Validity Foundation - Mental Disability Advocacy Centre

Moldova: Doctor guilty of raping 18 women, compensation ordered

By Erzsébet Oláh 9th December 2019

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Eighteen women who were systematically sexually abused by their doctor at the Balti institution for a period of almost a decade in Moldova have finally achieved justice.

Earlier this month, the Moldovan Supreme Court pronounced judgment in one of the most grievous cases of gender-based violence Validity has come across. Following 6 years of litigation, the Court sentenced Stanislav Florea to 15 years of imprisonment and awarded all women compensation.

The victims and witnesses in the proceedings revealed horrific details of the abuse which took place behind closed doors at the institution where a number of persons with disabilities are detained. Two of the victims testified to becoming pregnant as a result of the rape. They were forced to undergo abortions, one of them as late as in the seventh month of pregnancy. Nobody listened to their complaints, until the visit of a human rights monitor in 2013.

The judgment provides justice to the victims after a complex legal battle to have their testimonies heard. The Government attacked the credibility of the victim’s experience throughout the proceedings. Some of the victims had to repeat the account of the horrific events multiple times. According to the testimony of some, employees of the institution forced then to drop the charges with threats and even violence. One of the victims died in unexplained circumstances drowning in a bathtub.

Ann Campbell, Validity’s Co-executive Director, said: “This judgment brings welcome recognition to these survivors of the suffering they endured when deprived of their liberty behind closed doors and when their cries for help were disbelieved. We know that this sort of violence happens frequently in institutions in Moldova and throughout Europe.

Without the dedication of our colleague, Doina Ioana Straisteanu, who represented them through years of difficult legal battles, these women’s experiences would have been just some of the many that go unnoticed and unpunished. We cannot stamp out violence and abuse while women remain locked in institutions. These outrageous crimes underscore the urgent and crucial need to support all women with disabilities to have their freedom with appropriate services in the community.”

Most of the victims remain in the institution to this day, while the convicted doctor remains under house arrest in an apartment on the premises of the institution. Validity welcomes the decision which provides partial recognition to the suffering endured by the victims in this case. The case highlights the issue of abuse inside closed institutions for persons with disabilities and the high levels of impunity for violence against women who are detained in Moldova’s institutions.

Validity calls on the authorities to provide redress, rehabilitation and community-based services to the victims. We also urge the state authorities to use this opportunity to take decisive step to end the institutionalisation of persons with disabilities in the country in light of Moldova’s obligations under international human rights law through undertaking a comprehensive deinstitutionalisation strategy.

 

Photo by Doina Ioana Straisteanu