Criminal justice system: conclusions of a three-year Council of Europe Programme

Chisinau 17 February
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Criminal justice system: conclusions of a three-year Council of Europe Programme

A high level conference today concluded the 36 months’ Programme “Promoting a human rights compliant criminal justice system in the Republic of Moldova” (2018 -2021), which formed part of the Council of Europe Action Plan for the country (2017-2020), implemented by the Council of Europe and funded by the Government of Norway.

The Programme aimed to ensure coherent criminal justice policy through humanization, resocialisation and restorative justice, and to enhance prison management, the provision of health care in prison, and the probation system with a view to the resocialisation of offenders.

In his welcoming speech, Mr Christophe Poirel underlined that “We have a cause to be proud of our cooperation with the Moldovan partners. The success of this cooperation with the CoE is apparent in its impact.”

Over the last years, a moderate but steady progress has been made by the Republic of Moldova in the field of alignment of the criminal justice system to European standards. A noteworthy decrease has been observed in the overall number of detainees in the country. The same positive trend could be observed regarding the number of cases of pre-trial detention that gradually decreased over the last 5 years, from 3329 in 2016 to 1983 in 2019 and thus came closer to the European median. Following its most recent visit in 2020, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has also confirmed tangible progress in several areas.

In her opening speech, Ms Gabriela Melnic, Head of the Directorate of Policies in the area of Hospital care of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Moldova stressed the added value of cooperation with the CoE bodies: "The Moldovan healthcare system, especially with reference to the healthcare services provided in closed-type medical institutions, greatly benefited of regular CPT visits to Moldova. This made it possible to detect areas requiring improvement and due to CPT recommendations, tangible results were achieved [...]"

The closing conference brought together representatives of the Programme beneficiaries, other governmental institutions, international and national experts, and representatives of the Council of Europe. The conference was marked by a very topical exchange of experiences and lessons learned, and a fruitful discussion on the main results achieved. The Conference also touched upon future cooperation between the CoE and the Republic of Moldova in the field of human rights and the rule of law.

Among the most prominent achievements of the Programme is the assessment of the overall compatibility of the application of pre-trial detention with the right to liberty and security in Moldova which revealed a trend towards an excessive use of pre-trial detention in the country. This large-scale research paved the way for future interventions aimed at further aligning Moldovan legislation and practice with international standards. In addition to that, professional capacities of 1601 judges, lawyers and prosecutors were strengthened to facilitate the effective national application of the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ability of the Ombudsperson Office to exercise its mandate was strengthened as a result of the Programme’s intervention, which influenced positively the public perception of the institution.

Major achievements were also registered in tackling systemic issues in prison, such as inter-prisoner violence, with the development of a Strategy and an Action Plan. The prison management was strengthened by providing a close follow-up to the Norwegian Mission of Rule of Law Advisers (NORLAM) plans and further support to the re-organisation of prisons that will allow improvement of the re-socialisation of inmates, and an introduction of the system of dynamic security. The material conditions of all 16 medical units in prisons and the Prison Hospital were improved following the procurement of medical equipment valued at 150.000 Euros and medical and non-medical staff enhanced their knowledge on different health care related topics. The Probation service was supported in its organisational reform process in line with Council of Europe recommendations, as well as through capacity building.

The participants praised the contribution of the Programme towards consolidating professional, institutional, and technical capacities of several key Moldovan partners.

The Closing Conference was the occasion for the Moldovan authorities and the beneficiaries of the Programme to reflect together with the Council of Europe on the achievements of the Programme and its impact in the field of criminal justice reforms in the Republic of Moldova, and future steps to be taken.