Department of Penitentiary Institutions hinders visits to the Penitentiary No.13 by human rights activists
In September 2017, the Freedom Moldova Human Rights Foundation addressed to the Department of Penitentiary Institutions a request to visit the Penitentiary No.13. Confinement conditions in this penitentiary were repeatedly criticized including for torture and many violations of the rights of prisoners. However, lately there was a situation which raises concern in the community. The Freedom Moldova Foundation representatives personally wanted to get an overview of the situation in the Penitentiary No.13.
Before that we appealed to the ombudsman, calling his attention that in Chisinau there is no civic watchdog committee on public oversight of the activity of penitentiary institutions, which shall be created under the law. The above committee shall comprise representatives of the non-governmental (human rights) organizations or the candidacies proposed by the ombudsman. Unfortunately, the ombudsman showed no interest on the matter, failed to undertake any actions, and returned the appeal submitted to him.
In its letter of 28/09/2017 the Department of Penitentiary Institutions (DPI) agreed to allow the Freedom Moldova representatives to make their visit to the Penitentiary No.13, having requested the list of visitors and copies of their identity cards. The date of visit was expected to be scheduled later, by a separate letter, upon the submission of the requested list of visitors. The Foundation has submitted the list of three human rights activists, including the chairman of the Foundation board and the head of the Foundation.
The DPI response letter of 23/10/2017 came to the address of the Freedom Moldova Foundation merely on 10/11/2017 (in 18 days after its registration by the DPI chancellery). In its letter the Department unexpectedly changes conditions of visit to the Penitentiary No.13, having allowed only one human rights activist to visit it, and scheduling the date of visit on… 03/11/2017.
By so doing, there only remains for the Foundation to express its indignation and bafflement as the date of visit has obviously been ‘backdated’. Besides, the letter has no explanations why the list of prospective visitors has been reduced from three to one person. We are convinced that the DPI deliberately hinders access for human rights activists to the Penitentiary No.13.
We believe that, despite the formal “openness” declared in official statements, letters, and in case of visits to penitentiary institutions by government-favoured media (bloggers, etc.), the DPI under the authority of the Ministry of Justice continues its former policy of closeness and isolation.
We call on the Ministry of Justice to allow, in compliance with the legislation, human rights activists to visit the Penitentiary No.13 without any preliminary conditions. Also we deem it necessary that the civic watchdog committee on public oversight of the activity of penitentiary institutions to be created at the earliest, as a legitimate body of constant public monitoring of the work of correctional facilities, authorized to make periodic visits to the Penitentiary No.13, and other institutions of this kind. We believe that if such a civic watchdog committee had been created earlier, perhaps, it would have helped prevent many cases of human rights violations and tragedies.