Committee against Torture
Sixt y-second session
Summary record of the 1575th meeting
Held at the Palais Wilson, Geneva, on Wednesday, 8 November 2017, at 3 p.m.
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention (continued)
Third periodic report of the Republic of Moldova (continued)
The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention (continued)
Third periodic report of the Republic of Moldova (continued) (CAT/C/MDA/3; CAT/C/MDA/Q/3)
In accordance with rule 73 of the Committee ’ s rules of procedure, Ms. Racu withdrew during the consideration of the report.
At the invitation of the Chair, the delegation of the Republic of Moldova took places at the Committee table.
Mr. Purice (Republic of Moldova) said that Transnistria was a self-proclaimed State in the territory of the Republic of Moldova in which a foreign army was illegally stationed. The human rights situation in Transnistria was particularly serious and affected the country as a whole. The Government would continue to make use of all available channels in its efforts to ensure the application of national legislation throughout the territory of the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, it would take steps to restore dialogue with key actors in Transnistria, to protect persons who faced a heightened risk of persecution under the de facto administration, including persons held in detention and patients in psychiatric and neurological institutions, and to strengthen the role of civil society in the region. Victims of torture were entitled to rehabilitation under Law No. 137 of 29 July 2016 on the rehabilitation of victims of crime, and psychological support services were also available to them.
Corruption remained a serious problem in the Republic of Moldova, but significant results had been achieved in bringing perpetrators to justice. None of the reported corruption-related crimes involving judges had concerned the examination of cases of torture, ill-treatment or discrimination. The National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Strategy 2017-2020 and two corruption-specific laws had recently been adopted. As part of the Government’s anti-corruption drive, over 200 public officials affiliated to parties from across the political spectrum had been charged with corruption-related offences, including four ministers or deputy ministers, nine judges and five prosecutors. The high-profile individuals convicted of corruption-related offences had included the former prime minister, who had been sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment.
Mr. Caracuian (Republic of Moldova) said that the authorities had launched a number of investigations in connection with the death of Andrei Braguta, including an investigation to establish whether the offence of torture had been committed. The prosecution of 3 police officers and 4 persons who had been held in custody alongside Braguta was under way, and 10 other police officers were currently under investigation. The decision to install video surveillance cameras in places of detention had ensured that high-quality evidence was available. The Braguta case had highlighted a number of systemic problems, including a lack of awareness of mental illness, but measures had since been taken to strengthen the safeguards in place to protect persons held in custody. The National Institute of Justice and the Prosecutor General’s Office had both issued guidelines in response to the case.
The Section for Combating Torture periodically reviewed the data collected on the crime of torture and monitored changes in, inter alia, the volume of complaints received, the seriousness of any injuries sustained by alleged victims and the identities of alleged perpetrators.
More than 70 criminal cases had been opened in connection with the events of April 2009. As it had been impossible to establish the identity of some of the perpetrators, 10 cases had since been closed and 30 suspended. However, more than 30 cases had gone to trial, and 22 final decisions had been rendered. One of the convicted perpetrators had been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, and two others had each been sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment. In addition, compensation had been paid to victims. Although the number of convictions secured in connection with the events of April 2009 was relatively small, the legal framework governing the crime of torture had since been strengthened considerably.
With regard to violence in the military, 54 cases of violence among soldiers of the same rank and 13 cases of violence against a subordinate had been recorded over a 12-month period in 2016/17. The Section for Combating Torture monitored such cases. Prosecutors were trained to assess testimony given by police officers. Although fines were listed among the applicable penalties for ill-treatment, they were typically large and were often accompanied by complementary penalties. Consideration was currently being given to a draft law that would introduce more stringent minimum penalties for ill-treatment. Within the framework of the European Union Association Agreement with the Republic of Moldova, a task force had been set up to develop guidelines on the use of physical force by law enforcement officials. Recent efforts to reform the prosecution service had included the introduction of a new mechanism for appointing prosecutors.
With the support of the European Union, the Atlas of Torture project had been launched in follow-up to recommendations made by the former Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak. The Government had provided training on the project for a large number of prosecutors.
Pursuant to article 7 of the Criminal Procedure Code, criminal procedure bodies were required to comply with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The Prosecutor General’s Office had a unit responsible for ensuring compliance with the case law of the European Court. It was possible that one of the reasons for the large number of complaints submitted to the European Court was a lack of confidence in the national legal system.
The 10 members of the Pantera special task unit of the Department of Penitentiary Institutions who had been accused of torture had been acquitted on procedural grounds. The Supreme Court of Justice had reopened the case in 2015, and it remained open. Two of the three police officers convicted of the ill-treatment of Viorica Plate had received prison sentences and had been barred from holding positions in law enforcement agencies for a fixed period, and the third had received a suspended sentence. The two cases opened in connection with the allegations made by Ivan Caracet, Ivan Orlioglo, Dmitrii Covic and Vitalii Orlioglo had been closed in 2009. The criminal investigation launched in connection with the allegations made by Adrian Repescu and Constantin Repesco had been suspended for lack of evidence, and the case was now considered closed. In the Semion Jereghi case, the sentences handed down to the seven convicted former employees of penitentiary institution No. 5 in Cahul had been commuted by the court of appeal and replaced with suspended sentences. The case was currently under consideration by the Supreme Court of Justice.
The Criminal Procedure Code stipulated that all information relating to torture should be submitted to the prosecutor for review. There had been a limited number of cases in which that provision had not been implemented. When a person was arrested, any injuries that he or she had sustained and the condition of his or her clothes were recorded on an official form. Medical examinations were conducted in accordance with the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol). Although the Republic of Moldova did not have a national centre for the rehabilitation of victims of torture, the Government worked closely with the non-governmental organization RCTV Memoria, which operated a rehabilitation centre for torture victims in the country.
Mr. Moga (Republic of Moldova) said that recent modifications to the Criminal Procedure Code concerning the treatment of suspected offenders had introduced a three-hour deadline following apprehension for the arrest to be documented, including details of the physical state of detainees and of their clothes. Detainees must be informed of the grounds for detention within 6 hours, or, exceptionally, 12 hours with the agreement of a judge. A request for the issuance of an arrest mandate must be sent to the judge at least 24 hours before expiry of the deadline for detention. Detainees must be informed of their rights — inter alia to undergo a medical examination, to remain silent, to be assisted by legal counsel and to make a statement in the presence of counsel — as detailed in a document drawn up by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with the Soros Foundation-Moldova and the Inspectorate General of Police, which was available in 11 languages. A task force that included representatives of those organizations and Amnesty International was drafting the operational procedure for conducting arrests. As a result of a decision by the Constitutional Court, the duration of an arrest warrant could no longer exceed 30 days, although the warrant could be renewed during the investigation and the trial for up to a maximum of 12 months. It was currently possible to ask for audio or video recordings to be made of the interview process; such recordings would become mandatory by 2022. Any statements obtained under torture or without the presence of a lawyer could not be admitted as evidence. Only accused persons, rather than suspects, could now be held in pretrial detention. In 2013, the Constitutional Court had ruled the use of chemical castration unconstitutional and the relevant legislation had been amended. It was therefore no longer used as a punishment.
The fall in the number of child victims of trafficking had been a result of the work of the police and NGOs. Ten perpetrators of such offences had been sentenced in 2015, 8 in 2016 and 19 in 2017. The action of NGOs had also been vital in bringing about change in 2016 to tighten legislation on domestic violence, enabling courts to issue protection orders within 24 hours and, since March 2017, giving police the power to remove perpetrators from the family environment to prevent repeated offences. The system was not yet perfect, as seen in the Eremia case, where the aggressor had been released from criminal responsibility because of the expiry of a deadline and remained in the police force. However, a recent government decision concerning the status of public officials meant there could be no recurrence of such a situation. In the area of sexual offences, the Government recognized the work of the NGO La Strada International, which had analysed judicial practice in a number of court decisions and identified gaps in the system. Training courses had been organized for investigating officers, prosecutors and judges with the support of the United States embassy. The Code of Criminal Procedure had been amended in 2012 to make special provision for court hearings involving minors as victims or witnesses in cases involving sexual offences, trafficking or domestic violence. The National Centre for Child Abuse Prevention and other NGOs were working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to draw up standards for the equipment and staff in special rooms, which would be similar to those in other European countries.
The Republic of Moldova had shed its Soviet heritage: the police force was no longer a branch of the army but, rather, served the public, protecting the rights and liberties of the people. Officers were judged not only by whether they were able to find the perpetrator of a crime, but also on their performance and the quality of their work. They were not allowed to use torture.
Ms. Miscoi (Republic of Moldova) said that the National Association of Women had been set up in November 2015 to promote a positive image of women, defend their rights and interests and expand the opportunities available to them, based on the principle of gender equality. It now had over 150 members. The Police Women’s Association, also set up recently, was establishing partnerships with UN-Women and the embassies of the United States and Sweden to help empower and encourage women police officers. Under the planned police reform, the proportion of women in the police force would rise from the current figure of 15.2 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020, with 50 per cent of those with officer rank being women.
The legislative initiative that would have prohibited lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender propaganda, which had been modelled on Russian legislation, had recently been rejected by Parliament. A gender equality strategy for 2017-2021 had been approved and the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalization of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, had been ratified in 2016, reaffirming the role of the State in preventing such offences. Training courses had been organized for police officers to enhance preventive capacity in dealing with such crimes.
The number of asylum applications had risen in 2014 and 2015 as a result of the problems in Ukraine and Syria, which accounted for 75 per cent of all those requesting asylum. As the situation in those countries had stabilized, the number of applications had fallen. There were currently 600 persons in the asylum system in the country, which had a total population of 3 million; the figure was similar to those for the Baltic States and indeed higher than for some other countries. In 2016-2017, 169 persons had applied for asylum; 37 of them, or 21 per cent, were persons from Ukraine, the Russian Federation and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States who had been in the country illegally and were held in the temporary detention centre of the Bureau for Migration and Asylum. Only five asylum seekers, or 3 per cent of the total, were held in a penal institution. Non-discrimination was enshrined in the country’s legislation and thus applied to asylum seekers. The country respected the principle of non-refoulement and did not expel anyone whose life might be threatened or who might become a victim of torture. The Ministry of Justice checked every request for extradition, whether there had been an application for humanitarian protection or not. There had been six asylum applications from Tajik nationals in 2011, one in 2012, three in 2013, none in 2014, one in 2015 and three in 2016, and half of the applicants had been granted some form of protection. In 2016-2017, three Tajik nationals had been held in custody and one in the temporary detention centre; none of them had applied for asylum.
Mr. Ardeleanu (Republic of Moldova) said that Parliament had adopted legislation implementing the recommendations of the international institutions concerning solitary confinement, setting the maximum permissible duration of such punishment at 72 hours for adults, with the exception of the military, and 24 hours for minors. Since 2012, solitary confinement cells in police stations had no longer been used for persons subject to pretrial detention. Such persons could be held only in penitentiary institutions. Under the European Union financial agreement supporting the police reform, a government plan of action to reduce the ill-treatment of persons held in police custody had been developed in collaboration with the Soros Foundation-Moldova and the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights. The plan provided for improvements to detention and transport conditions. Seven of the country’s 32 pretrial detention centres had been closed permanently and half of those remaining were temporarily closed because of unacceptable conditions. A budget of €2 million had been allocated for the renovation of 15 regional centres by 2020, and €8.4 million would be invested in the construction of new pretrial detention centres, starting in 2019.
The different possible interpretations of the role of the national preventive mechanism did not alter the Government’s objective of eradicating torture. A public consultation had been held with civil society in 2016 to approve the regulations governing the Council for the Prevention of Torture, whose remit was to protect individuals from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Funding for the Ombudsman’s Office had been increased from 6 million lei in 2015 to 10 million lei in 2017, clearly demonstrating the Government’s commitment to improving the monitoring of places of detention. With only some exceptions, all monitoring visit reports were posted on the website of the Ombudsman. Representatives of the Council had conducted monitoring visits to penitentiaries, pretrial detention centres, medical units and training centres and had never been prevented from doing their work.
Mr. Cojocaru (Republic of Moldova) said that, in 2016, the Government had approved a strategic plan for the prison service, one of the goals of which was to improve the organization and functioning of the prison system, with due consideration paid to the recommendations made in that regard by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). Another objective of the plan was to train prison staff and promote respect for detainees. A third goal was to modernize existing detention facilities and build two new ones: a prison near Chisinau and a detention centre in Balti. The measures were expected to increase prison capacity by 40 per cent. A fourth goal was to ensure the appropriate separation of detainees by category, while a fifth goal was to promote prison safety. A sixth goal was to provide inmates with high-quality medical services and full medical insurance, and ensure that prison medical staff were independent.
In August 2017, the Government had reached an agreement on the allocation of funds to implement the plan during the period 2018-2020. A number of other measures had been taken to prohibit torture and discrimination by prison staff, facilitate the submission of complaints by detainees, ensure that complaints were examined properly and enable detainees to challenge the decisions of prison administrators.
Reasons for prison overcrowding in the Republic of Moldova included the low capacity of detention facilities, the severity of the punishments handed down for certain crimes, the ineffective individualization of punishments, high rates of recidivism and the low number of inmates who benefited from early release. The Government was in the process of implementing an amnesty law applicable to over 3,000 individuals, and a bill had been drafted to amend the Criminal Procedure Code to provide for compensation mechanisms for victims of wrongful detention.
Mr. Svet (Republic of Moldova) said that a law on the treatment of tuberculosis had been adopted in 2012 and that decisions had been handed down in several cases involving persons who had avoided treatment. In Vorniceni, a number of hospital patients who had been avoiding treatment had received counselling and had subsequently signed an agreement to follow a course of treatment.
In 2016, a body had been set up to handle the procurement of medicines for the prison service. In terms of human resources in prisons, there were plans for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection to send young doctors to work in prisons.
There were eight rehabilitation centres for victims of domestic violence in the Republic of Moldova, a State-funded counselling centre for perpetrators and a hotline to help victims to obtain legal and psychological advice. In March 2015, a service had been established in Transnistria to offer housing to mother and child victims.
The Government had approved two action plans to support the Roma community, for the periods 2011-2015 and 2016-2020. The plans focused on mediation services, health, education, the mass media, administration, public order and documentation. Significant funds were being allocated to increasing the number of Roma mediators.
Regarding the staffing of psychiatric hospitals, the Government had adopted a human resources strategy for the health sector for the period 2014-2020.
Ms. Gaer said that she had yet to hear a response to her request for information on the measures taken to ensure that the residents of Transnistria enjoyed their human rights and on the role, if any, of Moldovan officials in the region. She wished to know, in that regard, what use had been made of the recommendations put forward by Thomas Hammarberg in his 2013 report on human rights in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova.
According to reports received by the Committee from civil society organizations, torture and impunity persisted in the State party, victims’ access to justice was limited, allegations of torture were not investigated effectively and there was an inability or unwillingness to identify perpetrators. Moreover, domestic law did not regulate in detail the conditions under which physical force and special means could be applied and the failure to obtain convictions in connection with the events of April 2009 had reinforced public distrust of the judicial, prosecutorial and law enforcement authorities. She would appreciate an explanation of the reasons for that lack of public trust and details of what was being done to rectify the situation. The delegation should comment on whether any steps had been or would be taken to encourage national courts to pay more attention to evidence gathered by civil society organizations, in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol.
Despite legislative amendments, the division of jurisdiction between the Prosecutor General’s Office and local prosecutors remained unclear. She would like to hear from the delegation about whether prosecutorial independence was undermined as a result and how the State party ensured the impartiality of investigations.
Turning to the Andrei Braguta case, she enquired about the extent to which national courts were willing to accept independent evidence and asked whether any thought had been given to strengthening the role of independent lawyers. Noting that Mr. Braguta’s psychological well-being appeared to have been neglected by a range of actors, from ambulance staff to judges, she invited the delegation to propose ways of preventing similar cases from occurring in future.
Mr. Heller Rouassant said that it would be helpful to know which authority was responsible for implementing Order No. 76/8 of 30 December 2013, on the investigation of allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and whether it would be possible to step up the implementation of the Order by means of a coordination mechanism.
In the light of the Andrei Braguta case, among others, there was a clear need to promote training for prison staff and police officers in how to deal with persons with mental disabilities or experiencing a mental health crisis. Priority should be given to providing training on the Istanbul Protocol to prison medical staff, granting the national preventive mechanism greater access to psychiatric institutions and building the capacity of prison administrators to stifle the influence of criminal subcultures.
According to reports, the conditions in many police detention facilities were deplorable and the vast majority of cases of torture in police custody took place during the preliminary investigation stage. What measures, if any, did the State party intend to adopt in that respect?
He would welcome information on any plans to amend Law No. 52 on the Ombudsman, which had been criticized by the Council for the Prevention of Torture and the Ombudsman’s Office on the grounds that it was poorly worded and risked leading to a duplication of work.
Ms. Belmir said that she would be grateful for clarification of the situation concerning the transfer of the management of pretrial detention centres from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice. She wondered whether the training seminars and modules designed to combat the criminal subculture and unofficial hierarchy among prison detainees — as mentioned in the State party’s report to CPT — had been implemented and whether the problem had been solved. Lastly, she asked whether psychiatric health practitioners visited places of detention to evaluate the mental state of detainees.
Mr. Hani said that he was grateful for the information provided on the number of refugees and asylum seekers from Syria and Ukraine. However, given the continued detention of asylum seekers, he wished to know whether the Government was considering alternative measures to deprivation of liberty pending the outcome of asylum decisions. Moreover, he asked whether, prior to deportation, the Government evaluated the risk of rejected applicants being subjected to torture in their country of origin, in accordance with its obligations under article 3 of the Convention.
The trend for longer custodial sentences and the fact that few detainees were granted early release was another cause for concern. Accordingly, he asked whether the State party was considering recourse to alternatives to deprivation of liberty as a possible solution to the problem of prison overcrowding, which would only be compounded by longer sentences. Lastly, considering that the Committee had received a credible report from civil society that linked corruption in the judiciary to the low success rate in the prosecution of torture cases, he asked what steps the Government had taken to fight corruption and ensure that corrupt practices did not hinder investigations or dissuade victims from filing complaints.
The Chair, welcoming the information that the right to financial compensation for the victims of torture would come into effect on 1 January 2018 in accordance with Law No. 137 on the rehabilitation of victims of crime, said that he would be interested to know what compensation amounts victims might receive. Did the State party consider that with the adoption of Law No. 137 it met its obligations under article 14 of the Convention or were further measures envisaged? He would also like to know how torture cases were referred to the Prosecutor General’s Office and who was responsible for deciding that ill-treatment had occurred and alerting the prosecutor.
Noting that criminal prosecution officers were required to report suspected cases of abuse or injury, he expressed concern that, as police officers, they were unlikely to denounce their colleagues. In that context, he would be grateful for information on the actual number of abuse cases reported by examining physicians and criminal prosecution officers. Finally, he asked whether the Government provided financial support under its memorandum of understanding with RCTV Memoria with a view to the fulfilment of its obligations under article 14.
Mr. Purice (Republic of Moldova) said that the Government continued to devote considerable efforts to addressing the Transnistria question, and had made progress in tackling the political corruption whereby officials in previous administrations had derived illegal financial benefit from that unfortunate situation. However, the “5 + 2” format of the negotiations with Transnistria had proved ineffective and needed to be changed. The so-called state of Transnistria was a totalitarian entity that engaged in persecution and whose institutions were unrecognized and unofficial; in dealing with that regime the Government had to be mindful of its reputation and its international obligations. During a joint work panel set up for the prevention of crime, all constructive proposals had been rejected by the Transnistrian participants, who had refused to negotiate unless certain corruption cases were dropped. That situation left the Government with no option but to safeguard and promote democracy on the right bank of the Dnestr, while encouraging residents on the left bank to apply to State institutions for the protection of their rights and freedoms. The Government requested the support of strategic partners and influential countries to put an end to the conflict and sought the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from Transnistria.
Mr. Caracuian (Republic of Moldova) said that in 2010 the structure of the Prosecutor General’s Office had been modified and special prosecutors in charge of examining torture and ill-treatment had been introduced. To ensure their impartiality and independence, those prosecutors did not take part in any joint activities with the police, prison officers or any other law enforcement officials, but reported directly to the Prosecutor General. Thanks to their efforts to train new prosecutors entering the profession and their high level of responsibility and professionalism, the number of complaints against prosecutors was falling. Their decisions could only be overruled by their hierarchical superiors or judges in exceptional cases. No complaints had been received over prosecutors’ failure to act; the Braguta case was unusual in that it had occurred at the weekend and had only been reported to the prosecutor three days later.
Mr. Ardeleanu (Republic of Moldova) said that pretrial detention centres were the responsibility of either the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Justice; the two ministries had set up a panel to examine the possibility of transferring the management of all centres to the Ministry of Justice, but had concluded that conditions for such a measure were not yet in place. However, financial resources from the European Union would be deployed for the modernization of pretrial detention centres.
Mr. Sveţ (Republic of Moldova) said that emergency medical assistance and health care were provided to all detainees without exception under the compulsory health insurance system. The treatment of mentally ill patients in the Republic of Moldova was undergoing a paradigm shift based on the country’s adherence to a number of international protocols. Since 2013, 34 mental health centres had been opened so that patients in need could receive assistance within the community, while the capacity of psychiatric units had been reduced to approximately 1,400 beds, compared with 2,000 in 2010; the number of admissions to psychiatric units had also fallen.
Mr. Moga (Republic of Moldova) said that the Government was examining measures for the decriminalization of certain offences, which would bring down the number of persons held in detention centres. Details of recently adopted laws concerning alternative measures to deprivation of liberty would be submitted to the Committee shortly.
Mr. Cojocaru (Republic of Moldova) said that the Government had already taken several measures to address the existence of an unofficial hierarchy among prisoners. It had also taken steps to ensure that medical staff would report to separate line managers rather than prison administrators, and so would be completely independent. Prosecutors received information about injuries deriving from possible torture or ill-treatment directly from professionals based in the penitentiary and not from the prison administration.
Legislation had been put in place that provided for the compensation of victims of torture whose article 3 rights had been violated. Courts were able to reduce offenders’ sentences by between 10 and 30 per cent if it was found that they had suffered a violation while in detention. Where sentence reductions were not applicable, the individuals in question were provided with compensation of approximately €5 for each day that they were subjected to improper conditions of detention.
Ms. Miscoi (Republic of Moldova) said that Moldovan legislation did not restrict the rights of foreign citizens to apply for asylum, regardless of whether they were being held in detention. Article 10 of Law No. 270 on asylum prohibited discrimination against asylum seekers and guaranteed their protection regardless of race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion or political opinions. Article 54 of the Law stipulated that asylum applications could be submitted from inside a prison or pretrial detention centre, which would forward them to the Bureau for Migration and Asylum. Article 59 of Law No. 200 on foreigners in the Republic of Moldova stipulated that foreigners could be deported only on the basis of readmission protocols agreed with other countries. Asylum applications were considered individually and decisions could be contested before the courts; rejected applications implied that the applicants faced no risk of persecution in their country of origin and were able to return there or travel elsewhere.
Mr. Purice (Republic of Moldova) thanked the Committee for the constructive dialogue and said that his delegation would respond to unanswered questions in writing within the following 48 hours. The Government would consider the valuable observations and comments that the Committee had provided. Despite the difficult social, economic and geopolitical context that the country faced, the Republic of Moldova would remain a transparent, accountable and proactive partner in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The meeting rose at 5.50 p.m.