A European Union funded project brings the issue of torture in psychiatric facilities to the attention of Moldovan institutions
30 November 2015

The issue of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment in psychiatric institutions is to the attention of Moldovan authorities. The representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of Health as well as other decision makers, met on Monday, 30 November, at a roundtable to discuss a Report on Preventing and Combating Torture in Psychiatric Facilities of the Republic of Moldova: Analysis of National Legislative Framework and International Standards.

The study was developed as part of the Project “Strengthening National Capacities to Protect the Most Vulnerable from Torture in Moldova”, funded by the European Union through its European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, with 300,000 EUR and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Moldova. The project is being implemented in consultation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the East Europe Foundation and Soros Foundation – Moldova.

The report has identified the most problematic areas as well as legislative deficiencies which require urgent intervention. The conclusions and recommendations aim to contribute to the strengthening of the state’s capacity to monitor, report, prevent and combat inhuman and degrading treatment in psychiatric facilities.

Head of the Antitorture Unit of the General Prosecutor's Office, Ion Caracuian: “We, as the only legal subjects mandated to investigate these cases of ill-treatment in institutions that keep persons in state custody, are the most interested in the progress in combating these phenomena. We are obliged to investigate such cases of cruelty, when those who came to receive treatment become victims of torture and when the evidence indicate at the wrongdoer, to ensure that justice is carried out”.

The most serious violations reported by the study were those affecting personal liberty and safety, health and access to medicine, living conditions, physical and psychological wellbeing, private life and the right to live in the community. In most of the cases, the abuse in these area may lead or amount to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.

“Persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities are among the most vulnerable in Moldova. Also, they have the least resources to defend their violated rights in an efficient way. This means that it is the responsibility of the state to strengthen the legislation and provide efficient mechanisms for preventing and combating torture, ill-treatment and other human rights violations in psychiatric facilities", says Evghenii Golosceapov, UNDP Moldova Justice and Human Rights Programme Analyst.

The report proposes a set of concrete interventions, including legislative amendments, strategies and guidelines, training programs, or the inclusion of psychologists as judiciary experts.  

“We have to acknowledge that this is a real problem. We are obliged to make sure that medical workers are properly trained so that we can avoid ill-treatment and torture. Moreover, we hope that the Parliament adopts the draft law on transferring the institution of patient’s ombudsman to the Office of the People’s Advocate, which is expected to bring more efficiency and expediency in examining complaints”, said Andrei Svet, Head of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Health.

In 2014 a new institution was created – Patients’ Ombudsman – responsible for monitoring violations in medical and psychiatric facilities. However, the report assesses that this institution does not have sufficient instruments in order to efficient intervene to defend the rights of victims of torture. Patients’ Ombudsman can only initiate discussions with the management of medical institutions and collect evidence on the violations, but the conclusions and recommendations thus reached are not compulsory. Before the institutionalization of this independent complaint mechanism, with the support of UNDP, a pilot Ombudsperson had worked before 2011 to monitor the situation in psychiatric facilities and compile reports based on this work.

There are 9 neuro-psychiatric institutions in Moldova, treating about 4000 persons.  7 of these facilities assist adult patients and two are specialized in children. These institutions are subordinated to the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family. 3 of them are psychiatric hospitals and 6 are psychoneurological facilities.

Moldova is constantly subjected to monitoring on its progress in complying with the obligations under human rights treaties it has ratified. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) pays systematic visits to monitor detention conditions, including in the psychiatric facilities of Moldova. UN Special Rapporteurs have also monitored Moldova’s compliance with human rights standards, including preventing and combating torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and have visited several psychiatric facilities with this purpose.

Contact Information

For additional details, please contact: Natalia Voronova, Project Manager, UNDP Moldova, phone +373 (22) 245079, natalia.voronova@undp.org.

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