“What are the conditions for filing a complaint to the ECHR? How many of the judgments that are annually passed by the ECHR refer to the Republic of Moldova? What is the situation of our country compared to that of other member states of the Council of Europe in terms of complains and passed judgments? What are the most frequent causes of the complaints submitted by Moldovan citizens to the ECHR? What implications does an ECHR decision have national courts? What can the state do for the number of complaints and implicitly of judgments at the ECHR to decrease? Answers to all these questions can be found in an interview conducted by Octavian Bratosin with the programs director of Promo-LEX Association, lawyer Vadim Vieru”.
IPN: Mister Vieru, what’s the human rights situation in the Republic of Moldova, as regards the justice sector?
Vadim Vieru: The most objective indicators are the figures provided by the ECHR concerning the number of applications and of judgments as the people go to the Court constantly. These ECHR decisions show the basic problems existing in the justice system of the Republic of Moldova. The types of violations ascertained by the ECHR remain the same: ill-treatment, illegal and abusive arrests, problems related to Article 6 – right to a fair trial, problems related to Article 8 – right to respect for private and family life, right to property. And these cases are rather many compared with other states, such as Germany.
IPN: In what conditions can a Moldovan go to the Court in Strasbourg?
Vadim Vieru: The ECHR applies particular admissibility criteria. First of all, it is mandatory for the right that was violated to be stipulated in the European Convention of Human Rights as this Convention does not protect all the existing rights, including social rights. Not any violation of human rights can be examined by the ECHR. The lawyers, the plaintiffs should see if these criteria are met. Also, all the national remedies should be used up. One should go to the prosecutor’s office and to court until an irrevocable decision is made. A complaint can be then submitted to the ECHR. The period for filing a complaint to the ECHR is another important criterion. This period is four months of the pronouncing of a definitive and irrevocable sentence.
IPN: Do you have statistics about the most frequent causes of the complaints filed by Moldovans? If yes, what are these?
Vadim Vieru: The statistics differ from year to year. The ECHR publishes the statistics at the beginning of the year. In 2021, about 600 complaints were submitted from the Republic of Moldova. The figure is lower than the previous years. 5% - 6% of the complaints are examined. 20-30 judgments are pronounced annually against the Republic of Moldova. The number is not so large, but it is high if we compare it with the figures for other states. Important cases with an impact on the justice system of Moldova are examined. The state pays damages from taxpayers’ money. But this is not the most important thing. What is more important is that the state should implement measures for these violations not to repeat in the future. And we have problems here.
IPN: The long trials, the delays are a big problem in Moldovan justice. For how long is a case examined by the ECHR? How long does it take for a judgment to be passed?
Vadim Vieru: The case examination speed at national courts is rather high compared with that in other states. But the situation at the ECHR is different as this is an international institution. The ECHR is the victim of the own success: given the decisions taken in particular cases, which have an impact in different states, an increasing number of private individuals or legal entities go to the Court. This leads to a heavy workload. Even if the judges of the ECHR stop accepting cases now, they will yet have workload for two-three or more years. A case there is examined during 6-7 to 10 years and this is a long period for the plaintiffs.
The Republic of Moldova outstrips such states as France and Germany by the number of complaints and of convictions
IPN: What is the situation of the Republic of Moldova compared to that of other member states of the Council of Europe. Do we have more or fewer convictions?
Vadim Vieru: We have a much higher number of convictions than much larger European states, if we speak about the number of complaints per capita, such as Germany or France. The figure is rather high. There are also states that outstrip or outstripped us, like the Russian Federation, which was excluded from the ECHR, and Turkey.
IPN: What does a favorable ECHR judgment mean for an applicant? What are the implications of such a judgment for a national court decision?
Vadim Vieru: An ECHR judgment does not mean only damages. This can enable a person to be rehabilitated or a national court judgment to be reviewed. The simple communication of a case, which means the ECHR started to examine that case and informed the Government about it, enables a plaintiff to initiate a revision procedure at national level. The persons to blame can be later sued by the state so that they cover the costs or damage caused to the state by paying damages.
IPN: Do you have a concrete example when such a conviction of the Republic of Moldova by the ECHR could have been avoided?
Vadim Vieru: Any case of conviction of Moldova by the European Court of Human Rights could have been avoided if the state had acted to defend the human rights. There were particular systemic problems in our justice system and particular reforms were needed, with regard to the excessive period of examining a case in court, the non-execution of decisions. Until a broader reform was done, the convictions at the ECHR continued. As regards convictions for detention conditions, for no convictions to exist at the ECHR, we need to improve the detention conditions and medical assistance in the penitentiary system. Money needs to be invested by the state here and the amount is not small. But the state does not do much to improve the conditions in the field somehow even if the governments, the politicians are replaced and these politicians manage to get to Penitentiary No. 13. The situation does not change much.
IPN: Last year, the Republic of Moldova was convicted by the ECHR by tens of judgments. What is the current situation? What are the chances of seeing a decline in the number of convictions in 2022?
Vadim Vieru: The ECHR in 2022 examines complaints filed three-four or five years ago. There are also exceptions. The ECHR communicates important cases or cases that raise particular law problems. We recently had such communicated cases, including the case of Mister Stoianoglo, and we wait to see the Government’s position and what decision will be taken by the ECHR.
If the lawyers, prosecutors and judges are more competent, the judgments passed by the ECHR against the Republic of Moldova can be prevented.
IPN: What can be changed in the justice system of the Republic of Moldova for the number of complaints at the ECHR and of convictions to decline?
Vadim Vieru: I think the procedures are appropriate. The politicians continue to influence the justice system and this affects also the quality of solutions and judgments in court, which later lead to convictions. More should be invested in the qualification of lawyers, prosecutors and judges as there is always place for the better. If they are more experienced, these convictions the ECHR can be mainly prevented.
IPN: How far are the reform plans announced by the authorities from the reality?
Vadim Vieru: I think the main mistake made by a lot of politicians who try to reform the justice system is that they do not communicate with the judiciary first of all. Communication is very weak. The people who know best what should be changed for things to go well are the judges, those who work daily in justiceThey should be consulted first and their opinion should be taken into account when it goes to the justice sector reform. There are also ill-intentioned judges, but the largest part of the judges, primarily the young ones, are well-trained and upright and the government should take into account their opinion.
IPN: A law that bans the people from going to the ECHR or to national courts in Chisinau was recently adopted in the Transnistrian region. What can be done to protect the people from the left side of the Nistru from abuses?
Vadim Vieru: There is a so-called law passed by the Transnistrian administration. This is a desperate step. They realize and are afraid when they violate the human rights. The people can file complaints to the prosecutor’s office, courts of law. They try to intimidate the inhabitants of the Transnistrian region so as to reduce the number of complaints from locals to the constitutional authorities. They got inspired by such authoritarian regimes as those in Belarus or the Russian Federation. We continue working with the people there and help them submit complaints, including to national courts, and the people there can complain to the ECHR against the Republic of Moldova too. By September 16, complaints can be yet submitted against the Russian Federation, even if this is not a member of the ECHR de jure.
The interview “All convictions of Moldova by ECHR could have been avoided if state had acted to protect human rights” was conducted as part of IPN Agency’s project “Support for the justice sector reform by covering high-profile cases of alleged injustice in multimedia format”. The video variant of the interview is available here.