The government recalled a draft law on NGOs which contained undue restrictions for organizations that receive foreign funding. Nine activists were convicted of attempting to organize mass disturbances in 2015 and given conditional prison sentences in an unfair trial. In May, the LGBTI Pride in the capital Chișinău was stopped by police due to alleged security concerns, while President Igor Dodon made homophobic statements. Public spending on health, education and social protection continued to fall; discrimination against Roma persisted.
In July, the Parliament adopted controversial changes to the Electoral Law despite public protests and international condemnation. The changes were widely seen as benefiting the two biggest parties in Parliament, the ruling Democratic Party of Moldova and the opposition Socialist Party of Moldova. On 19 June, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued a highly critical opinion on the amendments. Most of the mainstream media remained effectively controlled by and biased towards the Democratic Party of Moldova.
Freedom of association
A draft law on NGOs was agreed by a Working Group which included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several NGOs. The law was widely welcomed by civil society. However, in July, the Ministry of Justice unexpectedly introduced three articles into the draft without consulting the Working Group. These articles would compel NGOs involved in broadly defined “political activities” to publish financial reports and disclose the origin and use of their funding, among other requirements. Non-compliance would incur severe penalties, including hefty fines, exclusion from the government-run financial mechanism that facilitates and encourages voluntary donations to NGOs by taxpayers, and potential closure of the NGO. The amendments met strong opposition from civil society and international organizations who regarded them as undue restrictions on NGOs receiving foreign funding. Critics foresaw a stigmatizing effect on human rights defenders and civil society, particularly for those critical of the authorities. In September, the government recalled the draft law.
In June, the former leader of the “Our Home – Moldova” political party, Grigore Petrenco, and eight fellow political activists were convicted of attempting to organize mass disturbances on 6 September 2015, received conditional prison sentences and were prohibited from attending public events. The sentences ranged from three to four and a half years. On the day of the alleged offence, they had attempted to forcibly enter a government building during an otherwise peaceful rally. Their trial faced multiple delays and procedural infringements.
Grigore Petrenco’s lawyers, Ana Ursachi and Eduard Rudenco, who also defended other high-profile clients in politically sensitive cases, continued to be subjected to smear campaigns in pro-government media, and reported harassment by the authorities in connection with their work.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention and in the criminal justice system continued to be reported.
On the night of 26 August, Andrei Braguta, a driver who had been arrested for speeding, died in police custody. The authorities claimed that he had died of pneumonia and later admitted that Andrei Braguta had been beaten up by two fellow cell mates. Three police officers who were on duty that night and the two cell mates were arrested as criminal suspects in the case. One of the cell mates claimed that Andrei Braguta had already been severely beaten when placed in the cell, and protested his and the other cell mate’s innocence. The criminal investigation was ongoing at the end of the year.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
The police cut short the 21 May Pride march after the demonstrators had walked just a few hundred metres, stating that they were unable to guarantee their security in the event of violent attacks by counter-demonstrators.
The President publicly criticized the LGBTI community, described the Pride march as being contrary to the country’s “traditional values”, and participated in a parallel demonstration named the “Traditional Family Festival”.
Economic, social and cultural rights
Moldova’s third periodic report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was considered by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September. Particular concerns raised during the review included the continually falling rate of public spending on health, education and social protection, and the persistent discrimination and marginalization of Roma. The Committee described the situation of Roma as a “glaring problem” and “the failure in many aspects” of the National Action Plan on Roma for 2011-2015 as “a serious cause for concern”.