Republic of Moldova

Head of state: Petru Lucinschi
Head of government: Dumitru Braghis (replaced Ion Sturza in December, who replaced Ion Ciubuc in March)
Capital: Chisinau
Population: 4.4 million
Official language: Moldovan (Romanian)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes (self-proclaimed Dnestr Moldavian Republic is retentionist)

Arbitrary detention and ill-treatment by police continued. Contributing factors were wide-ranging police powers of administrative detention. Insufficient subordination of law enforcement and national security structures to the rule of law engendered a climate in which police officers allegedly exceeded their already extensive powers of detention in certain cases. At least four political prisoners remained imprisoned in the self-proclaimed Dnestr Moldavian Republic (DMR).


Allegations of corruption, abuse of power, official hindering of investigations, and of links with organized crime exchanged between senior governmental, parliamentary, prosecutorial and law enforcement figures undermined trust in their institutions. The recession, prompted by the 1998 Russian financial crisis, government indebtedness, and an energy crisis continued. Citing a need for strong government, President Petru Lucinschi sought constitutional amendments to concentrate more power in the presidency, a plan which gained guarded approval in a May national referendum, and which caused increasing tension between the President and Parliament. In November the World Bank cut off funding and the government of Ion Sturza fell when Parliament blocked plans to privatize key industries. Talks on regulating the status of the DMR continued inconclusively. Russia made a halting start to the withdrawal of its military stockpiles and forces from the territory.

Ill-treatment and torture

Police officers were reported to have resorted to more frequent use of administrative detention in order to detain suspects arbitrarily for periods of up to one month. There were reports of ill-treatment and torture in order to extract confessions during such periods of administrative detention. Inadequate procedures for registering detainees contributed to difficulties in obtaining access to them. In some cases the authorities failed to acknowledge that detainees were in police custody.

Alleged police 'protection rackets'

There were reports that networks within the senior law enforcement hierarchy exploited the possibilities of arbitrary detention by the police to target the business community in order to extract "protection money" by the use of torture and threats.

  • On 14 July Chisinau police detained and allegedly tortured businessman Andrei Rosca for three days before officially acknowledging his detention to his family, at which point the detention was formalized on an administrative ground. During the period of Andrei Rosca's alleged torture, a senior police officer reportedly proposed to him that he personally assume "protection" of the Rosca family's business. On 22 July another senior police officer reportedly tried to obstruct a court decision secured by Andrei Rosca's lawyer, ordering his release. The Rosca family were reportedly intimidated after filing a criminal complaint about his treatment.

Failure to protect from refoulement

The Moldovan authorities failed to prevent or properly investigate the arbitrary arrest and transfer of a Kurdish leader to Turkey where he was at risk of torture. On 13 July Cevat Soysal, allegedly a senior leader in the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), was detained in Chisinau by unidentified men and flown to Turkey, where he was reportedly tortured and faced charges which could carry a death sentence. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stated that Turkey acted alone in seizing Cevat Soysal and bringing him to Turkey. However, a Moldovan Ministry of National Security source reportedly admitted its officers' involvement, although the Moldovan authorities strenuously denied this.

Political prisoners in the DMR

Ilie Ilascu, Alexandru Lesco, Andrei Ivantoc and Tudor Petrov-Popa of the so-called "Tiraspol Six" remained in prison. They had been convicted in December 1993 by a court in the DMR of the murder of two DMR officials. Their trial had apparently failed to meet international fair trial standards. Local human rights organizations maintained that the men were prosecuted for political reasons. Alexandru Lesco, Andrei Ivantoc and Ilie Ilascu were reported to be suffering from serious illnesses and not receiving adequate medical care.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.