market economy can only flourish when there is a true democracy. The primary duty of a democratic state is to protect the rights, freedom and property of its people. However, since the state is an enforcement institution, it can and sometimes does violate the rights and interests of all its citizens while claiming to be protecting the interests of a smaller group. This is viewed as a fast and efficient approach by many countries. For instance, cameras were installed on every pedestrian path in London and their government failed when they attempted to pass a law that would have allowed them to listen to phone conversations of their citizens. Every government prefers a “stick” approach rather than a “carrot” one.
Therefore, in order to keep their civil liberty, people have to stand together as one and fight against every single intrusion coming from the government. If the government’s power apparatus can restrict civil liberty today, it can do the same to our rights and freedom tomorrow. Our rights and freedom are the most precious things we have.
Today in Mongolia
There are still intended or unintended government violations of civil liberty going on in Mongolia. In 2011, a total of 141,000 crime reports were received and 22,000 of them were registered, which was 20 percent higher than the year before. Furthermore, as the country develops and becomes more prosperous, we are seeing a wide range of new, big crimes such as smuggling and drug usage, human trafficking, kidnapping, criminal threats, money laundering and stealing money from bank accounts online.
In order to fight these emerging crimes, we need to foresee them coming, take preventive measures, learn from the experiences of other countries and conduct a comprehensive policy that ensures proper regulation of the interactions between law enforcement agencies and their alignment.
The organizations that are supposed to fight, put an end to and prevent crime are doing nothing but making a fuss long after the occurrence of a crime, pressuring private sector institutions and punishing their employees for fulfilling their duty and abiding by the law. Claiming they are trying to prevent crimes, the government has been trying very hard to acquire access to personal information of citizens, breaking their confidentiality and liberty.
What will happen if every police officer could pry into personal information of anyone they desired, take a look at their bank statements, read their emails, listen to and record phone conversations, go into computer folders, see their internet history, get their location and, ultimately, spy on people in real time? Will we have the “Thought Police” just like George Orwell described in his novel “1984”? What institution in Mongolia oversees the operations of law enforcement organizations and checks if they can actually protect personal information or not?
Who can have access to personal information?
If police or judiciary organization demands a bank to provide a person’s bank statement or transaction information, is the bank obliged to comply with their request? No. The bank can only grant their wish when there is a prosecution filed against the individual. In this regard, I protected the private information of a customer ten years ago when I worked as a CEO at a bank. A court can only prove if the criminal defendant is guilty or not. Documents acquired in unofficial ways are considered illegitimate; therefore they cannot be used as evidence in court.
Shortly before the New Year’s Day, the first ever kidnapping crime happened in Mongolia. The kidnapper hid his number when he called the parents for ransom money. Although the parents and the police demanded the mobile network company to disclose the dialing number, the company complied with the law and fulfilled their request only after they received an approval document of prosecution. Afterwards, executives of the company were detained due to being accused of “causing disruptions in investigation process.”
A little kid almost lost his life due to lack of regulations that must ensure immediate decision-making of relevant institutions during an emergency where a human life was at risk. What has been done in order to speed up the decision-making process of prosecution and improve its alignment with other relevant institutions in case anything like this happens again?
According to Article 18 of the Law of Mongolia on the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Public Prosecutor General shall check whether the organization that is granted the right to fight, investigate and register crimes, protect social security and sentence the offenders is complying with the law or not when they implement their rules and procedures that restrict rights and freedom. So, Mr. Prosecutor General, do you have a system that ensures fast reactions during any criminal events and a certain set of procedures that are revised at least once a year for improvement?
Mobile network operator companies should also include in their contracts with clients certain terms and conditions that will set out the company’s procedure during times of emergency such as disclosing hidden numbers when the dialer’s identity is required by police or other institutions that protect social security. What is stopping them from including certain clauses in the law so that it will be clearly set out what confidentiality can be disclosed in what situations? Unfortunately, our law makers are not coming to their office these days and parliament sessions can not function some days. We are all governed by our laws, thus, there will be social disorder unless every single one of us complies with the law.
Reason why people should stand together as one
Your phone call history is protected by the Confidentiality Law in the same way your bank statement is. Also, Article 4 of the law includes other confidentialities such as letters and messages and other information about personal health, property and family. Article 12 of the Law on the Public Prosecutor’s Office sets out that, except when there is a court order, crime registration, investigation and sentences that restrict or violate human rights, freedom, confidentiality and immunity of residence and properties must be approved by prosecution beforehand.
This is the law that those executives of mobile network companies followed – yet they were still detained afterwards. Their detention is a violation of civil liberty by the government. We, the citizens of this country, must fight to protectour liberty.
(To be continued)
Translated by B.AMAR
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