(This report covers the period January-December 1997)

There were allegations of ill-treatment by police. Conditions of detention remained inadequate. At least four political prisoners remained imprisoned in the self-proclaimed Dnestr Moldavian Republic (dmr).

Leaders from Moldova and the dmr signed an agreement in May which moved towards ending the seven-year dispute over the status of the dmr. The agreement did not specify what constitutional status would eventually be granted to the dmr region, but included a pledge that it would remain part of Moldova.

In September, in fulfilment of its commitments on joining the Council of Europe, Moldova ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Protocol No. 6 to the Convention, concerning the abolition of the death penalty. In October Moldova also ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Moldovan parliament said, however, that Moldova was unable to ensure the implementation of the Conventions in the dmr. The Moldovan Government also said that it would need one year in which to amend existing legislation that contradicts the two Conventions.

In April President Petru Luchinschi issued a decree creating a special police department to combat corruption and organized crime. The department was reportedly given wide powers to monitor personal correspondence, to tap telephones and to collect information using modern technology. The decree contained no mention of the duty of the Office of the Procurator to order and monitor such police investigations.

In the dmr, a presidential decree introducing a state of emergency continued to be enforced. It allowed law enforcement officials to detain suspects for up to 30 days without charge and allegedly without access to a defence lawyer. There were reports that the dmr authorities continued to use the provisions of the decree to detain political opponents.

There were allegations of ill-treatment by police. In January a group of seven Roma were allegedly beaten about the head by police, who also fired guns into the air, in a Romani neighbourhood in the town of Soroca. Igor Cerari and Artur Preida reportedly suffered serious head injuries as a result. The two men filed a formal complaint. The chief of the Soroca Police Department reportedly claimed that an investigation into the incident had been carried out by the Office of the Procurator, and had concluded that the two police officers had acted within legal bounds. However, other sources stated that there was no record of the case at the Soroca Office of the Procurator.

Prison conditions remained inadequate, with serious overcrowding. Conditions were especially harsh in pre-trial detention centres. Members of the Moldovan Helsinki Committee were reportedly denied access to pre-trial detention centres on several occasions. The incidence of malnutrition and disease, especially tuberculosis, was high in all penal institutions. The Moldovan Ministry of Justice took over responsibility for prisons from the Ministry of the Interior in 1995, but reform of the system was said to be progressing slowly.

Ilie IlaÒcu, Alexandru LeÒco, Andrei IvanÁoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa from the so-called "Tiraspol Six", who had been convicted of murder in 1993 by a court in the dmr (see previous Amnesty International Reports) remained in prison at the end of the year, although their release was reportedly discussed during negotiations between Moldovan and dmr leaders. Their trial had apparently failed to meet international standards of fairness, and the men had allegedly been prosecuted for political reasons, because of their membership of the Christian Democratic Popular Front, a Moldovan party favouring reunification with Romania.

Alexandru LeÂco, Andrei IvanÁoc and Ilie IlaÒcu were reported to be seriously ill but not receiving adequate medical care. The dmr authorities repeatedly refused to allow independent medical examination of the prisoners by outside experts, including representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. In an unprecedented move in November, the dmr authorities allowed an independent medical commission access to Ilie IlaÒcu in detention. However, the commission did not have access to the equipment necessary to examine him. Amnesty International continued to call for a review of the case, and for the prisoners to receive all appropriate medical care

Amnesty International urged the authorities to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all allegations of ill-treatment by police and to bring those responsible to justice.

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