In order to prevent torture and develop intolerant attitude towards it in the Republic of Moldova, within the framework of the project Let All of Us Say NO to Torture in Moldova: Civil Society against Torture, a conference titled Civil Society against Torture was held in Chisinau on November 20, 2020. The conference was organized by the Institute for Democracy and Constantin Stere University of European Political and Economic Studies in partnership with Comrat State University, the Institute for Legal, Political, and Sociological Research, National Institute of Women of Moldova “Equality”, the Media Center, and the American University of Moldova with financial support from the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova.
The research and practice event was held in a mixed format: some of the speakers took part in it in person, and other participants interacted via ZOOM communication platform.
At the opening of the conference, the representatives of the EU Delegation to the RM and the representatives of the Embassy of Romania delivered their speeches. It was also attended by Daniel Ionita, the Ambassador of Romania to the Republic of Moldova.
Eduard Pesendorfer, Programme Manager, Justice and Human Rights, Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova, made a welcoming speech to the participants. Eduard Pesendorfer said “Let me start by highlighting that the European Union views all human rights as universal and indivisible and it actively promotes them within its borders and in non-EU countries.
The prohibition against torture is a bedrock principle of international law. Torture, as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment shall be banned at all times and in all places. The absolute ban on torture and ill-treatment is enshrined in core UN human rights conventions and in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
We are committed to pressing government authorities to act to prevent torture, as well as bringing those who engage in torture to justice. We also work to ensure that victims of torture obtain redress, including the right to fair and adequate compensation, and full rehabilitation.
In this regard, the EU also works closely with civil society, under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, which aims to support projects in the area of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy in non-EU countries. This instrument is designed to support civil society to become an effective force for the defense of human rights including the fight against torture.
Under this Instrument, the EU has provided more than 1 Billion EUR within the past 7 Years to fund civil society organisations in this fields.
The objective of the project titled Let All of Us Say NO to Torture in Moldova: Civil Society against Torture – funded by the European Union – to fight torture and ill-treatment – in a comprehensive and holistic way” the Eduard Pesendorfer said.
“Although this project is being implemented in the Republic of Moldova, the problem of torture is not limited to the Republic of Moldova. We have been trying to involve all the stakeholders in combating torture in the Republic of Moldova. We hope this event will be successful and useful for everyone. We would like to highlight exactly the shortcomings we have and find out how to cope with them”, Gheorghe Avornic, the rector who acted as the moderator, emphasized at the beginning.
The conference was attended by Academician Ion Tighineanu, President of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, Dr. Diana Sarcu, Director of the National Institute of Justice, Acting Director of the National Administration of Penitentiary Institutions of the RM, Vladimir Cojocaru, Prof. Dr. Catalin Bordeianu, Deputy Director of Mihai Eminescu Romanian Cultural Institute, Dr. Andrei Chiciuc, President of the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education and Research (ANACEC), Alexandru Zubco, Head of the Department for Combating Torture of the Ombudsman’s Office, the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the General Prosecutor’s Office, penitentiary institutions, judiciary authorities, etc. The conference was also attended by the experts and specialists in the sphere of ensuring and observing human rights in the Republic of Moldova, lawyers, NGO representatives, the staff of the Ombudsman’s Office, university professors, and directors of institutions. The host of the event, Gheorghe Avornic, Rector of Constantin Stere University of European Political and Economic Studies, Doctor Habilitat, Professor, welcomed the participants, highly appreciating the intention of those who intended to say “NO” to torture. The foreign participants from the USA, the EU, and other countries, who represented the world’s leading universities and lawyers’ important international organizations, including the International Association of Lawyers, the European Public Law Organization based in Athens, etc., were also present.
In his greeting message, Academician Ion Tighineanu, President of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, emphasized the importance of the conference. The ASM President mentioned that torture appeared at the same time with civilization, expressing his regret that we had to discuss such issue as torture in the 21st century. “It is a shame for the civilization, yet it is a reality, and what you do is a very good thing, it is a scientific research of the phenomenon. This is what you do, study this phenomenon. Its roots must be identified and destroyed. Of course, the final solution depends on the legal authorities, but without a scientific approach, this negative phenomenon cannot be overcome,” the academician said, mentioning the importance of involving civil society representatives in countering this negative phenomenon.
The Forum participants were greeted and congratulated by Dr., Univ. Prof. Catalin Bordeianu, Deputy Director of Mihai Eminescu RCI. He emphasized the importance of the event, given that the phenomenon in question was not only an issue to be considered by legal specialists, but a problem everyone could be faced with, including those in the sphere of culture.
Dr. Andrei Chiciuc, President of the National Agency for Quality Assurance in Education and Research, mentioned that he was honored to participate in the event and happy to receive the invitation. “Such things are realities, though it seems that we have forgotten about them lately, because those who have nothing to do with such phenomena consider that they have disappeared. In fact, they still do exist, and the fact that you have met here to discuss the topics for combating torture, some effects of issues which, unfortunately, still persist in society, is auspicious”, the President of ANACEC said.
As a person taking practical anti-torture steps, Mr. Alexandru Zubco, Head of the Department for Combating Torture of the Ombudsman’s Office, spoke about the situation in places of detention and imprisonment in the RM and issues related to this segment, torture, and how people were subjected to such treatment in detention. His presentation contained both facts and the Ombudsman’s recommendations and included the way he saw how the crisis could be overcome. “Unfortunately, we have to note with concern that we have the phenomenon of being subjected to acts of ill-treatment, as we refer to them, inhuman and degrading treatment of persons kept in police custody, prisons, etc. What is the reason? We have to state it is the human factor, i.e. we have non-professional employees, who, instead of applying professional techniques, attending, making interventions, keeping, or assisting a person, treat people in an inhuman way. Another persisting issue is irresponsible attitude of those who issue policies regarding this phenomenon,” the representative of the Ombudsman’s Office said.
Ms. Diana Sarcu, Director of the National Institute of Justice, also gave a speech; the Director of the European Public Law Organization (EPLO) and the President of its Council of Administration, the President of the International Association of Lawyers, and other well-known specialists in this sphere also spoke online.
In his speech, Mr. Vladimir Cojocaru emphasized that the prison administration system did not tolerate acts of torture and ill-treatment and that human rights and democracy were fundamental values promoted by the NPA. In addition, the NPA Interim Director spoke about the actions and efforts aimed at reducing the phenomenon of torture in prisons in the country in recent years.
The conference participants discussed the phenomenon of torture, as well as its consequences, national, regional, and international legislation on preventing and combating torture, a wide range of issues related to providing primary legal and psychological assistance to victims of torture and their rehabilitation, raising public awareness of inadmissibility of torture, recommendations of the UN Committee against Torture, learned more about the ways of professional development of anti-torture organizations, raising awareness of liability for using torture among the police, penitentiary institution, and psychiatric hospital staff, and law students from Moldovan universities (future police officers, prosecutors, and judges), examined methods of preventing torture and increasing intolerance towards it, etc.
In the end of the conference, conclusions and suggestions for torture prevention were formulated.