How pardon applications are approved, what is the average deadline for their examination and whether the status of victims of convicted persons who have taken the law into their own hands is taken into account when their pardon applications are evaluated, we learned from Ion Guzun, former chairman of the Commission for the Pardon of Convicted Persons under the President of the Republic of Moldova.
Pardons involve (full or partial) acquittal from punishment and immediate release from detention. It is a discretionary and exclusive act of the head of state. Anyone may apply for a pardon, except in cases where the convicted person has committed a crime of torture, ill-treatment or against children, crimes included in Articles 171-1751, 201, 206, 208, 2081 and 2082 of the Criminal Code.
How pardon applications are approved
Convicted offenders who wish to be pardoned often send their pardon applications directly to the presidency, says Ion Guzun, former chairman of the commission on pardon issues. “Colleagues at the Presidency send these requests to the National Administration of Prisons to prepare the file. There the prison commission meets and examines all the experts in the prison, who have different profiles, including probation. They draw up an investigation with answers to several questions. We get the files from the penitentiary, including some inside information about the person, such as information about the behaviour in detention, the sanctions that have been imposed. This is very important,” says Ion Guzun.
“When people come to us with a request, they are heard by our panel of experts, which includes a lawyer, a psychiatrist, a psychologist with a lot of experience working with the prison system, a priest, a representative from the arts,” explains Guzun.
According to him, 90% of the cases of convicts applying for pardon are not eligible and do not meet the purpose of pardon.
What is the average deadline for examining and deciding pardon applications?
Ion Guzun became the chairman of the Commission on Pardons for Convicted Persons under the President of the Republic of Moldova in June 2021. He stepped down after being voted by the Parliament as a member of the Superior Council of Magistracy. He says that in June 2021, immediately after the commission was formed, its members began evaluating the files, many of which were incomplete. “We had to organise all the documentation there. We detected that one of the people who applied for pardon was terminally ill with cancer and by the time we asked for confirmation of the medical diagnosis, the person had died. I was very concerned about this case because we were not able to respond to it, as the request for pardon was submitted more than a year before the person died.”
According to Ion Guzun, on average, it takes three to four months to examine the cases of convicted persons who apply for a pardon. “The period varies from case to case. If only the request for pardon comes, without anything else, we have to ask the Special Commission in the prison to give us the file for examination. We strive in about three months to have a solution for each case, so that we know whether it is eligible or not,” says the former Pardon Commission chairman.
The Special Commission examines and provides information to both the Pardons Commission and the Special Committees on the application of amnesty. Because of this, the workload for the members of this Commission is very heavy.
Are victims who have killed their offenders and been convicted eligible for pardon?
“The simple answer is yes. A young woman who stabbed her abusive husband was recently pardoned. The justice system let her stay with her two children, and when she gave birth to her third child, she was pardoned. When I looked into this case, I noticed that the vicious circle this woman had been in had started as a child when she was abused by her mother’s partner. Childhood traumas are a determining factor in complicated moments,” says Ion Guzun.
The former chairman of the Pardons Commission says that the victim status of the convicted person plays an important role when the file is examined to determine eligibility for pardon. “We looked at the files of some people convicted of drug trafficking and we noticed that the people are very young. They went to Russia to work as couriers. In Moldova they were recognised as victims of human trafficking, even though in the Russian Federation the final sentence was for ‘drug trafficking’. These people were lucky because they had money. Their families were able to pay for their transportation to Moldova to continue serving their criminal sentences. In the end, the people were pardoned,” says Ion Guzun.
In June 2021, when the Commission on the Pardon of Convicted Persons was created under the President of the Republic of Moldova in its new composition, Ion Guzun was appointed chairman and Ana Racu, then a member of the United Nations Committee against Torture, was co-opted as a member, current PAS deputy, composer Gheorghe Mustea, PAS deputy Doina Gherman, Iurie Hemei, Iuliana Curea, university lecturer, Angela Șestacov, head of the Probation Office in Hincesti, Jana Chihai, university lecturer, and Alexandru Zubco, head of the Directorate for the Prevention of Torture in the Office of the People’s Advocate.
In the last two years, on the recommendation of the Commission, President Maia Sandu has issued six decrees on the pardon of 10 people – 5 women and 5 men. Since 1994, when the Constitution created the Commission for the Pardon of Convicted Persons under the President of the Republic of Moldova, more than 200 people have been pardoned so far.
Note: Information on the pardon process was given by Ion Guzun in his position as President of the Commission, in the context of the round table on the rights of victims of abuse, which took place on 13 April. A day later, Ion Guzun resigned from his position in the context of his election as a member of the Superior Council of Magistracy.
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