Moldova should take resolute action to put an end to inter-prisoner violence and intimidation linked mainly to informal hierarchies in the country’s prisons, says the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in a new report. (see executive summary) In the report, based on a visit to the country from 28 January to 7 February 2020, the CPT acknowledges tangible progress in certain areas but regrets that some of its long-standing recommendations, notably those concerning inter-prisoner violence, the regime of remand and sentenced prisoners and the low staffing in prisons remained unaddressed.
The problem of inter-prisoner violence and intimidation linked to informal hierarchies was as acute as reported in previous CPT reports. The CPT notes that inmates were regularly found with injuries indicative of inter-prisoner violence; however, they did not report these aggressions due to the climate of fear and intimidation promoted by inmates at the top of the informal prison hierarchy and to a lack of trust in staff’s ability to guarantee prisoner safety. The CPT considers that the authorities’ continued failure to address this problem is due in particular to a chronic shortage of custodial staff and to reliance on informal prison leaders to keep control over the prison population. Other relevant factors are the existence of large capacity dormitories and the lack of an individual risk assessment of prisoners, as well as of their consequent placement to the most adequate prison, block or cell.
The CPT is also concerned about inadequate health-care staffing resources in prisons and about the length of solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure, which can be imposed on certain categories of prisoners for up to 20 days and for three days for sentenced juveniles. The CPT recommends that the maximum period of disciplinary confinement is reduced to less than 14 days, and that this practice is abolished for juveniles.
With regard to treatment of detainees by the police, the CPT delegation hardly received any allegations of ill-treatment, although the committee takes note of a considerable number of cases of alleged police ill-treatment reported to the Prosecutor’s General Office. As regards safeguards following arrest, the CPT calls on the Moldovan authorities to reform the legislation to guarantee detainees access to a lawyer from the outset of deprivation of liberty, notably considering that the delegation heard some allegations that this right is sometimes only granted in practice after a first police questioning.