10 February 2009
Protect freedom of expression in Moldova

Masked men attack the protestersThe Chair of Amnesty International's section in Moldova has been revealed as one of a group of peaceful demonstrators who were injured by masked attackers in the capital, Chisinau, on 3 February.

Shortly after gathering in front of the Prosecutor General's office in central Chisinau, the protestors were attacked by about 10 masked men who punched them and sprayed paint at them. Igor Grosu was hit from behind and had to be treated in hospital for a head injury, requiring several stitches. One member of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights was also punched in the face.

The group were protesting against previous failures by the police to uphold the right to freedom of expression, and calling on the Prosecutor General's office to investigate these violations.

The demonstrators called the police immediately but reported that no officers came to their aid – even up to one hour after the event. By contrast, when Anatol Matasaru staged a one-man peaceful legal protest outside the Prosecutor General's office on 29 January, police arrived within minutes and detained him.

After demonstrators had successfully chased off the attackers, the police again refused to come and collect remaining evidence of the attack, such as masks and spray paint cans. They are reported to have stated that “police do not collect rubbish after meetings”.   

The demonstration had been organized by Amnesty International, the Resource Centre for Human Rights (CReDO), Hyde Park, Promo Lex and the Institute for Human Rights.

"The apparent failure by police to come to the aid of those being attacked, or to show interest in apprehending those responsible, is a further indication of the pressure on freedom of expression today in Moldova,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International has been increasingly concerned that, despite a progressive new Law on Assemblies which came into force in April 2008, police are increasingly restricting freedom of expression by detaining peaceful protesters. Most prosecutions brought by the police are not upheld by the courts.

According to monitoring carried out by CReDO, police presence at demonstrations, the number of detentions and the use of force by police have all actually increased since the new law came into force.

Amnesty International has been informed that the Prosecutor General’s office has started an investigation regarding the incident and that police have detained five people in connection with the attack. The organisation has called on the Prosecutor General to investigate the reported failure of the police to protect the demonstrators, as well as previous failures to allow demonstrations, in accordance with the Law on Assembly.

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