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Moldova, Republic of

Juvenile solitary confinement cells to be abolished in Moldova

© UNICEF Moldova/2010/McConnico
UNICEF Representative in Moldova Alexandra Yuster (left), Head of the European Union Delegation to Moldova Dirk Schuebel (right) and French Senator Robert Badinter during a tour of juvenile detention facilities in Chinisau, Moldova.

By Angela Munteanu

CHISINAU, Moldova, 29 April 2010 – On an advocacy visit to Moldova this month, French Senator Robert Badinter, known for overseeing the abolition of the death penalty in France, called on the Moldovan Government to advance reforms in the country’s juvenile justice system.

The Moldovan justice system has been the focus of international attention since political unrest – which followed the country’s parliamentary election in April 2009 – led to reports of violence against children in contact with the law.

Treatment of minors

During his visit, Mr. Badinter went to the penitentiary where minors in Moldova are kept in pre-trial detention and met with young people who had been held for more than a year. He visited cells just 20 square metres in size that were occupied by up to 10 young people each, as well as solitary confinement cells.

© UNICEF Moldova/2010/McConnico
On a tour of Penitentiary No. 13 in Chisinau, Moldova's capital (from left) are UNICEF Representative in Moldova Alexandra Yuster, Le Monde journalist Allain Sales, French Senator Robert Badinter and UNICEF Moldova Child Protection Officer Sorin Hanganu.

The senator also learned about other challenges entrenched in the justice system, including lengthy sentences and the lack of proper legal assistance.

The visit – which was organized by UNICEF and the Embassy of France, in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union and the Council of Europe – brought several high-profile members of the international community to Chinisau. Mr. Badinter was accompanied by Moldovan Minister of Justice Alexandru Tanase, the Head of the European Union Delegation in Moldova, Dirk Schuebel, and UNICEF Representative in Moldova Alexandra Yuster. He also met the Moldovan Prosecutor General, Valeriu Zubco, and representatives of civil society and the media.

‘Conditions are inhuman’

Following his visit, Mr. Badinter stressed the need to reform much of what he had seen, adding that he was “shocked by the echoes of the past.” Among other changes, he recommended the Moldovan authorities take urgent action to close solitary confinement cells for minors.

© UNICEF Moldova/2010/McConnico
UNICEF Representative in Moldova Alexandra Yuster speaks with children during a recent visit to Chinisau, the country's capital.

“The detention conditions are inhuman, the inmates have limited space, [and] they don't have sanitary conditions,” said Mr. Badinter. “This state of affairs must change … democracy in a country doesn't stop at the gates of the penitentiary.”

Dirk Schuebel, Head of the EU Delegation in Moldova, reiterated the need for a new juvenile justice system where detention is a last resort. He noted that, to this end, the European Union is currently supporting  justice and penitentiary system reforms throughout Moldova.

Minister of Justice Alexandru Tanase said the juvenile justice is a priority area of Government reform. “What you have just seen is absolutely unacceptable in a democratic state,” said Mr. Tanase. “The European future of Moldova depends on how the correctional system is re-organized.”

New commitments to child rights

Following the advocacy tour, the Moldovan Ministry of Justice made a commitment to close solitary confinement cells.

Moldovan Prosecutor General Valeriu Zubco also agreed to create a special unit to monitor the situation of juveniles left in pretrial detention for long periods of time. He ensured Mr. Badinter that all efforts will be made to enforce Moldovan laws limiting the pretrial detention of minors to four months.

UNICEF Representative in Moldova Alexandra Yuster emphasized the requirements of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), which encourages States Parties to consider a child’s age and reintegration potential when he or she comes into contact with the law.

“Punitive approaches help neither children nor their communities,” she said.

UNICEF and its partners are committed to supporting the Government of Moldova in its efforts to implement a juvenile justice system based on the principles of the CRC. This means calling for restorative justice – which emphasizes social reintegration, rather than punishment – in the case of all children in contact with the law.



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