While the law prohibits such practices, reports of physical abuse and torture by police continued. Police abuse slightly decreased but remained a problem. Physical abuse, including inhuman and degrading treatment, also reportedly continued 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, persons with disabilities, or 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 of two to six years or a fine of 7,500 to 9,900 lei ($373 to $493) and a ban on holding public office. The law prohibits courts from granting suspended sentences to persons convicted of torture.
A report this year by the Prosecutor General’s Office showed the lowest number of torture cases within a one-year period in the past four years. According to the report, law enforcement officers perpetrated most alleged acts of torture.
During the first half of the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office received 319 allegations of torture and mistreatment, 120 of which involved criminal police, 48 traffic police, and 87 other police units, including the Carabinieri (a special police force responsible for public order and border policing), and customs officers. Prosecutors initiated 53 criminal cases and sent 22 cases to court. In 10 cases the victims were minors. Police officials purportedly applied torture to obtain confessions, punish the victim for an offense or alleged offense, show seniority and authority over the victims, to intimidate, or discriminate. Most of the alleged incidents occurred on the street or in public places, followed by police stations and detention facilities. Psychiatric institutions registered two torture cases, and educational facilities registered another two. Most incidents involved beatings (199 allegations), followed by threats or other forms of psychological abuse (45 allegations), and special methods, such as batons, water bottles, and books (17 allegations). Police 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 made 128 preventive and monitoring visits to penitentiaries, psychiatric institutions, and army facilities during the period of January-November 2014. The main deficiencies found included overcrowding of the 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 four potential criminal cases and issued 22 recommendations to the institutions that committed the violations. The ombudsman reported most allegations of torture and inhuman detention conditions at Penitentiary No. 13 in Chisinau, Penitentiary No. 2 in Lipcani, Penitentiary No. 15 in Cricova, and Penitentiary No. 18 in Branesti.
In January the Supreme Court of Justice sentenced two police officers to five years’ imprisonment and a three-year ban from holding office within law enforcement. In 2008 the officers applied torture to obtain confessions from a victim in a police station. The two officers severely beat the victim and made him sign a confession of guilt. Authorities sent the case to court but delayed it for multiple years. In 2013 a lower court acquitted the two defendants. Prosecutors appealed the ruling, and in 2014 the Chisinau Court of Appeals issued a five-year suspended sentence with three years’ probation. Prosecutors appealed the decision again, and in January the Supreme Court of Justice issued the final ruling on the case.
Despite a slight decrease in torture cases, impunity for torture and inhuman or degrading treatment remained a norm during the year.
Authorities downgraded to lesser offenses some incidents of alleged police torture, 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 had expired.
Despite some progress, authorities failed to prosecute high-level officials involved in police abuse related to the 2009 postelection events. On March 30, the Chisinau Court of Appeals sentenced police officer Ion Perju to 10 years in prison for exceeding authority and intentional infliction of serious bodily harm that led to the death of protester Valeriu Boboc in 2009. Police did not immediately take Perju into custody, and he fled the courtroom before the sentence was read, and he remained at large at year’s end. His lawyer filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice, which on December 15 upheld the lower court decision.
In February the Court of Appeals issued a two-year suspended sentence to former Chisinau police commissioner Vladimir Botnari and a four-year prison sentence to former minister of internal affairs Gheorghe Papuc for actions and omissions related to 2009 riots that led to police officers allegedly torturing 91 persons. On June 30, the Supreme Court of Justice acquitted Botnari and fined Papuc for their roles in the events. The Prosecutor General’s Office stated they considered the acquittal of the former officials unjustified and that the Supreme Court of Justice did not act in accordance with procedural law and other relevant requirements, specifically as the court examined the case without summoning the parties involved. Although the Supreme Court of Justice decision is irrevocable, the Prosecutor General’s Office stated they would consider intervening by extraordinary measures.
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, however, based on a Constitutional Court ruling, which declared 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.
According to both the ombudsman for psychiatric institutions and international monitors, humiliating and degrading treatment of patients confined in psycho-neurological institutions remained a major problem. Following her most recent visit to the country in September, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, commended the legislative framework on the social inclusion of persons with disabilities but also noted some findings of concern regarding persons with disabilities in institutional settings, including residential psychiatric facilities and psychoneurological residential institutions. The rapporteur noted that authorities locked up children and adults with disabilities--sometimes for their entire lives--in inhuman conditions and also neglected and treated them in inhuman ways. There were also allegations of physical, mental, and sexual abuse perpetrated in these institutions.
An April report by the Legal Assistance Center for Persons with Disabilities noted that psychoneurological residential institutions lacked clear guidelines for resident density. For example, in the Balti psychoneurological hospital, authorities placed only two to three residents in one ward, whereas a similar-sized ward in the psychoneurological hospital in Badiceni hosted up to 20 persons. According to the report, 10 percent of the residents in the psychoneurological residential institutions did not have government-issued identification cards, preventing them from having access to rights such as voting and marriage as well as services such as a bank account. Additionally, the residents did not benefit directly from social monetary benefits, which authorities transferred directly to the accounts of medical institutions instead.
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 the institution in Balti arrested in 2013 for the serial 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 dead one of the 17 victims identified during the investigations in January 2014, while a second died under unknown circumstances in April 2014. The doctor remained under house arrest.
In 2014, in response to detainee complaints, authorities charged seven employees of Penitentiary No. 5 in Cahul, including the prison director, with torture and the application of inhuman and degrading treatment. According to military prosecutors, the employees used torture against three detainees, including two minors, between 2010 and 2012. The prison director allegedly threatened the detainees with physical reprimand and told them to withdraw their complaint and change their testimony, leading prosecutors to transfer the detainees to other detention facilities. In September the Military Court sentenced the prison director and four employees to six years and five years imprisonment, respectively. The court issued fines to the other two prison employees. All seven received a five-year ban from holding office within the penitentiary system.
In 2014 military prosecutors recorded 370 offenses in the army and initiated 168 criminal cases, 106 of which on military offenses, and 48 civilian law. Most offenses included hazing (37 cases), followed by desertions (30 cases), violence against conscripts in the army (25 cases), abuse of power (seven cases), and other offenses (seven cases).
In October military prosecutors announced the initiation of six criminal cases against hazing and abuse of power within the armed forces. On December 16, the Chisinau Court of Appeals sentenced a service member from the Chisinau Guard Regiment to two years imprisonment for ill-treating four fellow service members. According to the prosecutors, the service member applied violence to the victims for allegedly not properly saluting, working too slowly, or not reporting when finishing their work.
According to a 2014 report released by the human rights NGO Promo-Lex, the use of torture and inhuman treatment by the representatives of the de facto Transnistrian authorities was the norm, and Transnistrian society’s tolerance towards torture contributed to its prevalence. Promo-Lex noted authorities perpetrated most inhuman and degrading treatment in the Transnistrian region to obtain self-incriminating confessions. Another concern Pro-Lex highlighted was the so-called educational/instructive cells, where detainees, instigated by the prison guards, applied physical or sexual abuse against fellow inmates to obtain confessions.
Hazing and humiliating treatment in the de facto Transnistrian army continued during the year. According to deserters who fled the region, hazing was a norm, and authorities constantly subjected younger conscripts to degrading and humiliating treatment. Officers reportedly ignored the phenomenon and did not attempt to remedy the situation.
In June human rights organizations appealed to the authorities to provide for the rehabilitation of torture victims from the Transnistrian region. The NGOs highlighted the lack of monitoring or protection mechanisms for torture victims in the region.