The Moldovan authorities must urgently rectify their failure to identify and bring to justice those involved in the shocking unlawful rendition of seven Turkish nationals in September 2018, at the request of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasingly repressive government, said Amnesty International. On 8 March the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will consider implementation of the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the case.
On 6 September 2018, officers from Moldova’s Information and Security Service (SIS) apprehended seven staff members of the Turkish Orizont High School in Chișinău, all of whose applications for political asylum had been rejected in the preceding days. The next day the individuals were handed over to the Turkish authorities in a secret rendition operation.
On 11 June 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the Moldovan authorities had violated the Turkish nationals’ rights to liberty and security, as well as respect for family life.
“The Moldovan government did little in practice to implement the ECtHR’s ruling in the case of Ozdil and Others v. Moldova. The country’s authorities have yet to hold fully accountable all those responsible for the renditions or provide effective remedy to the Orizont Turkish high school staff members, who were secretly and illegally transferred to Turkey, where they were immediately arrested. Furthermore, as far as we can see, there is little guarantee that similar human rights violations will not occur in the future,” said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“The Moldovan authorities must conduct a new, full, thorough and impartial investigation of these secret renditions as a matter of urgency and publish their findings. They should identify and bring to justice all those reasonably suspected of involvement or complicity in this unlawful operation, including security service officers and other officials. Information about this case must be de-classified to the maximum extent possible to ensure fairness and transparency in the investigation, and to learn lessons to guarantee it won’t happen again.”
The ECtHR’s determination on 11 June 2019 that the actions of the SIS and the country’s Bureau for Migration and Asylum were illegal led to the initiation of a criminal case in Moldova in August 2019.
The former head of the SIS, Vasile Botnari, is the only Moldovan official criminally charged with “abuse of office” in this case. He pleaded guilty and was fined 88,000 lei (US$ 5,000) on 16 September 2020.
The individuals forcibly returned to Turkey included Orizont’s director Rıza Doğan. The rendition operation was carried out secretly, and the Moldovan government admitted that the detainees were transferred to Turkey six weeks later.