Letter to General Prosecutor of Moldova Dumitru Harlampii Postovan
02 April 1998
On May 30, 1997, the European Roma Rights Center sent a letter to General Prosecutor of Moldova Dumitru Harlampii Postovan, urging him to see to it that alleged police ill-treatment of seven Roma in the north-eastern Moldovan town of Soroca (see Roma Rights, Summer 1997) be thoroughly and impartially investigated. The text of the letter follows:
Honourable Mr General Prosecutor
The European Roma Rights Center, an international public interest law organisation defending the rights of the Roma, is concerned about an incident of alleged police ill-treatment of seven Roma in the town of Soroca.
On January 6, 1997, a group of seven Roma were walking in the Roma neighbourhood in Soroca, when a police car carrying two police officers pulled up in front of them and blocked their way. According to testimony of the victims, two police officers under the influence of alcohol jumped out of the car, pulled out their guns and started shooting in the air. The police officers then forced the seven men against a watt, searched them and started beating them in the head with the butts of their guns. The victims reported that the police officers did not provide any explanation for their behaviour. The two officers then allegedly shouted, „Now, run to the cemetery!” and started shooting in the air again, at which point the young men ran away as they had been instructed. From the safety of the corner of a building, however, the young men ventured a glance back at the scene of the incident and observed that the two officers were kneeling down and picking up spent cartridges from the ground.
As a result of the police ill-treatment, I.C. and A.P.1, both twenty years old, suffered serious head injuries and had to undergo medical treatment at the Soroca state hospital: The two men told the ERRC that they filed a complaint against the police at the Soroca District Police Department and that the police officer who received them told them that they would be called in to give testimony. As of May 15, 1997, however, none of the men had heard from the police.
When asked to comment on the case, Colonel Valentin Anatol Artemü, chief of the Soroca Police Department, first denied the whole incident, but then told the ERRC that following a regular search by the police, some Roma „had been upset”. According to Colonel Artemü, an investigation into the incident had been carried out by the prosecutor’s office and concluded that the police officers in question had acted within legal bounds. At the Soroca Prosecutor’s Office, there was no record of the case, however, and Adjunct Prosecutor Ilie Vravie told the ERRC that he had never heard about the incident.
Honourable Mr General Prosecutor, the ERRC urges you to undertake a thorough and impartial investigation into the above case and kindly asks that the ERRC be informed about the results of the investigation as well as any subsequent disciplinary or judicial proceedings. We thank you in advance for your co-operation and look forward to your prompt reply.
On August 29, 1997, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Moldova sent a letter responding to the ERRC’s concerns. The text of the letter follows:
Your letter relating to the maltreatment of some Gypsies by employees of the Soroca District Police Department has been carefully examined by the Office of the General Prosecutor.
As a result of the examination of your letter we found out the following: the Prosecutor’s Office of Soroca District filed the materials of the European Roma Rights Center on June 18, 1997 - materials according to which, on January 6, 1997, seven Gypsies were maltreated by employees of the Soroca District Police Department, resulting in injuries to two Gypsies: A.P. and LC., both of whom were subsequently treated at the Soroca town hospital.
Concerning the case in question, the Prosecutor’s Office of Soroca District has initiated legal proceedings, according to the nature of the offence and the prescriptions of the Article 185 Paragraph 1 of the Penal Code.
When interrogated concerning the case in question, District Inspector lurie Ciubuc and Traffic Police Sergeant Iurie Maslii declared that when patrolling in the town at around 8 p.m. on January 6, 1997, they spotted a group of Gypsies fighting amongst themselves on V. Stroescu Street.
Since on certain past occasions the Gypsies had broken the windscreen of the special car of the Traffic Police, Officers Maslii and Ciubuc parked their car approximately 10-15 metres from the fighting group, and, getting out of the car, they asked the Gypsies to immediately stop their hooligan act.
The Gypsies started to throw stones and ice at the policemen and, while shouting rude and trivial words, manifested aggression towards them.
In order to stop the hooligan act and to prevent a possible attack by the Gypsies, Officer Maslii effected a warning shot into the air.
After the shot the Gypsies ran away. Officers Maslii and Ciubuc did not arrest or physically harm any of them.
The act took place in front of many eye-witnesses, the majority of whom were interrogated during the investigations.
According to the medical certificate issued by the Traumatology Department of Soroca town hospital on January 6, 1997, Gypsies A.P. and LC. requested medical care at 8.40 p.m., both having insignificant bruises on their heads. After getting medical treatment, they were both released from the hospital. Concerning the A.P. and LC. case, no complaints have been submitted up until now to the Soroca District Prosecutor’s Office, and nobody has been interrogated; when asked about the case, the relatives of the two declared that A.P. and LC. went to work in Russia. Therefore, in their absence, it is impossible to start an investigation.
As for the criminal case, the appropriate measures were taken in order to identify the other five Gypsies.
The General Prosecutor’s Office conducted a preliminary investigation into this criminal case.
The ERRC appreciates the response of the Moldovan General Prosecutor and welcomes the investigation into possible police misconduct. Nevertheless, the letter raises additional concerns, since at the time of the ERRC visit, none of the Roma concerned reported that a criminal investigation was open against them, nor did any of their testimony, gathered independently of each other, indicate that they had „thrown ice and stones” at the police officers or engaged in „acts of hooliganism „. The ERRC is concerned that criminal investigation may have been opened against the Roma victims in retaliation for having reported an incident of police abuse to the ERRC.
In addition, contrary to the statements of the General Prosecutor, although both A.P. and LC. travel regularly to other parts of the former Soviet Union, they were both in Moldova at the time of the ERRC visit, and stated their willingness to co-operate with police investigation. Although the ERRC is aware of the difficulty of conducting investigation absent the victims, it is unclear if efforts to notify them have been sufficient. On October 21, 1997, the ERRC received an additional letter, this time from the Moldovan Foreign Ministry. In it, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Casilü Sova re-affirmed that an investigation into the incident of alleged police abuse was underway, and he promised that the ERRC would be informed of its results. The ERRC looks forward to learning soon of its conclusions and any disciplinary action taken against the officers concerned.
- Full names appeared in the text of the letter Bent by the ERRC to the Moldovan General Prosecutor. In the victims' interest, the ERRC is not publicising their full names. The ERRC is prepared to release information pertaining to the victims in the context of formal legal proceedings.