There were continuing reports of torture and other ill-treatment and the perpetrators continued to enjoy impunity. A progressive new law on freedom of assembly was introduced, but practice and attitudes failed to keep pace with these changes. International bodies commented that certain groups suffered discrimination, and acts of racial discrimination were not prosecuted effectively.
Torture and other ill-treatment
On 14 March, the parliament passed a law which could help to prevent torture and reduce impunity for torture and other ill-treatment. Among the changes, the Criminal Procedural Code was amended so that the institution in which the alleged victim was detained had to prove that the torture and other ill-treatment did not occur. Previously, the burden of proof had lain with the victims, who had to prove that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated.
The Consultative Council within the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office, which is intended to monitor places of detention in accordance with Moldova’s obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, was functional by March. However, concerns remained that the Council was not adequately funded or sufficiently independent from the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office. There were continued reports of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody.
"Perpetrators of torture and other ill-treatment continued to enjoy impunity..."
- In February, brothers Vasiliu and Petru Livadari were allegedly beaten by staff in Cricova prison because of their complaints about their treatment and conditions in prison. After they complained to the Ombudsman they were reportedly threatened that they would be beaten to death. On the insistence of the Ombudsman, the two prisoners were moved, but the prosecutors who arrived at Cricova prison to investigate the allegations tried to dissuade the brothers from making a complaint. On 6 March, the Ministry of Justice, which has jurisdiction over the prison service in Moldova, stated that Vasiliu and Petru Livadari had been transferred to a prison hospital where they were receiving medical treatment, but that there was no evidence that they had been ill-treated. However, the Prosecutor General’s office announced on 4 April that two prison officers had been charged with torture under Article 309/1 of the Criminal Code. The case was ongoing at the end of the year.
Perpetrators of torture and other ill-treatment continued to enjoy impunity because of a flawed and ineffective system of investigations, and a lack of political will to prosecute the perpetrators.
- In February, Viorica Plate informed Amnesty International that she and her lawyer had been harassed by police. Viorica Plate had been tortured by police officers in Chişinău in May 2007, and on 1 November 2007 two of the officers were sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and one was given a suspended sentence. She accused the police officers who had been convicted of torturing her of harassment, and said that two of the officers had not been detained. On 6 March, the Prosecutor General’s Office said that the officers in question had not been detained because they were appealing against their sentence, and that it was not considered necessary to take protective measures on behalf of Viorica Plate.
- On 23 June, the Chişinău Prosecutor’s Office again refused a request to open a criminal case concerning the allegations of torture made by Sergei Gurgurov. Sergei Gurgurov allegedly sustained head and spinal injuries at the hands of the police in Chişinău in October 2005 and had been left permanently disabled.
Freedom of expression
On 22 February, the Moldovan parliament passed a new law on assembly which came into force on 22 April. The new law, drafted after extensive consultation with civil society, was a significant step towards greater freedom of expression in Moldova. Organizers of public events have to inform local authorities of the event, but are no longer required to seek permission, and assemblies of fewer than 50 individuals can meet spontaneously without notification. The law also stipulates that assemblies can only be prohibited by a court. However, despite these progressive provisions, police and local authorities continued to restrict freedom of expression. According to monitoring carried out by a local NGO, the Resource Centre for Human Rights, police presence at demonstrations, the number of detentions and the use of force by police had increased since the new law came into force. People were prevented from demonstrating peacefully or detained for short periods if they did, although most prosecutions brought by the police were not upheld by the courts.
- On 8 May, the Chişinău Mayor’s Office banned a demonstration by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists. The NGO GenderDoc-M had informed the Mayor’s office about its intention to demonstrate outside the Building of the Government in favour of the new anti-discrimination law. In a written notification the Mayor’s Office stated that religious organizations, school students and residents of the capital had reacted negatively to the planned demonstration and “accused sexual minorities of aggressiveness and violation of spiritual and moral values”. Therefore, to “avoid any tension in society”, it was necessary to prohibit the planned public meeting for the protection of the demonstrators. When the activists arrived close to the Building of the Government by bus on 11 May, they were surrounded by approximately 300 aggressive counter-demonstrators, who prevented them from leaving the bus. Onlookers reported that there were very few police officers present at the scene, and despite the rising tension they took no action to protect the LGBT activists, who were forced to leave the area. Nobody was injured.
- On 30 April, Oleg Brega of the freedom of expression organization Hyde Park was detained by police for protesting peacefully and alone in the centre of Chişinău on the anniversary of the founding of the state broadcasting company. Police tried to prevent him protesting and charged him with hooliganism. On 8 May, the court sentenced him to three days’ detention for swearing in public. His brother Ghenadie Brega was fined for protesting in public against Oleg Brega’s detention. Oleg Brega was acquitted by the Court of Appeal on 27 May.
On 29 April, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published its third report on Moldova, and on 16 May the UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination published its concluding observations on the fifth to seventh periodic reports of Moldova. Both bodies expressed concern that existing legislation banning the incitement of racial, national and religious hatred was not being implemented, that Muslim ethnic minority organizations were being denied registration, and that acts of discrimination including racial discrimination by the police were not being prosecuted effectively.
In June, the Ministry of Justice circulated a draft Law on Preventing and Combating Discrimination for comment by civil society. The new law was based on international standards and was progressive in its inclusion of civil society in the drafting of the law. However, it concentrated on the negative obligation not to discriminate and did not include the positive duty to promote equality.
On 11 February, President Voronin submitted a bill for the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to parliament. However, progress towards ratification continued to be slow. Moldova signed the Rome Statute in 2000, but it was not until 2006 that the Ministry of Justice drafted the ratification law. On 2 October 2007, the Constitutional Court ruled that Moldova could ratify the Rome Statute without requiring a change in the Constitution.