Threats must be condemned and investigated

Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders are concerned for the safety of two human rights defenders in the Transnistria, the internationally unrecognised separatist republic of Moldova. Stepan Popovsky and Vladimir Maimust are subject of judicial harassment and threats by the local administration. We urge the representatives of the Transnistrian administration to do their outmost to protect Stepan Popovsky and Vladimir Maimust, and ensure that any threats or attacks against human rights defenders are publicly condemned and investigated.

On 9 January 2013, Stepan Popovsky, a private lawyer and chairperson of the Republican Social Movement for the Protection of Property and Social Rights of Peasants, held a meeting where he provided legal support to local peasants. The meeting was interrupted by police officers accusing him for trespassing a private area, although the Criminal Code of Transnistria does not define trespassing as a criminal offense. One week after the incident, Stepan Popovsky was informed that a criminal case had been initiated against him. He responded with a letter of complaint to the local Minister of Internal Affairs. Since then, Stepan Popovsky has been repetitively threatened by Transnistrian region’s law enforcement officers while performing his profession as a lawyer. A few months earlier, he had been the subject to a defamatory media campaign that presented him as a foreign spy earning millions of dollars by buying local real estate. Stepan Popovsky is now expecting that further actions will be taken against him.

The human rights lawyer Vladimir Maimust is also put under pressure from the Transnistrian authorities. He is the defendant of a person who was detained by Transnistrian authorities on 23 June 2012 and later died from suffocation in jail on 21 November 2012. Vladimir Maimust filed a complaint to the local Investigation Committee and to the Transnistrian leader Yevgeny Shevchuk, in which he accused the investigator of abuse of power and negligence that led to the death of his client. Vladimir Maimust was later threatened by KGB agents “to be included in the list of persons whose activity on the territory of the republic has to be undermined” and that criminal charges can be brought against him. During a working visit to the Investigation Committee on 11 January 2013, the human rights lawyer was beaten and injured by four men in police uniform who also tried to slip some unknown package into his pocket, accusing him of being drunk although medical expertise later confirmed that there was no sign of alcohol consumption. A criminal case has been recently opened against Vladimir Maimust for conspiracy. If found guilty, he may face up to 12 years in prison.

Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders believe that the threats and the fabricated criminal cases against Stepan Popovsky and Vladimir Maimust are directly related to their human rights work. The organisations urge the representatives of the Transnistrian administration to launch an immediate and impartial investigation into the threats against the human rights defenders, to protect them from any further threats or attacks, and to ensure that all human rights defenders in the region can carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

Categories: Statements.
Tags: Harassment and Human Rights Defenders.
Regions: Moldova.