Allegations of torture and ill-treatment remained widespread and the perpetrators continued to enjoy impunity. Police failed to uphold and protect the right to freedom of assembly. Human rights defenders faced harassment as a result of their activities.
Moldova’s ruling Communist Party won the parliamentary elections on 5 April for the third time running, amidst widespread claims of electoral fraud. Peaceful protests in the capital, Chişinău, began on 6 April. They became violent on 7 April and resulted in the storming of the presidential and parliamentary buildings. A re-run of the elections was held on 29 July which resulted in a majority for the opposition parties.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Following the demonstrations in Chişinău, hundreds of people, including minors, were rounded up and detained by police. International and local NGOs collected testimonies from over 100 detainees, their families and lawyers, claiming that they had been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights reported that during his visit to detention centres following the events in April, the majority of people interviewed by his delegation alleged ill-treatment by police officers.
- Oxana Radu was among a group of 36 young people who had come from Cahul in the south of the country in two minibuses to witness the events. They were stopped as they were leaving Chişinău after midnight on 8 April, and then escorted to the General Police Commissariat. Oxana Radu, her sister and one other woman were taken directly into the police station. She told Amnesty International that she was led into a room where there was a female and a male police officer. She was forced to strip naked. The male police officer said: “You’re cold, we will warm you up.” She stated that she was forced to perform squats while naked and was threatened and sworn at as she did so. She was then taken to a cell with four other women and her younger sister. They were reportedly left for two days without food or water, access to a lawyer or the possibility of contacting their families. Oxana Radu was accused of having shouted at a policeman and sentenced to five days’ administrative detention by a judge in the police station. She and two other women were taken to the police station in Drochia in the north of the country to serve their sentences. She was released at 2 am on 14 April.
A culture of impunity among police officers continued, encouraged by the low rate of prosecutions for acts of torture and other ill-treatment, the failure to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations and the lack of adequate punishment for violations.
- The government delegation reported to the UN Human Rights Committee that as of September, 101 complaints of torture or other ill-treatment by police officers had been received, and 25 criminal investigations had been started in connection with the events in April. However, the number of complaints lodged against the police for ill-treatment did not reflect the scale of the problem. Intimidation and harassment of victims and witnesses resulted in under-reporting of torture and other ill-treatment and contributed to impunity.
- On 16 June the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that Sergei Gurgurov had been a victim of torture in 2005, and in July the Prosecutor General’s office opened a criminal case, almost four years after Sergei Gurgurov first alleged that he had been tortured by police officers. The Prosecutor General’s office had previously responded to all requests for criminal investigations by saying that the injuries Sergei Gurgurov claimed were the result of torture by police officers had been self-inflicted.
Freedom of assembly
Despite the progressive Law on Assemblies which was passed in 2008, police and local authorities continued to unduly restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly by banning demonstrations, imposing limitations and detaining peaceful protesters.
- On 29 January, Anatol Matasaru was detained outside the offices of the Prosecutor General in Chişinău, as he held a one-man protest dressed in a pig suit and using audio equipment to play the sound of a pig squealing. He was protesting the failure of the Prosecutor General to open an investigation following his complaint about police ill-treatment in 2006. As part of the protest, he displayed images showing pigs in different contexts, with text criticizing inaction by prosecutors. Police arrived within minutes of the beginning of the protest and detained Anatol Matasaru for approximately five hours. He was charged with failing to inform the mayor’s office about the protest (although this was not a requirement of the Law on Assemblies), failing to abide by the orders of the police, resisting arrest, and insulting public officials. Anatol Matasaru alleged that he was punched by a police officer while in detention. The charges were dropped by Rîşcani district court in Chişinău in February.
- On 3 February, police reportedly failed to protect peaceful demonstrators who were attacked by a group of masked men. The demonstration was organized by Amnesty International Moldova and local human rights organizations Hyde Park, Promo Lex, the Resource Centre for Human Rights and the Institute for Human Rights. They were protesting against previous failures by the police to uphold the rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression, and to call on the Prosecutor General’s office to investigate these failures. Shortly after gathering in front of the Prosecutor General’s office in central Chişinău, the demonstrators were attacked by approximately 10 men, some wearing masks, who sprayed paint at them, punched and hit them. Igor Grosu, the Chair of Amnesty International Moldova, was hit from behind and had to be treated in hospital for a head injury requiring several stitches. A member of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights was punched in the face. The demonstrators called the police immediately, but reported that no officers came to their aid. After the participants had successfully chased off the attackers the police again refused to come and collect the evidence which remained of the attack, such as masks and spray-paint cans.
Human rights defenders
In April, at least seven NGOs involved in monitoring human rights violations following the events in Chişinău received letters from the Ministry of Justice. The letters asked each organization to explain its position towards the riots, as well as any measures taken by the organization to prevent and stop the violence and to enforce the Law on Assemblies. These seven and another four organizations also received subpoenas from their local tax inspectorates, dated 24 April, asking them to present financial documents for 2008 and 2009, and identify their sources of income and expenditure by 28 April. On 28 April, the office of Amnesty International in Chişinău was visited by representatives from the local tax inspectorate, who requested that the organization provide a list of paying members and other documents. In a letter to Amnesty International the Prosecutor General’s office replied that the checks had been routine and that there was “no causal relationship to the events of 7 April.”
By the end of 2009, Moldova had still not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, despite a decision by the Constitutional Court in 2007 that Moldova could ratify the Rome Statute without requiring a change in the Constitution.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Amnesty International delegates visited in April and July.
- Moldova: Memorandum – Amnesty International’s concerns relating to policing during and after the events of 7 April 2009 in Chişinău
- Police torture and other ill-treatment: it’s still “just normal” in Moldova