The mayor of Chisinau, Moldova must affirm human rights by overturning his ban on a lesbian and gay-rights demonstration, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a letter sent today, Human Rights Watch called on the mayor and on the Moldovan government to ensure that peaceful demonstrations proceed without interference, and that legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is passed as a matter of priority.

“Chisinau’s mayor has surrendered to prejudice instead of defending basic freedoms,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Attempts to ban pride marches in Latvia, Poland and Russia have drawn world condemnation. Moldova should draw lessons from these experiences by opting to stand on the side of rights rather than repression.”

On April 28, interim Chisinau mayor Vasile Ursu denied an application by the Moldovan organization GenderDoc-M to hold a public demonstration as part of its fifth annual Moldovan Pride Festival on May 5-7. The rally was intended to support passage of legislation barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. The mayor justified the ban by referring to “statements of religious organizations that they will organize protest actions if the demonstration organized by GenderDoc-M is allowed,” and “letters of complaint from individuals living in Chisinau.”

In May 2005, the mayor had banned a similar demonstration. In June 2005, this decision was overturned by Moldova’s Court of Appeals. The mayor’s office appealed this decision, which is pending before the Supreme Court.

“It is astonishing that despite Moldova's unambiguous obligation under European and domestic law, Mayor Ursu still feels free to enforce discriminatory decisions,” said Long. “His actions only underline the demonstration’s message: that Moldova urgently needs a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.”