Moldova has been urged again to take action to quash widespread violence and bullying between inmates that prison commanders allegedly turn a blind eye to.
The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report on Tuesday based on their findings from a visit to the former Soviet republic from January 18 to February 7 this year.
The group acknowledged that some progress had been made since 2015 in certain areas but said it regretted that “some of its long-standing recommendations …. concerning inter-prisoner violence, the regime of remand and sentenced prisoners and the low staffing in prisons remained unaddressed.”
It said it some prisoners had black eyes and another had a broken arm, apparently due to inter-prisoner violence, while a sex offender was raped and beaten by other prisoners but did not report the incidents. Inmates who were lower down the hierarchy were forced to clean toilets and take out garbage.
The 78-page report said inmates didn’t report beatings due to the climate of fear and intimidation fostered by inmates running the informal prison hierarchy and to a lack of confidence in prison staff to guarantee prisoner safety.
The failure to address this problem was due to chronic staff shortage and a reliance on informal prison leaders to keep control over other inmates, the report said.
It said that large dormitories and the lack of an individual risk assessment of prisoners were also factors.
A 2018 report also focused on the problem of inter-prisoner violence and intimidation linked to informal hierarchies.
The report also found that incidents of self-harm were considered “a disciplinary offense” and some prisoners were kept in conditions akin to solitary confinement for “months or even years on end.” It said prisoners were handcuffed to fixed objects. It called on Moldovan authorities to address all three issues.
The CPT said some prisoners lived “ in a state of constant fear and humiliation,” thereby violating article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Moldova had 6,632 prisoners in April 2020.
It made a number of recommendations and called on the authorities to act swiftly against violence between prisoners.
It visited prisons in Chisinau, the capital, Cahul and Taracila. It said most inmates did generally not allege mistreatment by staff. It also visited a juvenile prison and two psychiatric establishments and two temporary placement centres for persons with disabilities.
The delegation heard several allegations of prison officers punching and kicking inmates, and there were allegations of excessive use of force used against agitated inmates in all three prisons.
The group said detention facilities were satisfactory in Cahul and Taraclia prisons, but in Chișinău there were problems with repair, hygiene, ventilation, access to natural light and overcrowding in some cells.
It added “In all three prisons there was an uneven distribution of inmates between cells, an indication of a strong informal prison hierarchy.”
The report said that despite efforts made in Taraclia and Cahul prisons, most inmates were not engaged in purposeful activities, while in Cahul and Chișinău prisons most prisoners spent 22 or 23 hours locked up in their cells.
The CPT delegation said it received few allegations of police abuse while under arrest. However it added that there were many cases of alleged police ill-treatment reported to prosecutors.
The CPT also called on Moldovan authorities to reform legislation to guarantee detainees access to a lawyer from the moment they are detained.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment visits places of detention in the 47 Council of Europe member states in order to assess how persons deprived of their liberty are treated.