Moldova faces very serious challenges due to deep divisions in the country, widespread corruption and governance issues but recent reforms are showing the way forward, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, said on Thursday at the end of a four-day visit to the country.
“I am very concerned by the many deep divisions in Moldova, including along ethnic, religious, gender, political, linguistic and income lines. These worrying divisions have been intensified by widespread corruption, including a massive bank fraud scandal, and by long-standing paralysis in governance,” he said.
“Trust in public institutions is at a record low and it is widely recognized that oligarchs are in complete control of State institutions and the media. Weak rule of law and the absence of a common vision for the future of the country have led many citizens to leave the country. As a result, Moldova is faced with a problem of brain drain and social exclusion, and it is now losing its human capital,” said Simonovic.
“Despite this grim picture, 2016 begins with possibilities for change for the Moldovan people. After many months, a new Government has been formed and a new Law on the Prosecutor adopted. The Parliament is about to adopt a law which would require that 40% of Parliamentarians be women, as well as other measures to advance the rights of women.
These positive steps show that the country is on the verge of opening a new chapter in its efforts to strengthen the national human rights protection system, including effective and independent rule of law institutions and a sound legal system.”
“The advancement of human rights is key to pulling the country out of this crisis. In this regard, I welcome Prime Minister Pavel Filip’s commitment to establish a new National Human Rights Action Plan as well as a coordinating body under the auspices of his Office to monitor and report progress on human rights. These two important measures will provide the overarching framework Moldova needs to ensure the full implementation of its human rights obligations. However, I wish to stress that clear benchmarks and timelines will be needed to ensure that the new National Human Rights Action Plan becomes an effective tool for reform and change,” he said.
The Assistant Secretary-General noted that Moldova will undergo its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) later this year. “The implementation of a number of recommendations of the first UPR, including recommendations calling for strengthening the Criminal Code provisions against gender-based violence and hate crime, eliminating discriminatory legislation against persons with disabilities and ensuring full enjoyment of rights for all in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and providing Moldova’s nascent equality body with enforcement powers with a view to strengthen the implementation of the anti-discrimination legislation, is still pending. The progress in these particular aspects of legal reform, as well as serious groundwork on the recommendations of the second cycle, can provide a road map for in-depth reform,” he said.
After the meeting with the Gagauzian Governor (Bashkan), Ms. Irina Vlah, the Assistant Secretary-General emphasised that “National human rights action needs to encompass all of Moldova’s regions and people from the Gagauzian region should not be left behind.” Simonovic urged for a swift resolution of issues around the establishment of the Regional Development Centre for Gagauzia and their inclusion in the broader development and human rights initiatives.
Noting that corruption has been widely cited as a cause of Moldova’s current crisis, Simonovic urged action. “Corruption is deeply destructive for human rights. When people witness high-level corruption, it tends to legitimize it throughout society. It is urgent to end impunity for all corruption-related cases, especially at the highest levels,” he said.
The Assistant Secretary-General noted that civil society organizations have a key role to play in advancing human rights, fighting corruption in Moldova and ensuring that the new National Human Rights Action Plan is fully implemented and achieve results. “I met vibrant and sophisticated civil society organizations in Gagauzia, the Transnistrian region and in the rest of Moldova, whose views are crucial and whose activities should be supported,” he said.
He called for the wider involvement of civil society organizations, in particular with women and youth and religious communities, and stressed that more needed to be done to promote and defend the rights of stigmatized groups such as LGBT people, the Roma, people living with HIV/AIDS and people with disabilities.
“In particular, I urge support for the implementation of the decisions of Moldova’s Council for Combatting and Preventing Discrimination and Ensuring Equality, as well as for the strengthening of the independence of the Ombuds institution,” he said.
During his visit, the Assistant Secretary-General met with Mr.Yevgeny Shevchuk and other representatives of the de facto administration in Tiraspol.
“I believe that human rights-based confidence building measures are needed more than ever for people on both banks of the Nistru river. As is now widely recognized, such initiatives are meant to ensure the protection of people, and have no bearing on issues of political recognition or legal status,” he said.
“I am encouraged that the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Mr. Balan, and Mr. Shevchuk in Tiraspol committed to activation of the human rights working group under the negotiation process that includes top human rights officials of both sides,” added the Assistant Secretary-General.
Simonovic stressed the willingness of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the entire United Nations family to remain engaged and deepen its involvement with Moldova. “Moldova benefits from excellent support from regional organizations and the wider international community and we will continue to closely work with those who speak out for human rights,” he said.