A screenshot from the press conference on the donation of 25 videoconferencing equipment for the secondary locations of the district courts

By the end of August 2020, the Moldovan judiciary will be provided with another 25 sets of video conferencing systems, which will be installed in the secondary district courts locations. The donation is made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Open Justice Project, and it will complement the 20 sets previously offered by the Project for the main locations of all courts.

The donation of additional equipment was announced by the Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Moldova, H.E. Dereck J. Hogan, during an online press conference held on June 25, 2020. The event was also attended by the Minister of Justice, Fadei Nagacevschi, the Director for the USAID Mission in Moldova, Scott Hocklander, and the Director of the USAID’s Open Justice Project, Cristina Malai.

In his speech, H.E. Dereck J. Hogan has appreciated the impact that the use of the videoconferencing system had on the activity of the justice sector, including in exceptional situations. “I am proud of the role that the United States’ assistance played in protecting the right of access to justice in Moldova. While other countries are only now moving towards the transition to remote hearings, Moldova’s judiciary and penitentiary system already have more than a year of experience in using video conferencing. It is encouraging to see that Moldova uses this system widely, even in times of public health emergency. All people, without exception, must benefit from a fast and fair trial, especially when they are in places of detention.”, the U.S. Ambassador to Moldova pointed out.

In his turn, the Minister of Justice stated: “The institutionalization and expansion of the use of videoconferencing systems is one of the priorities of the Ministry of Justice, this objective being provided in the draft Strategy for Ensuring the Independence and Integrity of the Justice Sector (SIISJ) 2020-2023, developed by the Ministry of Justice jointly with development partners and civil society. Thus, we aim to ensure the use of videoconferencing in criminal cases throughout the judiciary, as well as the gradual expansion of its application for the examination of other categories of cases.”

The videoconferencing application was piloted in the courts and penitentiaries of Moldova in November 2018. Subsequently, in December 2018, the Ministry of Justice purchased and installed video conferencing equipment in 15 penitentiaries.

Overall, from November 2018, when the videoconferencing application was piloted until now, the courts conducted approximately 5.700 court trials by videoconference, saving about 3.5 million Moldovan lei on transporting and escorting prison inmates to court hearings.

The videoconferencing equipment has proved its worth especially during the state of emergency, introduced from March 17, 2020 to May 15, 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, between March 18 and May 15, 2020, Moldovan courts used the videoconferencing system to conduct remotely over 800 court hearings on the most pressing cases. To prevent the spread of the infection in prisons, the authorities have decided to also extend the use of video conferencing during the state of emergency in public health. In the future, the use of the video conferencing system could be extended to examine several types of cases, possibly civil cases too.

A court trial conducted via video conferencing

The USAID’s Open Justice Project provides technical and methodological assistance to the judiciary in the Republic of Moldova since 2017. The implementation of the new Integrated Case Management System, the launch of new Courts’ Web Portal, as well as the modernization of the websites of the Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM) and the Agency for Court Administration are just some of the major achievements obtained with support from USAID’s Open Justice Project.

Over the past 5 years USAID has contributed more than $12.3 million to support the justice sector in Moldova.