Despite the pro-European image of the current authorities, unfortunately, the human rights situation in our country is becoming increasingly depressing
Amidst the chaos of apparatus and electoral battles, the human rights sphere is attracting more and more public interest. Exactly this sphere, which pervades socio-political relations in the country, feels all the “charms” of the protracted confrontation between various forces and party structures. This directly relates to the decisions of the ruling regime taken in order to retain power and expand the area of control over various sectors of the state system.
Just recently, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) published a report on the results of its activity for the previous year, and the indicators in the document related to Moldova are discouraging. Thus, according to statistical data, during 2023, 1,150 lawsuits were filed against the republic. Of the 46 signatory states to the relevant Council of Europe Convention, 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 ECHR, 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’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, the court has issued about six hundred judgements against Moldova, because of which the state has paid damages of over 20 million euros to the claimants.
If we compare the number of appeals to the ECHR with the number of the population, the volume of complaints is simply enormous, especially if we take into account the exaggerated figures of citizens permanently residing in the country. In addition to those already mentioned, our people are also seeking justice on such issues as personal security and liberty, unreasonable and unjustified arrests, and the right to freedom of expression.
According to local experts, Moldovans apply 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% 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 address international bodies. All these indicators clearly point out 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 Alexandr Stoianoglo. The ECHR confirmed that the Moldovan authorities had violated his right to a fair trial while dismissing him as prosecutor-general in 2021. At the same time, the court noted that in fact the dismissal could have been justified if the authorities had provided the former prosecutor-general with 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 3.6 thousand euros.
According to reports by leading international human rights centers, there has been no progress in reducing cases of torture and other ill-treatment in Moldova’s places of detention 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 pay 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. It is also noted that some refugee centers refuse accommodation to Ukrainian migrants from religious and ethnic minorities.
The U.S. State Department’s annual report on human rights violations in Moldova in 2022 also identified a large number of problems: torture, inhumane treatment, unsuitable prison conditions, corruption, serious restrictions on freedom of speech and media activities, anti-Semitic violence and threats, as well as against Romani, LGBT and disabled people.
The European Commission, in turn, gives a more lenient assessment of the current situation of human rights protection in Moldova, stating that the legislative and institutional framework is largely established and the government has made a clear commitment to fulfil international obligations in this field. The Commission also noted the steps taken to fulfil the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. As for negative moments, Brussels drew attention to the conditions in prisons, which exceed their intended capacity.
The conflict between Ceslav Panico, the People’s Lawyer, and Viorel Cerneutanu, head of the General Police Inspectorate, which surfaced in the media, is a clear evidence that the human rights situation is not rosy, to put it mildly, as well as the awareness of this difficult situation. The scandal began to break after Panico said on his Facebook page that he had received e-mails from two high-ranking Moldovan officials. The first 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 sphere, where Ceslav Panico’s office found several problems. In the second letter, on the contrary, the head categorically denies the conclusions made by the Office of the People’s Lawyer and asks that the report be changed.
Thus, for the first time in the 25 years of the Ombudsman’s work, officials decided to openly interfere in the competence of the country’s main human rights institution. Despite the fact that the People’s Lawyer intends to notify the Speaker of Parliament Igor Grosu and Prime Minister Dorin Recean about the incident, it is becoming increasingly obvious to what extent the leaders of state authorities feel impunity and connivance under the current political regime.
Of course, the issue of observance of human rights on the left bank of the Dniester, which remains a matter of heightened concern for Chisinau, cannot be omitted. The Transnistrian region certainly adds dark colors to the general adverse landscape and “contributes” the state of affairs with human rights in Moldova. However, years of attempts to categories the unresolved conflict and constitutionally uncontrolled region as a major source of the country’s poor human rights image have so far failed to yield the expected result. Judging by the rare meetings of expert groups from both banks of the Dniester, which end in lengthy speeches and mutual accusations, human rights issues are not favored by the parties.
Despite the pro-European image of the current authorities, unfortunately, the human rights situation in our country is becoming increasingly 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 indicates the total failure of the ongoing reforms, including in the field of justice, which is still so far from ensuring fair judiciary.