Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture and other ill-treatment were widespread and systemic. There were inadequate safeguards for detainees who often spent long periods in poor conditions in police detention. Lack of resources for police work and pressure to send as many cases as possible to court encouraged police investigators to extract confessions by force. Investigations into allegations of torture were not carried out effectively and impartially, leading to a climate of impunity. The European Court of Human Rights found in five judgments that Moldova had violated the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment.
In July, parliament approved amendments to the Law on the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to set up an independent body to monitor places of detention in accordance with Moldova’s obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The amendments proposed setting up a Consultative Committee within the office of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to include representatives of non-governmental human rights organizations. These amendments, however, failed to guarantee the functional or financial independence and adequate funding of the Consultative Committee as required by OPCAT.
In November, the preliminary report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s (CPT) visit to Moldova in September was published. According to the CPT, about a third of the people interviewed during the visit made credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.
- Viorica Plate told Amnesty International that she was tortured by police from Botanica police station in Chişinău on 19 May. She was arrested at her home in Orhei and accused of stealing US$7,000 from her ex-husband. Three police officers reportedly threw her onto a sofa in her flat, twisted her arms, handcuffed her and then drove her to Botanica police station. She stated that at the police station officers put a gas mask over her head, and beat her on the soles of her feet while closing the air vent on the gas mask causing her to lose consciousness. They then suspended her from a hat stand hung between two chairs and continued to beat her on the soles of her feet. Eventually she managed to take a knife from a desk and cut her wrist, at which point an ambulance was called and she was taken to the hospital. Viorica Plate complained to the Prosecutor General’s office and an investigation was opened, but the police officers were not suspended and she reported that in June they threatened to detain her again. Two of the police officers concerned were sentenced at the end of the year to six years’ detention and a third police officer was given a suspended sentence.
- On 23 October the European Court of Human Rights found that Vitalii Colibaba had been ill-treated by police officers in April 2006 and that the state had failed to conduct an effective investigation into the allegations. The Court also found that the state had failed to facilitate access to the European Court because the Prosecutor General wrote to the bar association on 26 June 2006 stating that both Vitalii Colibaba’s lawyer and one other lawyer could face criminal prosecution for providing information about torture cases to international organizations. Amnesty International had campaigned on behalf of Vitalii Colibaba and the lawyers, and asked repeatedly for an effective and impartial examination to be carried out into the torture allegations. In June, the Prosecutor General’s office informed Amnesty International that Vitalii Colibaba had suffered injuries during his police detention, but that these were not the result of torture or other ill-treatment.
- On 26 November, eight HIV-positive prisoners detained at remand prison no. 13 in the capital, Chişinău, slit their wrists in protest at the conditions in which they were held. All eight were held in overcrowded conditions in a cell measuring 20 m2. Some HIV-positive prisoners also suffered from multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis which put the other prisoners at high risk of contracting the disease. Prison special forces reportedly subdued the protest with rubber batons and several prisoners were injured. Four of the prisoners were subsequently placed together in a punishment cell in the basement, which further damaged their health.
Violence against women
Despite the existence of witness protection programmes, very few victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation were able to benefit from effective witness protection if they agreed to testify. Women were only offered witness protection if the risk of attack by traffickers could be proven and in most cases this required evidence of a previous attack or threat. According to the US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report published in June, Moldova failed to address complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials.
Freedom of expression
In a resolution passed in October, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on the Moldovan authorities to “strengthen all the necessary guarantees to ensure the respect of freedom of expression as defined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.
- In April, for the third year in a row Chişinău City Hall denied permission to the organization Gender Doc-M to hold a gay pride march. This decision was made despite a Supreme Court ruling in February that a similar refusal in April 2006 had been illegal.
On 2 October, the Constitutional Court ruled that Moldova could ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court without requiring a change in the Constitution. Moldova signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2000, but the government then asked the Constitutional Court to decide whether the Rome Statute contradicted the Constitution.
Self-proclaimed Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic (Transdniestria)
In June, local elections were held throughout Moldova. However, Transdniestrian authorities prevented them from taking place in the village of Corjova, one of nine villages that are located geographically in Transdniestria, but are under the control of the central government of Moldova. Valentin Beşleag, who was candidate for mayor in the local elections, was detained at the police station in Dubasari for 15 days and charged with the administrative offence of distributing election materials from abroad. Iurie Cotofan, who tried to cast his vote on 3 June, was allegedly beaten by several Transdniestrian police officers. He was then taken to the Dubasari police station, where he was held until midnight before being released without explanation or charge.
The last two remaining members of the “Tiraspol Six”, Andrei Ivanţoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa, who were sentenced to prison terms in Transdniestria in 1993 for “terrorist acts”, including the murder of two Transdniestrian officials, were released on 2 and 4 June respectively on the expiration of their sentences. They had remained imprisoned in Tiraspol, the capital of Transdniestria, despite a July 2004 judgment by the European Court of Human Rights which found their detention to be arbitrary and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. Both men were released and expelled from Transdniestria. Andrei Ivanţoc attempted to return to Transdniestria, but was forced into a car and driven to Chişinău.
Amnesty International visit/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited Moldova in March, July and October.
- Moldova (Self-proclaimed Dnestr Moldavian Republic): Possible prisoner of conscience/ health concern/ legal concern: Valentin Besleag (EUR 59/001/2007)
- Moldova: Police torture and ill-treatment: “It’s just normal.” (EUR 59/002/2007)
- Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International’s concerns in the region, January-June 2007 (EUR 01/010/2007)