Human Rights in Moldova

Updated 28th May 2015

Introduction

In recent years there has been some positive developments regarding the human rights situation in Moldova. New legislation and policies have strengthened protection against discrimination and facilitated the promotion of freedom of expression. However, significant human rights issues still persist; lack of fair trials, inadequate conditions in prisons, hate speech, violence against women, people trafficking, the marginalisation of the Roma community and harassment of LGBT people. In the breakaway territory of Transnistria, human rights abuses are grave. Torture, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions are widespread. Freedom of expression and association is tightly controlled and independent voices against the regime are suppressed.

The Situation for Human Rights Defenders in Moldova

Throughout the past several years, human rights defenders in Moldova have faced challenges when it comes to pursuing their advocacy work and fulfilling their roles as watchdogs in society, as a result of the unstable political situation. In general direct security risks are deemed low for civil society; however, activists engaged in promoting minority rights, especially towards the LGBT community, face persecution and threats from extremist groups. Transnistria is one of the least accessible territories for human rights defenders, and pressure on organisations defending human rights in Transnistria intensified further over the past two years. Often the work of human rights defenders is viewed as subversive by local authorities, who regularly take measures to control civil society and their activities. Human rights defenders working with Transnistria encounter harassment, defamation, and pressure from the de facto authorities on a daily basis as a result of their work. Authorities often try to prevent human rights defenders from other parts of Moldova from working in the territory.

Ten Rights In Focus

The right to life and physical integrity

Moldovan legislation prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading forms of treatment or punishment. However, there have been reports of violations of the right to life and physical integrity, including cases of torture, abuse or even deaths of detainees and prisoners in detention centres.  These cases often remain unsolved or are never thoroughly investigated, especially in Transnistria. Police officers accused of torture or ill treatment are rarely brought to trial or punished for their actions.

Amendments to the Criminal Code seek to improve judicial proceedings in cases of alleged torture or ill treatment. The level of punishment for those found guilty of such crimes has also increased. However there are reports of numerous inconsistencies in applying sanctions against the perpetrators of such crimes. The situation is especially acute for persons in psychiatric hospitals, who have been exposed to verbal, physical and sexual abuses, deprivation of food and who have also been subjected to forced labour. The institution of the Ombudsperson for Psychiatry has been responsible for monitoring these institutions is considered ineffective.

The right to liberty and security of person

The situation in most of Moldova’s 17 prisons is poor and inadequate. The majority of facilities are in need of urgent repair. Many lack adequate structural and sanitary conditions to accommodate the number of persons, especially in pre-trial facilities. Prisoners with infectious diseases are generally not separated from others in the prison population and do not have adequate access to qualified medical professionals. In general, psychological assistance for prisoners is also unavailable. However, international pressure has made a positive impact on provisional detention centres, where conditions have reportedly improved. In addition, international aid has allowed for some reconstruction leading to some improvements in facilities.

For prisoners in Transnistria, the situation is critical. Water is unsanitary and contributes to disease and poor dental health among prisoners. There is no access to qualified medical care; there is a high rate of prison population with tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and dental problems. As a result prisoners are often forced to turn to their families for assistance, who, in turn, seek help from private doctors, placing the burden of costs on relatives.

The right to a fair trial and an effective remedy

Even though Moldovan legislation proclaims the judiciary as a separate and independent branch, providing many guarantees of independence and impartiality, in practice many inconsistencies still remain. The procedures for appointing judges contain significant gaps, which often results in them being impartial. Pressure on judges as well as corruption within the system continues to be a serious problem. Credible reports also indicate that local prosecutors and judges have received bribes in return for reducing charges and/or sentences. In addition, problems persist with long-term cases not resolved (statute barred), frequent and unjustified annulments of hearings, the remanding of cases for retrial and non-enforcement of judgments, which further raises concerns over the transparency and impartiality of the judicial process.

In Transnistria, where trust in the impartiality and competence of the judiciary is at a low ebb, defendants are denied the right to a fair trial within the parallel, de facto judicial system. Violations include a lack of access to legal aid and attorneys are not independent in fulfilling their functions.  The principle of “equality of arms” is not observed, so the defence in general is disadvantaged in comparison to the prosecution. Coupled with a growing number of cases based on fabricated charges, violations of the principle of presumption of innocence, insufficient reviews of evidence and statements, other gross violations of right to fair trial principles and standards have resulted in a dismal judicial situation in the territory. Since Transnistria is not recognised as a country and does not adhere to any international human rights obligations people from Transnistria often seek justice within Moldovan and international judicial system. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) states that even if Moldova does not execute control over the territory of Transnistria, it has obligations to take steps to ensure protection of people’s rights. Russia has also been found responsible for human rights violations on the territory of Moldova

The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

There is no state religion in Moldova; however, a 2007 law on Religious Denominations acknowledges the “special significance and primary role” of the Orthodox Church. All religious organisations must be registered by the state, which can potentially lead to arbitrary and prejudicial decision-making during the registration process. Despite some positive changes to legislation, which has eliminated some of the obstacles religious groups faced with the registration process, religious minorities continue to face discrimination and hostility in Moldovan society.

In Transnsistria, freedom of religion is practically non-existent, in as much as there is an overcomplicated procedure of registration of religious groups, which includes a number of additional requirements. In order to be formally registered, religious groups have to have at least ten members and be active for a minimum of ten years, during which they have limited permission to address the public. Moreover, religious groups can lose their property if they are active without registration.  The Transnistrian de facto legislation neither complies with international standards, nor guarantees equality for diverse religious groups.

The right to the freedom of expression

The legal framework is being amended to ensure freedom of expression and civil society is playing a crucial role in advocating for appropriate and necessary improvements to the laws pertaining to free speech and press.

In general, respect for a variety of opinions is not fully protected in society. Political influence in the media makes it difficult for citizens to obtain unbiased information. Policymakers, judges and journalists lack sufficient information on laws pertaining to freedom of expression, which has led to overt political pressure, insufficient application of the laws in court cases, and violations of journalists’ rights

In Transnistria, the de facto authorities maintain tight controls over the media with little space for independent voices. Widespread censorship of individual journalists by the authorities restricts citizens’ freedom of expression and access to objective information.

The right to freedom of assembly and association

The right to freedom of assembly is enshrined in the constitution of Republic of Moldova and the situation with exercising this right in practice has changed for the better. After the tumultuous post-election demonstrations in 2009 and repeat elections, the government has exhibited a greater willingness to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly, in part due to international pressure.  In May 2015 thousands of people took part in a protest against Moldovan government, accusing it of failing to implement reforms in order to bring the country closer to the European Union. The country remains divided with regards to closer ties with the EU.

In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the ban on an LGBT march in 2005 violated the rights to freedom of assembly as well as the right of not being discriminated against. As a result, in 2013, the first LGBT Pride March took place in Moldova consisting of approximately 100 participants. The marches in 2014 and 2015 were also considered a success, with more than 150 participants, including ambassadors and representatives from international organisations. The heavy presence of police prevented counter demonstrators from disrupting the marches.

The Moldovan Constitution provides for freedom of association and guarantees that citizens should have the right to form parties and other social and political organisations. The easing of bureaucratic barriers has created a more favorable framework for exercising freedom of association.

In Transnistria the situation is totally different.  NGOs and their members face obstacles in performing their duties. For example Civil Rights Defenders’ partner Promo-LEX is under constant pressure from the de facto authorities and often experiences difficulties as a result of their human rights activities. There are no legal mechanisms in Transnistria to protect civil society interests nor can they receive effective support.

The rights to protection against hate speech and war propaganda

Politicians and religious leaders have been accused of using hate speech in public, drawing widespread attention and condemnation from the international community. Hate speech against LGBT persons continue to be a problem in Moldova, emanating from both religious and extremist groups as well as influential politicians. LGBT organisationas are subjected to attacks; in one example the premises of the local LGBT organisation was attacked by the extremist group in September of 2014.

The right to political rights

In November of 2014 parliamentary elections were held.  The elections were evaluated by international observers as genuine and well administrated, however with some irregularities. Women remain underrepresented in the Parliament. The latest elections results showed that only 21 places (out of a total 101) were held by women, which although is the greatest representation since 1994, is still far from representing an equal distribution. Minority groups, which comprise approximately 20 percent of the population, remain underrepresented in political institutions.

Even though minority groups are allowed to participate in the elections on equal grounds, there are no measures to promote their representation. The lack of representation has fuelled mistrust towards officials who proclaim the pro-Europe agenda, which means that national minorities are susceptible to Russian influence.

Transnistria held its “presidential elections” in 2011 without the presence of international observers, as the region’s status is not internationally recognised. Political participation in the territory remains tightly controlled by the ruling elite.

The right to protection against discrimination

In May 2012, the government adopted a key piece of legislation – the Law on Ensuring Equality – that prohibits discrimination on the basis of 11 characteristics, including gender, race, religion and disability. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not explicitly banned under the Law; but understood to be covered by reference to “any other similar grounds”.

The LGBT community in particular faces discrimination within society. Violations occur mainly in the areas of the right to private life and freedom of assembly and association. Despite the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012, and the adoption of the Law on the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (2012), thousands of people with disabilities still reside in psychiatric and state care institutions, where they face inhumane conditions, exploitation and abuse. The treatment of persons with disabilities is based on the exclusion of persons with disabilities and not on their integration into society.

Moldovan society is very patriarchal, which results in a high level of discrimination against women leading to a situation where many women face challenges on the labour market, gender-based violence and trafficking. Additionally, reports have revealed practices of coercive sterilisation, affecting particularly women with disabilities, women in rural areas and Roma women.

Due to stigmatisation and exclusion, discrimination against the Roma community is widespread in Moldovan society. Among the myriad of challenges faced by Roma communities are; access to the labour market, housing conditions, political representation and segregation of Roma children in the school system.

The Role of Civil Rights Defenders in Moldova

Since 2004 Civil Rights Defenders has empowered hundreds of human rights defenders in Moldova. We are the only organisation with a solely civil and political rights agenda, whose main objective is to protect and empower human rights defenders. We provide financial and organisational support to human rights organisations operating in Moldova. Over a decade of work in the country has provided a solid foundation for our partnerships and sound credibility among stakeholders.

As a small and flexible organisation, we react quickly to human rights violations; as an international human rights organisation, we provide protection and assistance to human rights defenders in cases of harassment and other problems. In Transnistria, we play an important role as a neutral, apolitical actor in the region, working towards improving the protection of civil and political rights for all Transnistrians. From our extensive work in other repressive and closely- controlled countries, we have knowledge, experience, and best practices to share with human rights defenders in the breakaway territory.

Kategorier: Landanalyser.
Etiketter: Landanalyser, Mänskliga rättigheter och Moldavien.
Regions: Östeuropa och Moldavien.