No visible progress was made in reducing instances of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. Impunity continued for past human rights violations by law enforcement agencies. New “temporary” restrictions on public assemblies were introduced. The rights of LGBTI people were not fully realized, leading to cases of harassment, discrimination and violence. Some refugee reception centres turned away religious and ethnic minority refugees. In the breakaway Transdniestria region, prosecution and imprisonment for peaceful dissent continued.
Political tensions were heightened by Russia’s aggression against neighbouring Ukraine and the ongoing presence of Russian troops in Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region. Explosions were reported in Transdniestria, briefly raising the terror threat level.
Moldova remained one of the poorest countries in Europe. Women, children, older people, people with disabilities and those living in rural areas were among the poorest groups. The war in Ukraine exacerbated high inflation and soaring energy prices, and in November led to energy blackouts.
On 23 June, Moldova received EU candidate status on condition of structural reforms.
Torture and other ill-treatment
No visible progress was made in addressing institutional causes of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. Overcrowding, unsanitary and otherwise inadequate detention conditions and poor health provision remained common in adult, juvenile and mixed penitentiary institutions.
Impunity remained endemic for past human rights violations by members of law enforcement agencies, including torture and other ill-treatment of protesters in 2009.
No further progress was made in the case of the abduction and forcible return to Türkiye of seven Turkish teachers by Moldovan security services in 2018. However, following litigation by the wife of one of the teachers, the Moldovan authorities were forced to declassify details of criminal proceedings that led to the conviction and fining of the former director of the Security and Intelligence Service (SIS), Vasilii Botnari, in 2020. He had been convicted solely for an economic crime, relating to the cost of the chartered flight on which the teachers were transported. The relevant court decision had been kept secret until after the deadline for appeal by the victims’ families. Nobody else appeared to have been brought to justice in relation to the abduction and illegal rendition of the seven teachers, who were subsequently imprisoned in Türkiye.
Despite this case and other abuses, the SIS was not subject to reform. Instead, in November, new draft legislation was tabled in parliament to give the security services additional surveillance and other powers.
Freedom of expression and assembly
On 19 April, President Sandu signed into law a prohibition on the use of symbols associated with Russia’s military activities abroad. These included the so-called ribbon of St. George and the letters “Z” and “V”. Their use was expected by pro-Russian political groups at a traditional demonstration held on 9 May to mark Victory Day in the Second World War. While the event was allowed to proceed uninterrupted, people displaying the banned symbols either at the event or on their cars were identified, and later 196 fines were issued by police, including to 16 parliamentarians from the Bloc of Communists and Socialists.
On 13 October restrictions were imposed on protests after President Sandu had asked the government the day before to introduce temporary legislative amendments to “allow the police to ensure public order” during protests by the opposition Shor party. The Ombudsperson (Public Advocate) criticized this decision. On 16 October police seized tents from protesters in front of central government buildings.
LGBTI people’s rights
During the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR of Moldova in January, numerous states called for strengthened protections for LGBTI people. The Moldovan NGO GenderDoc-M reported in early 2022 that anti-LGBTI views remained common across Moldova and that young LGBTI people continued to face harassment and violence.
In February the Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality stated that Marin Pavlescu had been subjected to harassment based on his sexual orientation during his military service. In late 2021, the Ministry of Defence had threatened to prosecute Marin Pavlescu for desertion after he left the army following harassment and humiliation, but in May 2022 the prosecutor’s office declined to open a criminal case against him. Marin Pavlescu continued to face discrimination in finding work due to being effectively outed as gay in publicity surrounding his case.
In June, Moldova’s largest-ever Pride march went ahead in the capital, Chișinău, despite threats by the city’s mayor that he would ban the event.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
More than 740,000 individuals crossed from Ukraine into Moldova by December, putting significant pressure on local services. Most travelled further into Europe or returned to Ukraine, leaving almost 90,000 refugees in Moldova.
The Public Advocate noted that some refugee reception centres had turned away Roma and other religious or ethnic minority refugees from Ukraine. Some centre managers were allegedly contacted by local police and warned that the centres should not accept Roma people.
Freedom of expression
De facto authorities in Transdniestria sentenced Viktor Pleshkanov to five days’ “administrative detention” for “petty hooliganism” after he reportedly threatened to hang the Ukrainian flag on his balcony as an affront to the self-styled Ministry of State Security. His lawyer reported that he was then subsequently sentenced to 38 months’ imprisonment in a closed trial under undisclosed extremism-related charges.