Justice as seen from outside and what can Moldova learn from states with democratic traditions. IPN interview with Violeta Gașițoi

How is the justice system in the Republic of Moldova perceived from outside the country? What can Moldova borrow from states with democratic traditions? How did the justice sector reform go and for whom a formal reform was done? How can the citizens obtain a change for a better life? Responses to these and other questions can be found in Elena Nistor’s interview with lawyer and human rights expert Violeta Gașițoi.

– IPN: Mister Gașițoi, I’m glad to see you here, on Skype, if we cannot meet in the conference room. You left Moldova several years ago and now follow from the United States what is going on at home? What events gladden you and what events sadden you?

– Violeta Gașițoi:
We surely follow the developments. We have lived here for four years and in the period followed what is happening in the Republic of Moldova because we anyway remained connected to Moldova. We will probably remain connected as we really care about the Republic of Moldova.

– IPN: How do things look like from outside? On another occasion, you said Moldova is known abroad as a poor country where the law does not work. Did this impression about the Republic of Moldova remain?

– Violeta Gașițoi:
Regrettably, these things are seen also from inside the state. Even when we were in the Republic of Moldova, we always said that our laws can be very good, but are not functional. Being outside the country now, we see things better as we can compare two systems of justice. There are two different countries with good laws that can be properly implemented. But in the Republic of Moldova nothing changed, regrettably. The situation as regards the interpretation of the legislation remained the same. This is regrettable as Moldova is indeed seen as a poor country and this poverty comes namely from the existing injustice. We do not have a legal system. We do not have medicine. We do not have a government that would want to make changes and we do not have an economy. These are the most serious problems and these things are seen.

– IPN: The central notion of IPN’s project is “injustice”. What do you associate this term with when you hear it?

– Violeta Gașițoi:
I associate it with corruption, poverty, disease. Injustice actually generates the biggest disaster for society. I also associate it with a lot of pain.

– IPN: Why do you consider things didn’t develop as regards the ensuring of the rule of law or democracy, the respect for the human rights on which Moldova’s development partners that provide so much support, including financial one, lay emphasis. If they developed, have they met the 30-year-long expectations of society?

– Violeta Gașițoi:
Regrettably, we didn’t make progress as we didn’t have political will. We didn’t have will at state level even if we had absolutely everything at our disposal. The European Union provided tranches of money to us for doing real reforms. But, owing to the state interests, these reforms were rather formal. When the Europeans came to see what was reformed, the authorities said they modified particular laws, did particular repair works in courts of law. And the reform stopped here. Given that the Europeans are not used to lying, they are very credulous. They believe the authorities as for them it is inadmissible to lie at state level, at the level of the Ministry of Justice. So, they believe these tales told by the Moldovan authorities.

I had to abandon this formal reform after taking part in it in 2014 and this is a regret of mine. I formed part of the working group for the reformation of justice. I left when I saw that this group formed by the Ministry of Justice was formal. What we were to do was not to become involved and not to put questions, “why did you amend the law this way or that way?”, but to say that we amended this law by the deadline set by the EU. Either this law was of a high or a poor quality wasn’t within our remit. When I tried to speak and say this, I was told to shut up. I then apologized and left this justice sector reformation project as I didn’t want to witness a formal reformation process.

I remember that an EU commission came in that period to discuss with the members of those working groups and I told them how reforms were done. This could be a minus or a plus of mine, but I’m a direct person and when I see that things go wrong, I say this. After I described the reality and told what was going on in those working groups, they stopped inviting me to the meetings at the Ministry of Justice in that period. Things didn’t move on and remained stagnant. But there was money and this money was misused as we didn’t do reforms. Any reform starts from the replacement of people. I said it and will repeat it – a law, no matter how good it is, in a corrupt hand is compromised from the start and this cannot be applied.

Our judicial system is fully discredited. In the same cases, the courts of law issued tens of different decisions. And this is the problem of the Republic of Moldova. And no one bears responsibility even if we have hundreds of convictions by the ECHR. No one bears responsibility for these violations.

– IPN: Why does it happen so? For whom this is suitable?

– Violeta Gașițoi: If you follow the evolution of the amendments made to the legislation in the Republic of Moldova, you will see that these appear every time the government is changed. For example, if we analyze the law on the prosecution service, we will see that this law was amended every time the government was replaced. If we analyze things further to see who proposed those amendments, we will see that the changes were made to suit particular interests – so that someone could apply for the post of prosecutor general, for example someone close to the current or the previous government. So, the amendments were done by adjusting them to the interests of a candidate with interests, of a party or a government. It happens so everywhere.

What reforms can we talk about if the law is not amended in the interests of society or to bring benefits to society, but is changed in the government’s interests for someone to remain in the post for as many years as possible or for a particular candidate to be promoted to a public or a key state post? This is not reform. This is an illegality hid behind the law. It was an illegality indeed. We all hoped that with the replacement of the government, with new elections we will have reforms. We believed and were very active in elections. We believed that by bringing a new force to the Government, by bringing a new force to Parliament, skillful persons will be brought. But they weren’t brought. We reached a moment when they acted as the previous governments acted. They adjusted the law to personal interests.

– IPN: Missis Gașițoi, what should be done in this case?

– Violeta Gașițoi:
If we examine things to see how the judges of the Constitutional Court were selected, we cannot say that a reform was done. I said then that if a real change in the country is wanted, the law should be amended so that a functionary could apply for a public post for a term in office of at most three-four years or for at most two terms. Afterward, this public functionary should return to society and relish the reforms done by them, feeling their effects themselves. We will have real changes then. How do you think, why don’t we have reforms? Because they hold the seats till death and do not feel what the ordinary people feel. They don’t feel this injustice. They think this does not involve them. They consider they do good things, but don’t feel them the hard way.

No government, no legislature proposed such changes because they didn’t realize their need. Changes cannot be done this way and we cannot evolve.

– IPN: Can we change things somehow? Who can move things on?

– Violeta Gașițoi:
Let’s see why we have such a situation? In the Republic of Moldova, we were educated that “we don’t need this and the Government, the state does things that should not concern us”. When we hear about a case of violation of the basic human rights, our society says “this does not refer to us; it is the neighbor’s problem, not mine; it is someone’s problem”. The people don’t think that today it is the neighbor’s problem, but tomorrow can become their problem and we all bear a particular blame for not talking about these problems, for not protesting en masse to show to the rulers that we see what they are doing and we do not work for them, but they work for us. We pay them and should thus demand that they account for what they do to us.

If we look at Europe, the U.S., we see that when the basic human rights of an ordinary citizen are violated there, this case is made public and the whole society protests. By protests, by showing the society’s disagreement with rulers’ acts, a lot of laws were modified in the U.S. The laws here are changed most of the times as a result of society’s pressure, not because the rulers want.

It’s a pity, but I have to admit that they don’t talk about problems in the Republic of Moldova. The lawyers, the judges or the prosecutors do not talk about them. The ordinary people are afraid of these institutions and will also not speak. They all want someone else to speak instead of them. But who am I and why should I speak? I’m not a witness to these violations. You are a witness and you should speak about them. This is what is necessary. The higher is the number of people we speak, the faster we could bring about a change. We should also demand that the authorities ensure the human rights at home and we, those from the diaspora or from the country, should contribute or we will be unable to make changes and absolutely nothing will change.

We should also demand that the authorities ensure the human rights at home and we, those from the diaspora or from the country, should contribute or we will be unable to make changes and absolutely nothing will change.

– IPN: So, we could borrow the example of the U.S., this social activism. We should talk, exert pressure on the rulers. What other examples or practices can we learn from the U.S. to come at least slightly closer to the system of justice, system of values existing overseas?

– Violeta Gașițoi:
If I could compare, I would like the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova’s duty to monitor the implementation and interpret the Constitution to be transferred to the courts of law of all levels. This way the people will gain direct access to the constitutional norms and could defend their rights by applying the Constitution directly in courts of law. Currently, the people cannot do this. No court in the Republic of Moldova directly applies the Constitution, as they do, for example, in the U.S. In the United States, the Constitution is applied everywhere. There is the Federal Constriction and also each state has the own Constitution.

We, in Moldova, have to wait for a lot of years and to seek justice at the ECHR. We have one more problem – that the judicial precedent is not applied in the Republic of Moldova. If we had applied the judicial precedent in our country, we would have had stability and would have been able to anticipate the decisions in one case or another. This procedure is applied in the U.S. and other states as what is important is for each person going to court to be able to anticipate the solution in their case. Each investor that wants to invest particular sums of money in the Republic of Moldova, in case of disputes should enjoy predictability and should know what decision will be taken as a result of a particular conflict. The investors do not come to the Republic of Moldova namely because of the absence of judicial stability.

Other aspects related to the challenges faces by lawyers in the interaction with the justice system, the right to health and cases of corruption in the healthcare system and in the case of Vladimir Plahotniuc, who allegedly went to court in the U.S. to defend his interests, can be seen in the video version of the interview with lawyer and human rights expert Violeta Gașițoi.

The interview was conducted in the framework of IPN News Agency’s project “Injustice Revealed through Multimedia”.

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