Regional Consultation for the UN Study on Violence Against Children
. 5 - 7 July 2005 Ljubljana, Slovenia  
Europe and Central Asia






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Moldova: Students visit young detainees


Five high-school journalists from the Youth Media Centre in Chisinau visited young detainees at the Reformatory Colony in Lipcani in Spring 2004. It was the first time that teenagers who had nothing to do with the justice system and had committed no crime had entered a Moldovan jail for minors.

The Reformatory Colony in Lipcani town is the only prison in the Republic of Moldova for boys aged between 14 and 18 years old that are charged with obstructing the law. At present, there are 185 young men between 14 nd 21 years of age imprisoned here. They are here for theft, robbery, rape, and even murder. Depending on the gravity of their crime, each and every one of the boys has to remain in prison for up to ten years.

Life at the Colony is not easy, the boys say, but it is much better than at the pre-trial detention facility. "Here we have got fresh air, we can see the sun and play football from time to time." Many come from vulnerable and extremely poor families. They have been expelled from their schools, society, and even from their own families.

Maxim is 17 years old and he comes from the Moldovan capital, Chisinau. He wasn't even 10 when he became an orphan. His father left their family when Maxim was just a little boy. Then his mother died of tuberculosis. He lived alone and, from time to time, visited one of his aunts. Because Maxim didn't have money for food, he used to steal different things and then sell them. He only went to school when he got bored of the street life. For his first offence, he was released on bail:

"No one told me that for any small offence I could get back in court and that, the second time, my penalty would be even more severe", says Maxim.

On the contrary, a lot of people told him he couldn't be imprisoned because he's a child. Maxim has been in the Reeducation Centre of Lipcani for two years now. In another two years he will be free, but no one is waiting for him on the outside. He says he will leave for Russia to find his father, look him in the eye and ask for some help. Maxim dreams of having children and being able of providing them a decent life...

In the Republic of Moldova there is no specialized juvenile justice system to meet the special needs of children suspected or accused of obstructing the law. Their cases are examined alongside grown-up cases, and the procedure can last for months, or even years. As a result, even if they are guilty of something, their rights -- as children -- are being denied. The reform of the juvenile justice system is still in its early days.

UNICEF Moldova and the Government of the Republic of Moldova, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, launched the project "Reforming the Juvenile Justice System in the Republic of Moldova" in 2004.

After this visit to the colony in Lipcani, the young journalists from the Youth Media Centre, together with UNICEF Moldova, decided to raise public awareness on juvenile justice issues. And they will inform young detainees about their rights and obligations, about their health risks, life and freedom, and other essentials. In this way the boys will be more prepared for their return into the society that waits for them on the day that they are free.

CHISINAU, June 2004

This article first appeared on the UNICEF Magic website 

For more information:

Violeta Cojocaru, Communication Officer, UNICEF Moldova

Tel: (+ 373 22) 22 0034