The European Court of Human Rights (E.C.H.R.) made a historic ruling on June 7th, ordering Moldova to pay compensation to the family of Valeriu Boboc, a 24-year-old Moldovan man who was ill-treated and killed by police in the 2009 parliamentary election protests known as the “Twitter Revolution.”
“The Court concludes that the use of force against [Boboc] was entirely unprovoked and not required by the circumstances,” the E.C.H.R. said in its ruling. The sitting Chamber relied on the violations of Article 2, the right to life, and Article 3, the prohibition of torture that includes inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in the 1953 Convention.
In the same ruling, the Court ordered Moldova to pay 50,000 euros in damages and another 7,000 euros in costs and expenses to the plaintiffs; Valerui Boboc’s parents Ala and Victor, and wife, Natalia Romanciuc.
However, the only person convicted of Boboc’s death is former police officer Ion Perju, an inspector with the Criminal Police who was accused of inflicting the fatal blow. Although a ten-year sentence was handed down, Perju avoided jail by escaping shortly before the judges announced the verdict.
“We cannot feel justified because no one has been held accountable,” Boboc’s father declared. “The real killers were not convicted. A scapegoat was found then, at first, and fled. … We still hope that the ‘April 7’ case will be investigated, but I don’t think so. In 13 years, the traces have been blocked. In our justice, one hand washes the other.”
The ‘April 7’ case refers to a demonstration held on April 7th, 2009 after the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova won a majority in the legislature in the parliamentary elections. More than 10,000 Moldovans gathered at the Great National Assembly Square to protest the results, using social messaging networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to share the details of the event. The protest quickly escalated into violence when the parliament and presidency buildings were set on fire and ransacked. Police imprisoned, beat, and abused hundreds of innocent protestors. Among the sea of young people was Valeriu Boboc, who was one of a group of protestors police officers ordered to lie down and then began hitting. Boboc sustained brutal injuries from the beatings, which both led to his death and made him a national symbol of police violence during the anti-government protests.
“Those who continue to break the law and to work against the own people can do this only because they enjoy protection – in the prosecution service, courts of law, Parliament,” current president Maia Sandu wrote on Facebook on the 12th anniversary of the protests. “Regrettably, we still have in institutions persons who set free thieves and ignore the abuses. But we can destroy their protection – they are few and bank on each other. Most of the people in our country are honest citizens who pay taxes to the state and live on money earned honestly.”
Despite these words, Boboc’s bittersweet case is just another notch in Moldova’s belt regarding lawsuits at the E.C.H.R. Since the April 7th protests, Moldova has lost nine lawsuits over the treatment of young protesters detained by police. The state pled guilty in 12 other cases, agreeing to pay compensation to victims of arbitrary arrest and police brutality.
Moldova has made progress in addressing its human rights record, but it still has serious structural issues concerning police brutality and a long road ahead in order to treat basic human rights with equitable justice. Ultimately, Boboc’s case sheds light on Moldova’s habitual unlawful prosecution and ill-treatment of individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly, as well as the state prosecution office’s failure to genuinely investigate cases of human rights violations.
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