Europe's Court of Human Rights Upholds Suit from Romanian Separatists

The decision of the Strasbourg-based court has evoked a harsh reaction from the Russian government

On July 8th the European Court of Human Rights upheld the lawsuit of the Romanian senator Illie Ilasku filed against Russia and Moldova. According to the court’s ruling, Ilasku and his companions Alexander Lesko, Andrey Ivantos and Tudor Petrov-Popa will receive a 800,000 euros compensation. Furthermore, the court ruled to release Lesko and Petrov-Popa, currently jailed in Transdniestr.

The decision of the Strasbourg-based court has evoked a harsh reaction from the Russian government. A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry ran: "In connection with the court’s ruling on Ilasku's case, the Russian government is perplexed with the inconsequence, subjectivity and a clear political motive of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg."

In the beginning of the 1990s Ilasku was the leader of the Moldova People's Front in Tiraspol. A lot of local citizens both in Moldova and in Transdniestr associate this man's name with the start of the sweeping, but bloody conflict, which eventually divided the republic into two. At that time, Ilasku - a man with obscure past - was playing quite a significant role in Moldova's politics. He became famous for his appeals to make short work of "separatists" in the Transdniestrian region.

When Ilasku was arrested in June of 1992, the Transdniestrian government accused him and his associates (who jointly brought up a suit to Europe's Court of Human Rights) of assassinating deputies of the Tiraspol municipal council. Ilasku was accused of terrorism and his activities in the armed group Bujor, which allegedly exterminated separatist politicians. As a result, in December of 1993 Ilasku was sentenced to death penalty and later to lifetime imprisonment. His comrades were sentenced to long terms in jail.

Illie Ilasku did not reject his participation in the assassinations of Transdniestrian deputies. As he said, he was a soldier in the war, obeying the orders of the Moldavian government, who eventually fell a victim to then aggressive politics aimed at forceful solution of political problems.

Ilasku did not spend the rest of his life in jail. In connection with a personal request from Moldova's current president Vladimir Voronin, Transdniestrian citizens released him in May of 2001. This seems to be a paradox, because the communist president rescued the man, who did not hide his ultra-right views. However, Ilasku's associates did not raise a finger to take Ilasku out of jail. When Ilasku was liberated, he promised to take revenge on Russia and Moldova and left to live in Romania, where he became a senator from the ultra-right party Great Romania. The party raised territorial claims against almost all neighboring states. Ilasku submitted a claim to Europe’s Court of Human Rights in 1999, but it was accepted for pending in 2001.

The litigation continued for three years. Russia and Moldova tried to prove that they were indequate defendants and could not be considered as defendants on Ilasku's case. Yet, the court ruled that Chisinau was responsible for the actions of the Transdniestrian government, because the territory is formally a part of Moldova. Furthermore, it was decided that Russia was supposed to be responsible too, because it was actually controlling the rebellious territory and supporting separatists in every way. In addition, Ilasku alleged that he had been arrested by Russian military men from the 14th army.

The court's ruling looks rather ambiguous because there are considerable discrepancies between Russia and the EU as far as the regulation of the Transdniestrian conflict is concerned. The EU's stance ruined Russia's plan to liberate Moldova and Transdniestr in November of 2003. No one in Brussels has ever explained why the plan was bad. Probably, there was nothing bad about it, except for the fact that the plan did not stipulate the leading role for the EU in the regulation of the conflict. In addition, the EU together with the US still insist on the soonest withdrawal of the rest of Russia’s 14th army from Transdniestr. It is clear that 2500 soldiers do not pose any threat to Europe, but it is just a matter of principle. There is no guarantee that another Ilasku will appear in the region after Russian troops leave Transdniestr.

On the photo: Illie Ilasku

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Author`s name Olga Savka