April 7, 2009 – Moldova’s Shame at the European Court for Human Rights
Moldova has so far paid almost 345,000 euros for the inaction of law enforcement bodies following the events of April 7 and 8, 2009, after young people abused and tried in police stations found justice at the European Court of Human Rights.
Moldova was convicted in nine cases, referring to April 2009, and in another 12 cases, it admitted its guilt, assuming the responsibility of compensating the victims. There are other requests pending before the Strasbourg High Court related to the events of April 2009, which means that, due to the inability of the institutions to effectively investigate the April 7 cases, the Government will have to take out more money from the state budget.
Twelve years after the events of April 2009 no one is serving a prison sentence for abuse. Only one police officer on the run and wanted by Interpol was sentenced to prison, and there is only one case pending before the national courts involving a high-rank official from that period.
Twelve years after the events of April 2009, the only case involving a person who held an important position at that time is the case of Jacob Gumeniță, but it still has no outcome. The former deputy commissioner of Chișinău is being tried for excess of power and for abuse of office on the night of April 7 to 8, 2009.
Gumeniță case in national courts for 11 years
Gumeniță’s case was brought to court in the summer of 2010. After a trial that lasted no less than six years, Sergiu Lazari, a judge at the Buiucani Court, acquitted the former deputy commissioner. In 2017, Gumenita’s case reached the Chișinău Court of Appeal, and in July 2020 a panel of judges upheld the acquittal of the former deputy commissioner.
The prosecutors of the case and the lawyer Sergiu Popșoi, who represented the interests of Damian Hâncu, one of the young people abused in April 2009, appealed to the Supreme Court of Justice. The appeal was admitted, alongside the request to speed up the trial. Moreover, the examination of the appeal was sent to the enlarged Criminal College of the Supreme Court of Justice, this meaning that they found serious violations in the previously issued sentences, claimed Sergiu Popșoi, the lawyer of the Hâncu family.
“I believe that the Supreme Court of Justice has already found serious violations, so the panel of three judges was unable to expose itself and sent the appeal to the enlarged panel. It is a specific case, and now there are higher chances for the request to be admitted,” says the lawyer Sergiu Popșoi.
Damian avoids talking about what happened.
Parascovia Hâncu, Damian’s mother, the young man kicked by Gumeniță, says that he settled in France and avoids talking about the events of April 2009, even with his family.
“He has not been home for almost two years. He avoids talking about what happened even to me. Basically, he disconnected from everything, even from social networks after noticing that he is being listened to and tracked. Sometimes, during phone calls, I also felt the presence of a third person. Damian has changed radically. I talk to Maria (Damian’s sister – ed. note), then she passes it on to him. The feeling of fear follows him. When I remember what happened, I revolt, I have a strong feeling of injustice,” says Damian’s mother.
The Hâncu family, determined to reach the ECtHR
The woman reproaches that the examination of the case is intentionally delayed, but she is determined to seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights if the Supreme Court of Justice does not rule in their favor.
“The process is cumbersome. There were 86 hearings in the first instance. Then the Court of Appeal followed; we hoped things would change there, but there were many postponements and the judges were changed. Now we put our hope in the Supreme Court of Justice. If we don’t win here either, we intend to get to the ECtHR,” Damian Hâncu’s mother told us.
The case has been examined in court for 11 years; however, Iacob Gumeniță, no longer risks getting behind bars as the limitation period for the accused offenses expired.
ECtHR decision on Valeriu Boboc case is still in process
Four young people died in mysterious conditions in April 2009, yet it was officially proven that the only young man killed at the time was Valeriu Boboc. In April 2017, after all appeals were exhausted, Valeriu’s family filed an application with the ECtHR. In February 2018, the Strasbourg Court requested explanations from the Moldovan authorities, the procedure for submitting observations being exhausted.
Valeriu Pleşca, the lawyer of the Boboc family, says that they wait for the High Court’s decision as the exposure of the parties on this case has been finalized.
“There has been no amicable agreement. The Government submitted its observations, and we submitted the reply. The communication ended and we are waiting for the ruling of the High Court. At the national level, only the case related to the accusation of Ion Perju remained, which ended with a sentence that has not been executed until now,” the lawyer of Boboc family told us.
Victor Boboc: “The murder of Valeriu and the others have no limitation period.”
Victor Boboc is the father of the young man killed on the night of April 7 to 8, 2009, during the protests in the Great National Assembly Square. He claims that the state does not just ignore what happened; it defends politicians involved in the April 2009 protests.
“There are politicians who do not want to discuss April 7, they do not want to tackle this subject, not to mention that they do not want to investigate what happened. No proper investigations have been carried out for the simple reason that there are secrets among politicians. There are people who know the truth about April 7, 2009, and do not want it to be found out. I think that Vladimir Voronin will remain a black spot in the history of Moldova for the events of April 2009,” says Victor Boboc.
However, Valeriu Boboc’s father is convinced that “even after 10 or 20 years, the truth will come out.” He also hopes that the ECtHR will soon issue a decision on the murder of his son.
“I do not think we will find out anything new soon. It will take some years, the political class will change and maybe then there will be political willpower to initiate proper investigations. The murder of Valeriu and the others do not have a limitation period; however, it is more difficult to find the culprits,” Victor Boboc adds.
Ion Perju would like to review his conviction decision
Former police officer Ion Perju is the only person accused of the young man’s death and convicted for it. In 2009, he was an inspector of the Criminal Police and was accused of inflicting the fatal blow on Valeriu Boboc. Although he was sentenced to ten years in prison, he is not in jail.
Perju is wanted internationally since 2015; shortly before the verdict was handed down in the appellate court, he disappeared from the courtroom and left the territory of Moldova.
We tried to find out how the search for Perju goes on, but Marin Maxian, the deputy head of the General Police Inspectorate, asked us to send a request for official information, invoking the protection of personal data.
ZdG sources state that Ion Perju wishes to review the decision by which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and that he tried to initiate the review procedure. Lawyer Anatolie Ceachir affirms that he stopped any communication with his client in December 2015, after the Supreme Court of Justice upheld the sentence of 10 years in prison for Ion Perju.
“While we were hoping for change, some were pursuing their own interests.”
Sergiu Crețu is another young man tortured in April 2009, who is still waiting for the decision of the High Court. The young man was taken from the street by the police and taken to the Police Station of the Center sector. As a result of ill-treatment, he had severe arm trauma and underwent complex surgery. In 2015, Crețu applied to the ECtHR, and in 2018 the case was communicated to Moldova. The young man failed to reach an amicable agreement with the Government and is now awaiting the decision of the High Court. Twelve years after the events of April 2009, he believes that all these years have been lost.
“People have taken to the streets for a better life, as they were fed up with poverty and corruption. Considering the current state of affairs, I think 12 years have been lost. While we waited for change, some were pursuing their interests. The only improvement is that there is no more fear and tension in society, as it was during the Voronin regime. Freedom of expression acquired another meaning. Everyone has the right to express their point of view, even if not everyone likes it,” claims Crețu.
The last conviction of Moldova at ECtHR
To date, the ECtHR has condemned Moldova in nine cases related to the events of April 7, 2009. Another 40 requests refer to Article 3 of the Convention (torture) are pending examination or admissibility. To avoid conviction, the government pleaded guilty in at least 12 cases to the Strasbourg High Court, assuming to pay compensations to the victims.
In January 2021, the ECtHR issued the latest decision in cases alleging abuses committed on April 7-8, 2009. The government was forced to pay 15,800 euros to Iurie Muradu, whom the police mistreated. Muradu complained of police brutality, lack of an effective investigation into his complaints as well as inadequate conditions of detention, including lack of necessary medical assistance. The prosecutor’s office twice suspended the criminal investigation on the grounds that the young man left Moldova in the summer of 2010.
Lawyer Violeta Gașițoi, who represented Iurie Muradu in the national courts, claims that the law enforcement bodies should do justice to the man, even 12 years after the offense.
“The Prosecutor’s Office cannot invoke the statute of limitations, because namely, the Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for the fact that this term has expired. I understand that 12 years have passed since the crime against Mr. Muradu, however, if there is a desire of the law enforcement bodies, I think that justice can be done to this victim at the national level,” says Violeta Gașițoi.
“I’m sure the old system doesn’t feel guilty for what it did.”
Iurie Muradu says he was surprised that the ECtHR decision finally came almost 12 years after the events of April 2009; he was not surprised, however, by the decision that was issued.
“There couldn’t have been another decision, because I was kept in solitary confinement for nine days, I was beaten, I was not given food. The state gave me money because an outside force told it that it treated me wrongly, but I am sure that the old system does not feel guilty for what it did,” says the man.
Twelve years after the April 2009 protest, Muradu says that then it was the first step towards a better future for the country and an important event in which people proved to be the power in the state.
“After the 2009 revolution, I thought there would be changes, but we fell into a deeper political crisis. Unfortunately, we have not lived in a democratic state, we are now trying to take certain steps, but it will take long before we live in a true democracy. I think we are stuck to a feudal mindset and we will never see a politician in public transport. The values we protested for in April 2009 did not become a reality, as this is a long process. April 2009 is important not because the communists left and we got closer to the EU, but because people showed that they can impose a decision on the leadership. The Moldovans came out, expressed their opinion, but, with regret, they did not realize what needs to be done next,” says Muradu.
Iurie Muradu says that, despite the fact that all his relatives left, he did not break away from Moldova and would gladly return home.
“I would love to come to Moldova, but I am aware that my standard of living will decrease,” Iurie Muradu also told us.
The case of the only two women who addressed the ECtHR
The sisters Oxana and Ludmila Radu, originally from Cahul, are the only women detained on the night of April 7-8, 2009 who attacked Moldova at the ECtHR. In 2018, the High Court in Strasbourg acquitted the Radu sisters, who were humiliated at the General Police Commissariat in Chișinău, where they were forced to strip naked and kneel. The ECtHR found that the prosecutors’ investigation was not timely, as the prosecution began nine months later, and the sanctions imposed on police officers were deemed incompatible with the obligation to prevent ill-treatment. In this case, the Government was obliged to pay the Radu sisters 16,500 euros.
The Radu sisters avoided talking to ZdG saying that the subject is painful and that they do not want to go through the same emotions again. Vladislav Gribincea, the lawyer of the Radu sisters, claims that the Chișinău authorities remained inactive after the state was convicted in this case, and this is the big problem.
“The person found most guilty, who threatened them with the use of force and who behaved most brutally, was removed from criminal prosecution because his deed is not a crime, but a misdemeanor. He wasn’t even sanctioned. After the ECtHR decision, the law enforcement bodies could at least resume the process and apply a sanction,” considers Gribincea.
Amnesty International Moldova Representative: Human rights have been deadlocked for 12 years
Ion Cojocari, coordinator of Professionals for Human Rights and Advocacy Program, Amnesty International Moldova, claims the torture actions from April 2009 are a sensitive subject for society.
“April 7, 2009 case remained like a cancerous tumor. It is necessary for the state to take review measures. Moldova has signed the Convention and is obliged to get involved and solve the problems of each person. Human rights have been deadlocked for 12 years. April 7, 2009, is a black spot that reveals the level of human rights protection in Moldova. It is a very sensitive subject, but society should know the truth. The law enforcement bodies must fulfill their attributions properly, which they did not do in this case,” Ion Cojocari says.
Executive Director of the Center for Torture Victims Memoria: People who filed appeals to the ECtHR are the tip of the iceberg
Ludmila Popovici, executive director of the Center for Torture Victims Memoria, believes that ECtHR decisions show that the authorities failed in trying to do justice to the victims of torture in April 2009.
“We identified over 600 beaten people who did not file complaints. The cases in which people received compensation or who filed appeals to the ECtHR are the tip of the iceberg. More than 100 criminal cases were started, but impunity is evident and many of them were closed. Access to justice has been very difficult. A few people came to us for assistance over the years because of chronic health problems. People try to forget and sometimes these efforts create a vicious circle for them because memories come in the form of nightmares. Many have learned to live with these traumas, trying to continue their lives with dignity, understanding that April 7, 2009, is part of their lives,” says Ludmila Popovici.