Despite the pro-European image of the current Moldovan authorities, unfortunately, the human rights situation in the country is becoming more and more depressing

Moment of detention of Moldovan Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo

In the chaos of apparatus and electoral battles, the human rights sphere is attracting more and more public interest. It is this area, which permeates socio-political relations in the country, that feels all the “charms” of the protracted confrontation between various forces and party structures. This directly affects the ruling regime’s decisions to retain power and expand its control over various sectors of the State system.

Recently, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has published a report on the results of its activity for the previous year, and for Moldova the indicators in the document are disappointing. Thus, according to statistical data, during 2023, 1150 lawsuits were registered against the Republic. Of the 46 states that signed the relevant Convention of the Council of Europe, Moldova ranks 5th in the number of complaints sent to the ECHR, and is also among the ten countries with the highest number of human rights violations.

Judging by the last year, of the 24 judgements handed down by the ECtHR, most of them related to violations of the rights to a fair trial, respect for private and family life, protection of property and rights, as well as to liberty and security. In total, in the 26 years since Moldova joined the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court has issued about six hundred judgements against Moldova, as a result of which the state has paid damages to the plaintiffs in the amount of more than 20 million euros.

If we compare the number of applications to the ECHR with the number of the population, the volume of complaints is simply colossal, especially if we take into account the inflated figures of residents permanently residing in the country. In addition to those already mentioned, our people are also seeking justice on such issues as personal safety and freedom, unjustified and unjustified arrests, and the right to freedom of expression.

According to local experts, Moldovans appeal to the European Court of Human Rights 6.5 times more often than the European average, and this figure continues to grow. For example, according to last year’s data, 2 per cent more applications were filed against Moldova than in 2022. The growing figures may be related to the fact that residents do not trust the decisions of national courts, so they turn to international instances. All these indicators clearly indicate that in recent years there has been a significant deterioration in the observance of human rights in Moldova.

One of the most high-profile cases lost by Moldova last year in the European Court of Human Rights was that of Alexandru Stoianoglo. The ECHR confirmed that the Moldovan authorities had violated his right to a fair trial when they dismissed him as prosecutor general in 2021. At the same time, the court noted that in principle the dismissal could have been justified if the authorities had given the former prosecutor-general the opportunity to appeal the decision and to exclude legal interpretations that the dismissal mechanism had been used arbitrarily. As a result of the proceedings before the ECHR, the Moldovan government will have to pay Stoianoglo compensation in the amount of EUR 3.6 thousand

According to reports by leading international human rights centres, there has been little progress in reducing cases of torture and other ill-treatment in places of detention in Moldova in recent years. In addition, impunity for past human rights violations by law enforcement agencies has persisted. At the same time, new “temporary” restrictions on public gatherings were introduced. International human rights defenders have drawn particular attention to the situation of the LGBTI community, whose rights, in their view, have not been fully protected, resulting in cases of harassment, discrimination and violence. Five LGBT people from Russia were denied asylum in Moldova on 1 February. In the same refusal document for all of them, the Inspectorate General for Migration (IGM) states that “mere membership in a social group is not a ground”. Moreover, it cites Putin’s statement that there is no mobilisation and points to the obligation to “defend the country”, almost two years into the invasion of Ukraine. The coordinator of the LGBT organisation Genderdoc-M stated that this is “the same as denying asylum to Jews in the 1930s”.

It is also noted that some refugee reception centres deny accommodation to Ukrainian displaced persons from religious and ethnic minorities.

The US Department of State’s annual report on human rights violations in Moldova in 2022 also identified a large number of problems: torture, inhuman treatment, unsuitable prison conditions, corruption, serious restrictions on freedom of speech and media activities, violence and threats based on anti-Semitism, as well as against Roma, LGBT persons and persons with disabilities.

The European Commission, for its part, gives a more lenient assessment of the current situation of human rights protection in Moldova, stating that the legislative and institutional framework is largely in place and the government has made a clear commitment to fulfil its international obligations in this field. The sides also noted the steps taken to fulfil the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. On the negative side, Brussels drew attention to the conditions in prisons, which exceed their intended capacity.

The conflict between Cheslav Panco, the People’s Advocate, and Viorel Cerneutanu, head of the Inspectorate General of Police, which was splashed in the media, is a clear indication that the human rights situation is not smooth, to put it mildly, as well as the awareness of this difficult situation. The scandal began to flare up after Panco said on his Facebook page that he had received e-mails from two high-ranking Moldovan officials. The first of them proposed to hold joint discussions with the Ombudsman in order to change the situation, eliminate the problem and prevent human rights violations in the reporting area, where Czeslaw Panco’s office found several problems. In the second letter, on the contrary, the head categorically denies the findings of the Office of the People’s Advocate and asks to change the prepared report.

Thus, for the first time in 25 years of the ombudsman’s work, the officials decided to openly interfere in the competence of the main human rights institute of the country. Despite the fact that the People’s Advocate plans to notify the Speaker of Parliament Igor Grosu and Prime Minister Dorin Recean about the incident, it is becoming more and more obvious to what extent the heads of public authorities feel impunity and permissiveness under the current political regime.

Of course, the issue of respect for human rights on the left bank of the Dniester cannot be overlooked, which continues to be of great concern to Chisinau. The Transnistrian region undoubtedly adds dark colours to the general unfavourable landscape and makes its “contribution” to the state of affairs with human rights in Moldova. However, the long-standing attempts to categorise the region, unresolved by the conflict and uncontrolled by the constitutional authorities, as the main source of the country’s bad human rights reputation have not yet yielded the expected result. Judging by the rare meetings of the profile groups from both banks of the Dniester, which end in lengthy speeches and mutual accusations, human rights issues are not favoured by the parties.

For all the pro-Western and pro-European image of the current authorities, unfortunately, the human rights situation in our country is becoming more and more depressing and regressive. The loss of citizens’ trust not only in politicians but also in judicial institutions, which forces them to wander around Europe in search of a fair trial, once again speaks of the total failure of the ongoing reforms, including in the field of justice, which is still so far from ensuring fair justice.

Based on materials from the Moldovan press