The victims of sexual crimes are often revictimized in court, their rights are not explained to them in an accessible language, and they are exposed to humiliating questions from the participants to the trial. These findings are comprised in a thematic study developed by the experts from the International Center „La Strada”. On the other hand, the authorities promise to take action in order to eliminate as soon as possible the abusive practices identified by the civil society representatives.
Victim’s involvement in the criminal case examination
As stated by the authors of the study, in the Republic of Moldova, a wrong interpretation of the rape victim’s consent was identified, especially when the victim did not yet reach the age of 16. The cases examined showed situations when the actions of rape, provided by art. 171 of the Criminal Code, were requalified as sexual intercourse with a person aged under 16, provided by art. 174 of the Criminal Code. During the examination of these cases the content of the complaint, the explanations, the hearings where the victim states that she did not give her consent for having a sexual intercourse, are not taken into consideration. Nevertheless, the criminal investigation officers use the conclusions from the forensic reports, which do not indicate any corporal injury, and start the criminal investigation on the fact of committing the crime provided by art. 174 of the Criminal Code. The experts concluded that in one of three cases examined, the law enforcement officers initiated the criminal investigation on another crime, less serious than the one reported in the complaint. Usually, the victim is not informed about this change. The same thing happens when the victim reports a collective rape, and some persons are excluded from the criminal investigation.
Based on the study results, in 90% of cases the victim was not present at the preliminary hearings or at the first case examination session. This happens due to the following reasons: she was not informed about the case examination, or the prosecutor didn’t make sure that the victim is present at the court session.
„Are you upset for what he did to you?”
Moreover, in court, the victim is usually asked about things that the legal advisers from „La Strada” consider irrelevant. „Are you upset with the offender for what he did to you?”, „Have you previously have sexual relations? If yes, whom with?”, „What was your age when you started your sexual life?”, „Who took your clothes off?”, „Do you consume alcohol?” – these are only a few examples of such questions.
Of 240 criminal cases, only in one criminal case the victim was interrogated after the removal of the culprit from the court room. Only in another two criminal cases analyzed, the criminal investigation officer and the prosecutor refused the confrontation of the victim with the aggressor. The authors of the study mention that hearing the victim in the presence of the culprit is an often practice, which forces the victim to go through the moments of abuse all over again. Only in two cases the victim was helped by a chosen attorney.
In one of three cases the victim asks for the termination of the criminal investigation
As stated by the authors of the study, putting the victim in an unfavorable and stressful situation, encourages her to give up and withdraw her complaint. Thus, in every third criminal case analyzed, the victim asked for termination of the criminal investigation due to reconciliation of parties, and the court did not examine the conditions of the reconciliation and whether the victim was influenced or manipulated to take this decision. In the case of minor victims, practice shows that the request for termination of the criminal trial due to reconciliation of parties is submitted by the attorney, and the judges and prosecutors don’t even ask the victim’s opinion.
Another harmful procedural action made by the criminal investigation officer is taking the victim to the crime scene and asking her to reproduce exactly the way she was abused.
In the majority of cases, the court convicted the abusers for the crimes committed. Still, of all the cases examined, four resulted in acquittals, three of which were issued by the same judge.
In this context, the authors of the study, experts from the International Center „La Strada”, compiled a list of recommendations addressed to the authorities.
Thus, the law makers are expected to adopt amendments to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code in order to exclude evasion from criminal liability in case of reconciliation of the victim with the criminal. Also, relevant state institutions are called to revise the notion of „consent” from the Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova, in the case of crimes related to sexual life, in accordance with the provisions of the Istanbul Convention.
As for the direct work with the victims of sexual crimes, the experts insist that the representatives of the law enforcement institutions should avoid stigmatized attitude, reformulate their questions, in order to protect the dignity of victims, and also, always motivate their decisions to stop the case or to exclude the alleged abuser from the criminal investigation.
The 45 recommendations also refer to the rehabilitation of victims, training of professionals and raising public awareness about this phenomenon. A copy of the study, including the full list of recommendations, was submitted to the decision makers from the Ministry of Justice, Superior Council of Magistracy and Parliament. In return, the authorities promised to take action and eliminate as soon as possible the identified abusive practices.