Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year.
The government made no progress in holding officials accountable for the security force crackdown on postelection demonstrations in 2009 that resulted in three deaths (see section 1.d.).
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While the law prohibits such practices, reports of physical abuse and torture by police continued. The Prosecutor General’s Office reported a decrease in torture and inhuman treatment cases due to a zero-tolerance policy and social campaigns promoted in law enforcement institutions and detention facilities. Physical abuse, including inhuman and degrading treatment, continued to be a problem in prisons and psychiatric institutions.
Under the criminal code, conviction for torture carries up to a 10-year prison sentence. Persons found guilty of torturing minors, pregnant women, or persons with disabilities or of committing acts of torture that lead to death or suicide may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison without the possibility of amnesty. A deliberate act by a public official that leads to physical or psychological suffering is punishable by imprisonment for two to six years or a fine of 7,500 to 9,900 lei ($375 to $495) and a ban on holding public office. The law prohibits courts from granting suspended sentences to persons convicted of torture.
During the first half of the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office received 331 allegations of torture and mistreatment, 151 of which involved criminal police, 42 traffic police, and 68 other police units, including the Carabinieri (a special police force responsible for public order and border policing) and customs officers. Prosecutors initiated 63 criminal cases and sent 17 cases to court. Police reportedly applied torture as a means of intimidation to obtain evidence and confessions, and to inflict punishment for alleged offenses. Most of the alleged incidents occurred on the street or in public places, followed by police stations and detention facilities. Psychiatric institutions registered two cases of alleged torture, while educational facilities registered six. Most incidents involved beatings (231 allegations), followed by threats or other forms of psychological abuse (37 allegations), and special methods, such as beatings using batons, water bottles, and books (16 allegations). Police allegedly continued to use torture methods that did not leave physical traces. Experts noted that psychological torture and humiliating treatment were common in penitentiaries and psychiatric institutions.
The human rights ombudsman reported most allegations of torture and inhuman detention conditions occurred at Penitentiary No. 13 in Chisinau, Penitentiary No. 2 in Lipcani, Penitentiary No. 15 in Cricova, and Penitentiary No. 18 in Branesti. The ombudsman’s national antitorture mechanism was not operational during the year due to a reform of the ombudsman’s office following the enactment of the new Law on the People’s Ombudsman.
Despite a decrease in alleged torture cases, human rights experts noted that the number of cases was higher than reported due to individuals not reporting cases of torture because of a lack of trust in the justice sector. The high number of acquittals in torture cases highlighted deficiencies in the law and case proceedings.
Authorities continued to downgrade some incidents of alleged police torture to lesser offenses, such as abuse of power, for which the penalties are lower and the statute of limitations is only three months. This practice allowed judges to issue suspended sentences based on the “good character” of the offending officers or to dismiss cases if the statute of limitations expired.
In May 2014 the Chisinau Appeals Court sentenced police officer Radu Starinschi to two years in prison for the torture of Sergiu Cretu, a protester detained in Chisinau following the 2009 parliamentary elections. In June 2015, based on a Constitutional Court ruling that found the cancellation of the statute of limitations unconstitutional, the appeals court reviewed its decision and ordered the suspension of the sentence’s execution until a final Supreme Court of Justice ruling. In December 2015 the Supreme Court maintained the acquittal decision of the lower court. Radu Starinschi was also able to claim moral damages from the state amounting to 36,000 lei ($1,800).
Humiliating and degrading treatment of patients confined in psycho-neurological institutions remained a major problem. Following her most recent visit to the country in 2015, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, noted some findings of concern regarding persons with disabilities in institutions, including residential psychiatric facilities and psycho-neurological residential institutions. The rapporteur noted that authorities held children and adults with disabilities–sometimes for their entire lives–in inhuman conditions and neglected and treated them in inhuman ways. There were also allegations of physical, mental, and sexual abuse perpetrated in these institutions.
According to the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights (IDOM), residents of residential psychiatric facilities and psycho-neurological institutions were subject to rape, physical abuse, deprivation of liberty, and forced medication.
There were credible reports of forced medication, forced abortion, work exploitation, and physical and sexual abuse in psychiatric hospitals under the Ministry of Health. Legal proceedings continued in the case of a doctor at an institution in Balti arrested in 2013 for the serial rape, sexual assault, and abuse of patients. An investigation showed that the doctor performed 18 forced abortions on the victims of his sexual assaults, all patients with mental disabilities. Authorities found one of the 17 victims identified during the investigations dead in 2014, while a second died under unknown circumstances that same year. The doctor remained under house arrest during the trial proceedings. In October a court found the doctor guilty of numerous counts of rape and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.
The Prosecutor General’s Office reported an increase in abuses committed in the army. In 2015 military prosecutors recorded 502 offenses in the army and initiated 224 criminal cases, 171 of which were military offenses and 43 under civilian law. Of these, prosecutors investigated 35 cases of violence against conscripts in the army and two cases of rape.
According to a report by the human rights NGO Promo-Lex, there was no mechanism to investigate alleged acts of torture in Transnistria. According to the report, there were no criminal cases for “providing statements under coercion by means of violence, humiliation, or torture” during the three years since the Transnistrian “investigation committee” was established in 2012. Promo-Lex noted that authorities perpetrated most inhuman and degrading treatment in the Transnistrian region to obtain self-incriminating confessions. Promo-Lex continued to receive complaints from alleged victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment applied by Transnistrian security forces. In one case, Alexandr Lipovcenco, a young Ukrainian from Dnestrovsk, was sentenced to three years in prison for “extremism” because he wrote in an old notebook that only UN forces could bring order to Transnistria and complained of beatings and inhuman detention conditions while being held in a cell with eight other inmates.
Hazing and humiliating treatment in the de facto Transnistrian army continued during the year. In January a student from the Tiraspol military academy allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself. The young man’s relatives challenged the reported cause of death, but authorities did not conduct a proper investigation or make public the cause of death.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in most prisons and detention centers, including those in Transnistria, remained harsh and did not improve significantly during the year.
Physical Conditions: Prisons and detention centers were overcrowded. As of October, the total number of prisoners and pretrial detainees was 7,872, with 5,721 inmates in prisons and 2,151 individuals in pretrial detention centers. The official maximum capacity was 6,019 inmates for prisons and 2,635 for pretrial detention centers, but human rights monitors asserted that the official maximum capacity exceeded required standards. Overcrowding remained a problem in most detention facilities.
During its latest monitoring visit to the country in September 2015, a delegation of the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted it received a number of allegations of physical mistreatment of juvenile inmates by staff at Goian Prison for disobedient behavior. The alleged mistreatment consisted of slaps, punches, kicks, and truncheon blows. The CPT also found evidence of a number of cases of prisoner violence at Soroca Prison and, to a lesser extent, at Chisinau and Rezina Prisons.
The human rights ombudsman made 68 preventive and monitoring visits to penitentiaries, psychiatric institutions, and army facilities in 2015. As in previous years, the main deficiencies found included overcrowding of detention facilities, insufficient lighting, poor sanitary conditions, insufficient food for those in pretrial detention facilities, and deficient medical care for detainees. The ombudsman alerted the Prosecutor General’s Office to two potential criminal cases and issued 15 recommendations to the institutions that committed the abuses.
According to the 2015 ombudsperson report and human rights NGO monitoring, the most significant problems in penitentiaries and pretrial detention facilities were overcrowding, lack of medical care, poor lighting, poor ventilation, deficient meals, and poor hygiene and sanitary conditions. Penitentiary No.13 in Chisinau had the worst conditions. In more than 15 cases in 2015, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that detention conditions at Penitentiary No. 13 were contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights due to extreme overcrowding, unsanitary conditions/hygiene, and low quantity and quality of food. In December 2015 the people’s ombudsman issued a statement calling on authorities to close the penitentiary due to inhuman detention conditions.
A number of high-profile detainees held in the Penitentiary No. 13 in Chisinau complained of detainment in cells located in the prison basement that did not meet national or international standards. Cells were overcrowded (in some cells, up to 16 inmates were placed in an area measuring 258 square feet), unhygienic (toilets separated from the sleeping area by only a curtain; mold and dirt on the walls), and lacked ventilation, natural light, or permanent access to water for personal hygiene.
During its 2015 visit, the CPT noted that living space frequently failed to meet the national standard of at least 43 square feet per prisoner in most of the prisons it visited. In particular, the level of overcrowding at the Chisinau and Soroca prisons reached disturbing proportions. The detention conditions in the two prisons were inadequate, with very poor states of repair and hygiene, limited access to natural light, insalubrious sanitary facilities, infestation by vermin, and worn-out and filthy mattresses, which the CPT considered inhuman and degrading treatment. The CPT also found that the prison administration made insufficient contributions to the purchase of medication and that facilities often relied on humanitarian aid and support from the inmates’ families.
The ombudsman noted that the situation in police station detention facilities did not change during the year. The office reported inadequate conditions for food distribution; inadequate sanitary conditions in the showers; inadequate health-care facilities; and a lack of pillows, mattresses, and clean bed linen and clothing. Detention facilities, located mostly in the basements of police stations, generally lacked access to natural light, adequate ventilation, and sewage systems. Inmates had a daily food budget of approximately 20 lei (one dollar). Human rights NGOs also noted facility staff did not provide pretrial detainees meals on the days of their court hearings–a potentially severe problem for detainees transported long distances to stand trial, which in some cases meant they received no food for a day. Transportation conditions for pretrial detainees were also deficient.
Health care was inadequate at most penitentiaries. Government regulations require authorities to separate individuals suspected of suffering from tuberculosis from the other detainees. Authorities often co-located individuals with various other diseases with persons with an unconfirmed diagnosis of tuberculosis, potentially exposing them to infection.
Police mistreatment of detainees remained a major problem in Transnistria. Detention conditions in the region did not improve during the year. The local ombudsman received 92 complaints from detainees in 2015. Most referred to excessive detention time, lack of adequate health care, and poor detention conditions. The ombudsman also reported that 59 inmates were infected with open tuberculosis and 141 had HIV/AIDS. He also noted an increase in the number of detainees, which led to overcrowding and worsening of detention conditions.
Administration: Internal investigation procedures in the penitentiary system were weak, and detainees continued to have restricted access to complaint mechanisms. While detainees generally had the right to submit complaints to judicial authorities, some detainees reported censorship and punishment by prison personnel or other inmates before or after filing complaints.
Prisoners in the initial period of their sentences and those serving life sentences did not have the right to long-term visits. Detainees and their relatives reported a burdensome process for obtaining visit permits, which often impeded such visits. In September the Union of Lawyers sent a complaint to the Ministry of Justice concerning restrictions on lawyers’ access to their clients in Penitentiary no. 13 under new rules adopted by the prison administration that imposed artificial barriers to visiting prison inmates. In response to the complaint, the ministry reversed the rules. On November 10, the director of Penitentiary no.13 was sanctioned for not allowing visits to a former prime minister detained at the facility, despite earlier court orders. The next day, the prison director resigned.
Authorities reportedly applied random quarantine checks and access restrictions on the family and attorneys of persons who were detained in connection with the high-profile bank fraud case.
Reliable information on the administration of prisons in the Transnistria region was generally not available. Transnistrian authorities reported approximately 3,000 persons were detained in the region.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted some independent monitoring of prison conditions by local and international human rights observers, and prison officials generally allowed observers to interview inmates in private. Attempts by Amnesty International, the ombudsman, and human rights NGOs to visit detainees held in connection with the country’s bank fraud case were frequently unsuccessful.
There were no reports of any independent monitoring of the detention facilities in the Transnistrian region during the year. While the local ombudsman created an advisory group designed to serve as a monitoring mechanism, local authorities denied the group access to three detention institutions under the pretext that it was impossible to guarantee their physical safety during meetings with prisoners.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but there were cases when authorities failed to observe these prohibitions.
According to Promo-Lex reports, police routinely detained persons sought by unrecognized Transnistrian authorities and transferred them to Transnistrian law enforcement agencies without due process. Moldova’s courts previously ruled the 1999 agreement establishing such cooperation to be unconstitutional, but the practice continued informally.
In Transnistria, authorities reportedly engaged in the arbitrary arrest and detention of individuals with impunity. There were cases of Transnistrian authorities detaining individuals on fabricated charges without due process.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The national police force is the primary law enforcement body and is responsible for internal security, public order, traffic, migration, and border enforcement. It is subdivided into criminal and public order police and is subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The agencies under the ministry are the General Police Inspectorate, Border Police, the Civil Protection Service, Carabinieri, and the Bureau for Migration and Asylum. The ministry made little progress in implementing reforms to combat abuse and corruption.
A law adopted in June and enacted in August reformed the structure of the Prosecutor General’s Office. The new law governs the activity of two specialized prosecution offices, the anticorruption prosecution office and the prosecutor’s office on combatting organized crime and dealing with special cases (e.g. fighting organized crime, terrorism, and torture). In line with the new law, on November 25, parliament adopted amendments to the constitution that changed the process for appointing the prosecutor general. Under the amendments, the Superior Council of Prosecutors nominates candidates for prosecutor general and the president appoints one of the candidates to a single seven-year mandate. Previously, parliament had this appointment authority.
The government made no progress in holding officials accountable for the security force crackdown on postelection demonstrations in 2009 that resulted in three deaths. In April the Prosecutor General’s Office presented statistics on cases related to the 2009 riots. The prosecutors opened 71 criminal cases, including 42 for alleged torture, 19 for abuse of power, and 10 for other offenses. The Prosecutor General’s Office finalized and sent to court 28 cases against 47 police officers. The judges issued irreversible decisions in 17 cases against 27 law enforcement employees. The courts acquitted 14 police officers and issued two administrative fines and 10 suspended sentences. The Prosecutor General’s Office noted a delay in the examination of 13 cases sent to courts in 2009 and 2010 against 24 police officers.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law allows judges to issue arrest warrants based on evidence from prosecutors. Authorities must promptly inform detainees of the reasons for their arrest and describe the charges against them. Authorities may detain suspects without charge for 72 hours. In its most recent study on safeguarding procedural guarantees in the pretrial stage of the criminal process, Amnesty International found serious violations of procedural norms during police apprehension and pretrial detention. According to the study, in most cases, authorities summoned persons to the police station without a citation or took them into police custody without informing them of the charges against them. In many cases, authorities forced or intimidated the detained individuals into providing confessions for the alleged crime in the absence of a lawyer. In some cases, the questioning in police custody exceeded the legally allowed three hours. Other violations included the purposeful altering of protocols, detention in police custody that exceeded legal time limits, and denial of the right to a lawyer or communication with relatives.
Once charged, a detainee may be released pending trial. The law provides for bail, but authorities generally did not use it due to a lack of practical mechanisms for implementation. In lieu of confinement, the courts can also implement judicial controls in the form of house arrest or travel restrictions.
Detainees have the right to a defense attorney, but at times authorities restricted this right. In some cases, authorities did not grant detainees access to a lawyer until 24 hours after detention and often informed detainees of the charges against them without a lawyer present. The government required the local bar association to provide representation to indigent defendants, but the government frequently delayed reimbursements of legal fees. Indigent defendants often did not have adequate counsel.
Pretrial Detention: The law permits pretrial detention for up to 30 days. The courts may extend pretrial detention upon the request of prosecutors, submitted at the end of each 30-day period, for up to 12 months, depending on the severity of the charges. Pretrial detention lasting several months was common. In February the Constitutional Court ruled that law enforcement agencies could not hold citizens in preventative detention for more than 30 days with a warrant or for more than 12 months cumulatively. The court also ruled that court decisions imposing 90 days of preventative arrest at a time were illegal.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law provides that persons who are arrested or detained are entitled to challenge the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention in court and obtain prompt release and compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
While the law provides for an independent judiciary, instances of government officials failing to respect judicial independence remained a problem. Official pressure on judges and corruption in the judiciary continued to be serious problems. There were credible reports that local prosecutors and judges sought bribes in return for reducing charges or sentences. Judges often failed to assign cases randomly or use recording equipment in the courtroom. In 2015 parliament amended the criminal and contravention code to remove legal inconsistencies in the mandatory audio and video recording of court hearings. Very few courtrooms, however, actually used such equipment, notwithstanding the removal of ambiguities in the law.
According to the study Perceptions on Human Rights in Moldova conducted by the UN in partnership with the ombudsman’s office and the Council to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination and Ensure Equality, 68 percent of general public respondents believed that the right to a fair trial existed to a small extent or not at all. Many of the respondents also believed that justice was selective and affected by corruption.
During the year the public and the press did not have access to court proceedings in several high-profile cases involving a former prime minister, present and former government officials, and bank officials. Lawyers complained of violations of defendants’ rights to a fair public trial.
Positive steps during the year, such as the adoption of a new law reforming the Prosecutor General’s Office and the establishment of a National Commission of Integrity to deal with conflicts of interest and declaration of assets, were offset by the continued lack of judicial independence and corruption in the court system.
Inspector judges are responsible for enforcing a judicial code of ethics and investigating cases of judicial misconduct or ethical breaches to the Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM). In 2015 the disciplinary board of the SCM initiated 26 disciplinary actions and issued five warnings. It examined 15 other outstanding cases and issued three reprimands, three warnings, and one recommendation for dismissal. An anticorruption web portal noted, however, that in 2015 the SCM’s Legal Inspection Office rejected over 70 percent of appeals it received alleging violations by judges.
Although the law provides defendants in criminal cases the presumption of innocence, authorities did not always respect this presumption. On occasion, judges’ remarks jeopardized the presumption of innocence.
Defendants have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them and to a fair and public trial without undue delay. Prosecutors present cases to a judge or panel of judges. Defendants have the right to a lawyer and to attend proceedings, confront witnesses, and present evidence. The law requires the local bar association to provide an attorney to indigent defendants. The practice of appointing temporary defense lawyers without allowing them to prepare adequately was common and infringed upon the right to legal assistance.
The law prescribes high standards for pro bono attorneys and defendants’ access to attorneys. Law enforcement, however, did not always enforce these provisions. In most cases, pro bono attorneys were poorly prepared and not motivated to work on cases. Defendants can request postponement of a hearing if attorneys need additional time for preparation. Interpretation is provided upon request and was generally available. Hearings can be delayed if more time is needed to find interpreters for certain uncommon languages. Defendants are entitled to access government-held evidence. During the year, however, lawyers of high profile defendants complained of restrictions imposed by prosecutors on their access to evidence. Defendants may refuse to provide evidence against themselves or to self-incriminate.
The law provides a right to appeal convictions to a higher court.
In June the president enacted a law to reorganize the court system and reduce the 44 existing courts to 15 by 2027. The law also provides for setting up one central court in the capital by merging all district courts in the city as well as abolishing the military court and the district economic court.
In Transnistria, there were credible reports during the year that authorities disregarded trial procedures and denied defendants a fair trial.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
Grigore Petrenco, leader of the opposition Our Home Moldova Party, and five other activists remained in detention awaiting trial for allegedly inciting mass civil unrest in September 2015. In April the Court of Appeals modified their confinement to judicial control, starting with house arrest and eventually downgraded to a ban on leaving the country and participating in protests. The court continued to extend judicial control every 30 days for the remainder of the year. It also repeatedly rejected requests submitted by Petrenco to leave the country for his son’s medical treatment abroad.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The law allows citizens to seek damages in civil courts for human rights violations. Under the constitution, the government is liable when authorities violate a person’s rights by administrative means, fail to reply in a timely manner to an application for relief, or commit misconduct during a prosecution. Judgments awarded in such cases were often small and not enforced. Once all domestic avenues for legal remedy are exhausted, individuals may appeal cases involving the government’s alleged violation of rights provided under the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
While the government declared a zero-tolerance policy toward torture, victims of alleged torture frequently lacked access to effective judicial remedies, especially in cases involving mistreatment in penal institutions.
A mediation law establishes an alternative mechanism for voluntarily resolving civil and criminal cases and sets forth rules for professional mediators, but the country lacked an implementation mechanism.
As of July, there were 1,330 cases pending against the country in the ECHR. Most complaints concerned detention conditions, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, failure to carry out judgments, pretrial detention issues, and the right to a fair trial. In 2015 the court delivered 19 judgments against the state and ordered the government to pay over 6.7 million lei ($335,000) in damages. During the first seven months of the year, the court issued 24 rulings against the state. The government generally complied with court orders promptly. In 2010 to 2015, the government paid over 48 million lei ($2.4 million) in damages due to ECHR rulings against the state.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence unless necessary to ensure state security, economic welfare, or public order or to prevent crimes. There were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.