Human Rights Watch writes in protest against your decision to refuse permission, for a second year in a row, for a peaceful demonstration by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Moldova.

On April 28, 2006, by virtue of Decision No. 417d you rejected the application for a demonstration based on “the statements of religious organizations that they will organize protest actions if the demonstration organized by GenderDoc-M is allowed, and also based on letters of complaint from individuals living in Chisinau … which also say that protest actions will be organized.” Your determination was that the demonstration “will not be authorized.”

Despite this decision, peaceful activities connected with the fifth Moldovan Pride Festival—including film presentations, concerts, and a conference on anti-discrimination issues—proceeded from May 5-7, showing that the fears of disruption connected with the event were unjustified. It remains the case, however, that denying people their fundamental rights to expression and assembly—rights protected under international law—solely on the basis of their sexual orientation (or of others’ prejudice against their sexual orientation) is a form of discrimination prohibited by human rights treaties by which Moldova is bound.

On May 16, 2005, you banned a similar planned demonstration in support of legislation “barring discrimination against minorities, including sexual minorities.” You stated that because Moldova “already has a law on national minorities” a rally in support of extending those protections would be unnecessary. In June 2005 this decision was overturned by Moldova’s Court of Appeal, which held that “it is incontestable that GenderDoc-M enjoys the right to organize peaceful manifestations in accordance with the article 40 of the Constitution.” The Court stressed that "deciding to authorize or refusal to authorize a public gathering cannot depend upon the nature of the problems to which demonstration participants want to draw the attention of the society.” Your office has since appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

Your actions form part of what the European Parliament, in a resolution on “Homophobia in Europe,” condemned as “a series of worrying events” involving “banning gay pride or equality marches.” These bans—which have ranged from Poland to Latvia and Russia—violate basic rights protections. Both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, by which Moldova is bound, protect the freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly. Your ban would violate Moldova’s legal obligations to respect both the substantive rights guaranteed by those Conventions and the guarantee that all persons must enjoy those rights without discrimination.

Banning the planned parade because of fears of disturbance due to counter-demonstrators gives the threat of violence a veto over free expression. City authorities and police are responsible for ensuring that people can exercise their freedoms safely. They should restrain counter- demonstrators if they threaten violence, not capitulate to their demands. The European Court of Human Rights expressed this obligation in the case of Platform “Ärzte Für das Leben” v Austria :

A demonstration may annoy or give offence to persons opposed to the ideas or claims that it is seeking to promote. The participants must, however, be able to hold the demonstration without having to fear that they will be subjected to physical violence by their opponents; such a fear would be liable to deter associations or other groups supporting common ideas or interests from openly expressing their opinions on highly controversial issues affecting the community. In a democracy the right to counter-demonstrate cannot extend to inhibiting the exercise of the right to demonstrate. (Judgment of 21 June, 1988 A139)

A challenge to the latest ban you have imposed is now pending before Moldova’s Court of Appeal. We urge you to reverse your decision and to offer an apology to the organizers of the Pride Festival. We urge you to support the passage of national legislation barring all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We also urge you to ensure that in the future the freedom to demonstrate peacefully in Chisinau—for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and for all other groups—can be exercised without interference or discrimination.

Sincerely,

Scott Long
Director
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program
Human Rights Watch

cc:
Presidency, Republic of Moldova
His Excellency President Vladimir Voronin
Law and Public Relations Department
Mr. Artur REŞETNICOV
Fax: + 373 22 245 526

Ombudsperson Mrs. Raisa Apolschi
fax: +373 22 225 442

Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, Speaker Marian Lupu
fax: +373 22 233 210

Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, President, MP Stefan Secareanu
tel: +373 22 237 056, 234 437; fax: +373 22 233 210