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Vice-director, The Center for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption
20 parties have registered in the current election campaign. Many people say it is a too big number for such a small country as Moldova. At the same time, much more parties could take part in the election campaign.
Commission investigating the events of April 2009 releases its findings
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- Parliament sets up new commission - for checking civil servants' property and incomes, INFOTAG, 29 July 2011, 9:00
- Scandal in Moldovan parliament over deputies' relatives, INFOTAG, 29 July 2011, 9:00
Problems surrounding the April 5 parliamentary elections, biases in the public and private media, failings by law enforcement agencies and flaws in the criminal justice system all contributed to either the escalation of the protests or the severity of their impact, according the report published this month. The 138 page document is the product of months of inquiry by an official Investigation Commission that was established last October to provide ‘elucidation on the causes and consequences of the events that took place after April 5 2009'. It most conclusive finding is that the mass protests were not part of a planned ‘coup d'état' by the then opposition parties, as frequently alleged by the incumbent Communists, but rather the result of several accumulating factors beginning with large swathes of the public believing that the elections had been either massively forced or rigged. The report, however, fails to make many concrete conclusions; instead recommending that a number of state bodies to carry out further investigation and in turn make their findings public.
The Commission's members, made up of cross party representatives, analyzed information from a number of sources including public authorities, NGOs, media institutions and the general public. The launch of a public hotline resulted in 100 hours and 18 minutes of video recordings and 5599 photo images. Data was also gathered from primary sources including police stations, courts and hospitals. Early in 2010, hearings were held for 23 days where evidence was presented by 82 people ranging from state dignitaries, employees of law enforcement bodies, organizers of the demonstrations, participants in demonstrations and eyewitnesses including victims of the riots of April 2009.
While the Commission falls short of stating that the 2009 elections were invalid, it does present strong evidence that the elections were not free and fair. It cites amendments to electoral legislation shortly prior to the electoral period as tantamount changing the ‘game rules' and also notes that pressure was exerted on opposition leaders by the apparently arbitrary practice of opening criminal cases, or providing the threat of doing so, against them. The media, both public and private, is also criticized for potentially affecting the outcome of election by failing to produce balanced coverage of the electoral campaign breaching electoral legislation as well as international standards through biased or selective reporting.
A key focus of the report is to understand why the large but relatively peaceful protests turned sour and, as part of this, includes a comprehensive timeline of the 6 and 7 April when people took the streets of Chisinau to contest the results in unexpected numbers. The law enforcement agencies involved are particularly criticized for their inability to eliminate aggressive elements in the crowd, which later escalated. On the night of April 6th police filmed a group of young men stopping traffic and conducting illegal activity, however, they did nothing to apprehend them. The Investigative Commission believes this inaction ‘encouraged' those persons to participate in the next day's events and eventually to destroy the peaceful nature of the protest. Further criticisms of the law enforcement agencies include their ineffectual co-ordination and, despite outnumbering the violent protesters at any given time, their inability to control the situation. The report heavily implies that these actions and inactions by the authorities directly resulted in the escalation of violence and ultimately the destruction of the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings that followed.
The police are also condemned by the Investigation Commission for the measures they took in the aftermath of the protests which are deemed to have been ‘disproportional and illegal'. The report finds that those arrested were done so at random and often lacking any reasonable grounds. Polices bodies applied disproportionate and abusive force when apprehending and holding people, often very young, in custody, which infringed most of the procedural guarantees granted by the constitution, national legislation and international documents ratified by the Republic of Moldova. The then President Vladimir Voronin, also the leader of the Communist Party, and one of his advisors are also found to have broken the law for actions they took during the protests, in giving direct orders to employees of the Ministry for Internal Affairs and for ordering the interruption of mobile communication in the places where the demonstrations were held, respectively.
The Investigation Commission's report, while comprehensive, has its impact lessened by its own claim to be neither an ‘indictment' nor a ‘verdict'. This may be the result of the nine cross-party members, with representatives from the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party and Moldova Noastra Alliance and lead by Chairman Vitalie Nagacevschi, for the Liberal Democratic Party and Deputy Chairman, Vadim Misin, for the Communist Party failing to reach conclusive agreement. While the report appears to have met its objective, in elucidating, i.e. throwing light on, the events of last April, its inability provide definitive conclusions means that it can be seen as first stage of a longer process. The work still to be done is clearly highlighted by the long list of recommendations provided by the Commission, the most significant of which are presented below.
The Investigation Commission recommends, inter-alia, that:
The Office of the Prosecutor General should:
• verify additionally the hypothesis of forged/rigged elections of 05 April 2009
• verify the legality of actions of State Protection and Guard employees, who abandoned the Parliamentary building, when one of their main function's is to "ensure the security of persons who benefit of state protection and guard the working headquarters and residencies of these persons"
• investigate additionally the subject of flying the Romanian flag including based on the materials available to the Commission, shall clarify the conditions and should identify the persons who flew the Romanian flag, because that was and still is qualified as an incontestable evidence of the coup d'état and Romania's involvement in the events of April 2009
• investigate all the cases regarding arrested and apprehended persons subject to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Office of the Prosecutor General should:
• do everything to identify the provocateurs and the persons who caused body injures to police officers and who participated actively in the devastation of Parliamentary and Presidency buildings (especially those who put them on fire) and to institute legal proceedings against these persons;
• establish with certitude the moment when the Parliament building was taken over by the public order troops and should find out who started the nocturne fires in the Parliament building, and who devastated the offices from the Parliament during the night, when it was already under the control of public order troops;
• verify the legality of the presence of representatives of military organizations in the Parliamentary building, who "assumed the role of peacemakers and negotiators" between the collaborators of public order forces and protesters on 7 April 2009 and were present for several days in the Parliament building;
• examine the actions of police officers on the night of 7 to 8 April 2009, and ensure the punishment of guilty people including the decision-makers from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who ordered, but "did not know" about the conditions of reinstating the "public order". At the same time, not only those police men who applied blows should be sanctioned, but also those who assisted when the crimes were committed and did not intervene to stop those. it is recommended that all materials on internal investigation of police officers behaviour should be made public;
Ministry of Internal Affairs, SIS and SPPS should:
• study in detail the events of April 6 and 7, 2009, establish where the mistakes were committed in managing the crisis situation and develop strategies regarding joint actions in the case of such eventual similar critical situations. In the meantime, it is necessary to verify the cause of bad functioning or not functioning of radio communications, to provide for alternative communications means, way of recording the communications in crisis situations to facilitate further analysis of correctness of carried out actions, to stipulate the way of establishing a unique command point, way of coordinating the actions between different subdivisions, etc. Also, it is necessary to have special training for the law enforcement bodies in the field of mass manifestation management and appropriate equipment of these sub-divisions, etc.
The Office of the Prosecutor General and National Agency for Electronic Communications and Informational Technology should:
• examine the possibility to sanction JSC Moldcell for presenting false information to the Investigation Commission;
• verify the legality of the order of President's Adviser to interrupt the mobile phone communication where the events of April 07, 2009 took place.
The Government of the Republic of Moldova should:
• undertake all actions and ensure proper and equitable rehabilitation of the victims of protests in April 2009: police officers and demonstrators;
• finance the procurement of special means for adequate equipment of law enforcement bodies that are involved in the management of crisis situations similar to those of April 2009;
The Superior Council of Magistracy should verify:
• the legality of actions of each judge who tried at the police stations, in part;
• each complaint submitted by the arrested or administratively sanctioned, which invokes the fact that they informed the judges about the ill treatment, but they did not undertake any measure to prevent the torture and ill treatment;
• integrity and correctness of generating each file regarding the persons tried as a result of events of April 2009;
The Investigation Commission draws the attention of all involved authorities that the results of all verifications should be made public.
Commencing in May 2010 two experts, Francesc Guillén Lasierra from Spain and Ralph Roche from Northern Ireland, will arrive in Moldova to analyze videos and photos collected by the Commission and will draw conclusions with regard to the character of April 7 2009 demonstrations, performance of the authorities in those events and will make recommendations aimed at preventing future similar situations. Following a request by the Investigation Commission, the experts have been contracted by the Council of Europe, in the framework of the Program for supporting democracy in the Republic of Moldova, co-financed by the CoE and the European Union. The Commission proposes that their conclusions be later attached to their report and presented to stakeholders, as well as to Parliament.
The full text of the Investigative Commission's report can be found here.