Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While the law prohibits such practices, reports continued of physical abuse and torture, mainly in detention facilities and psychiatric institutions. Cases of mistreatment in police stations and torture cases in detention facilities decreased due to a zero-tolerance policy, social campaigns promoted in law enforcement institutions and detention facilities, and more thorough monitoring by relevant international organizations and civil society. According to the human rights organization Promo-Lex, of the over 600 complaints of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment yearly received by the Prosecutor General’s Office, criminal proceedings were initiated in only 20 percent of the cases.
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 57,500 to 67,500 lei ($2,875 to $3,375) and a ban on holding public office. The law prohibits courts from granting suspended sentences to persons convicted of torture. A law on the rehabilitation of crime victims adopted in 2016 entered into force in March. Under the law, victims of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment receive free state legal aid, strengthening the procedural guarantees offered to them.
During the first half of the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office received 320 allegations of torture and mistreatment, 112 of which involved criminal police, 78 traffic police, 21 employees of the penitentiary system, and 56 other police units, including the Carabinieri (a special police force responsible for public order and infrastructure security) and customs officers. Prosecutors initiated 45 criminal cases and sent 15 cases to court. In most cases, police applied violence during detention as a means of intimidation or discrimination, to obtain evidence and confessions, and to punish alleged offenses. Most of the alleged incidents occurred on the street or in public places, followed by police stations and detention facilities. Military units registered nine cases of alleged torture, while psychiatric institutions registered three cases, and educational facilities registered eight. Most incidents involved beatings (168 allegations), followed by other methods, such as beatings using batons, water bottles, and books (89 allegations), threats or other forms of psychological abuse (33 allegations), and inhuman detention conditions (10 allegations). Despite a decrease in torture cases, psychological torture and humiliating treatment continued to be a problem in penitentiaries and psychiatric institutions. An independent assessment by local human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) determined that the decrease in torture cases was due to harsher penalties introduced into the criminal code, which served as a deterrent; more robust awareness-raising campaigns and training organized for prosecutors, judges, and police; and video surveillance equipment placed in police stations and detention facilities.
The human rights ombudsman reported that most allegations of torture and sub-standard detention conditions occurred at Penitentiary No. 13 in Chisinau, Penitentiary No. 11 in Balti, and Penitentiary No. 17 in Rezina. The ombudsman’s national anti-torture mechanism resumed its activity following the enactment of the new Law on the People’s Ombudsman adopted in 2016. During the first six months of the year, members of the national anti-torture mechanism made 14 preventative visits to prisons, pretrial detention facilities, psychiatric institutions, and psycho-neurological homes. Most of their observations concerned poor detention conditions, which in some cases contributed to inhuman and degrading treatment of inmates.
Despite a decrease in alleged torture cases, human rights experts noted that the number of cases was likely higher than reported due to individuals not reporting abuses because they lacked trust in the justice sector.
On August 26, Andrei Braguta was found dead at Penitentiary No.16 while held in pretrial detention. Prison authorities claimed Braguta died of pneumonia; however, following pressure from human rights experts, the media, and civil society, prosecutors initiated an investigation; forensic analysis indicated Braguta was beaten while in pretrial detention, directly leading to his death. According to preliminary information, while in detention, several inmates beat Braguta with the tacit approval of the prison guards, who ignored his pleas for help and medical assistance. The Prosecutor General’s Office detained five persons, including three police officers, on charges of torture, investigated an additional 10 officers suspected of mistreating detainees, and sued 13 police officers. Braguta was arrested August 15 for speeding, resisting arrest, and insulting police officers. He was then transferred several times between pretrial detention and the psychiatric ward. Braguta had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was under psychiatric monitoring since 2012.
Investigation of degrading treatment of patients in psycho-neurological institutions was deficient. In most cases, prosecutors refused to investigate complaints submitted by patients, questioning the accuracy of allegations made by persons with mental disabilities. According to the NGO Promo-Lex, most prosecutors and investigators lacked technical skills to investigate acts of violence or torture in psychiatric institutions. Another problem was the lack of a regulatory framework for the psychological assessment of victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in psychiatric institutions.
According to the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights, residents of residential psychiatric facilities and psycho-neurological institutions were subject to rape, physical abuse, deprivation of liberty, and forced medication.
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. In 2014 authorities found one of the 17 victims identified during the investigations dead; a second died under unknown circumstances that same year. The doctor remained under house arrest during the trial proceedings. In 2016 a court found the doctor guilty of numerous counts of rape and sentenced him to 13 years in prison. The defendant appealed the ruling and the case was pending at the Balti Court of Appeal at year’s end.
According to a report by the human rights NGO Promo-Lex, there was no mechanism to investigate alleged acts of torture in Transnistria. There were no criminal cases initiated for “providing statements under coercion by means of violence, humiliation, or torture” since the Transnistrian “investigation committee” was established in 2012. Promo-Lex noted that authorities perpetrated most inhuman and degrading treatment in the Transnistrian region in order to obtain self-incriminating confessions. Promo-Lex continued to receive complaints from alleged victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment by Transnistrian security forces.
Hazing and humiliating treatment in the de facto Transnistrian army continued during the year.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Conditions in most prisons and detention centers, including those in Transnistria, remained harsh and did not improve significantly.
Physical Conditions: Prisons and detention centers were overcrowded. Human rights NGOs noted a significant increase in arrests and a failure to apply alternative noncustodial measures, which increased overcrowding of detention facilities to a rate of 40 percent. As of January 9, the total number of prisoners and pretrial detainees was 7,656, with 5,550 inmates in prisons and 2,106 individuals in pretrial detention centers. The official maximum capacity was 6,274 inmates for prisons and 2,380 for pretrial detention centers, but human rights monitors asserted that the official maximum capacity exceeded required standards. The obsolete infrastructure in most prisons did not allow for a separation of prisoners according to minimum required standards, which led to continued violence among inmates.
During the year members of the antitorture section of the ombudsman’s office jointly with the newly created Council for Prevention of Torture conducted 51 preventive visits to 11 prisons, 32 pretrial detention facilities, four psychiatric institutions, three psycho-neurological homes, and to National Anticorruption Center. The main deficiencies found included overcrowding of prisons and detention facilities, insufficient lighting, poor sanitary conditions, failure to separate minor detainees from adults, insufficient food, deficient medical care for detainees, insufficient rooms for meetings with lawyers, and a lack of accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Penitentiary No.13 in Chisinau had the worst conditions. A number of high-profile detainees held in the penitentiary complained of detention in basement cells that did not meet national or international standards. In three cases during the year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that detention conditions in Penitentiary No. 13 were contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. 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. Despite numerous calls from the ombudsman and international organizations to close the Penitentiary due to inhuman detention conditions, the authorities reported they were not able to find an alternative detention facility due to financial constraints.
During its 2015 visit, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (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 and was alarming”. 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. Penitentiaries lacked appropriate facilities for persons with disabilities, which led to inhuman and degrading treatment.
Police mistreatment of detainees remained a major problem in Transnistria. Detention conditions in the region did not improve. The report of the Transnistrian ombudsmen noted a decrease in the number of complaints received from detainees in 2016 compared with 2015, although there were no independent reports confirming this finding.
Administration: Internal investigation procedures in the penitentiary system remained 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. Lawyers reported continued restrictions on access to clients in Penitentiary No. 13 due to artificially imposed barriers. Authorities reportedly applied random quarantine checks on and access restrictions to the families and attorneys of persons detained in connection with high-profile bank fraud cases.
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 detention facilities in the Transnistrian region during the year.