I write to protest the decision by Chisinau city authorities to refuse permission, for the third year in a row, for a peaceful demonstration by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Moldova. The Information Centre GenderDoc-M, an organization dedicated to the human rights of LGBT people in Moldova, planned such a demonstration for April 27 to support the adoption of legislation barring discrimination of minorities, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. The demonstration was to be part of the “All Different, All Equal Campaign” of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, in celebration of diversity and tolerance.

At a hearing on April 11, 2007, a City Hall commission charged with the review of applications for public demonstrations denied authorization to the Pride march. Members of the commission alleged that the event would propagandize for homosexuality and threaten public order and Christian values. According to members of GenderDoc-M, commission member and head of the Social, Humanitarian and Interethnic Division of City Hall, Nina Stratulat, accused members of GenderDoc-M of planning to parade naked through the streets and stated, “You want to use this opportunity to have public sex.” Alexandru Corduneanu, the deputy mayor of Chisinau, stated, “All countries are ruled by principles. Moldova is ruled by Christian principles, and that is why we cannot allow you to go against morality and Christianity by permitting this parade.”

GenderDoc-M has appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal. Despite City Hall’s decision, peaceful activities connected with the sixth Moldovan LGBT Pride Festival, including panel discussions, athletic events, and concerts attended by international guests, including a Swedish member of European Parliament, proceeded April 27 – 29, showing that the fears of disruption connected with the event were unjustified. However, some interference was instigated by police as well as by a small group of protestors. LGBT community members were prevented from laying flowers at the base of the statue “Sad Hands,” in what was intended as a ceremonial tribute, by approximately a dozen police officers. Police temporarily detained a participating driver who was parked near the area. Police filmed tribute participants and recorded their automobile license plate numbers. A gang of approximately twenty protestors pelted gay and lesbian participants with eggs.

The City Hall decision came despite the February 13, 2007 announcement by the Moldovan Supreme Court that the city’s ban on the 2006 pride march was illegal. The Supreme Court’s decision stated: “[I]t is clear that the Information Centre GenderDoc-M works on gender issues and protection of the rights of sexual minorities, thus being an organization with objectives which do not contravene national legislation and international human rights law. The Supreme Court considers unjustified the refusal of the Chisinau City Hall to authorize a march of solidarity by GenderDoc-M, rationalizing it by the possible threat to the public order, as this motive is inconsistent with the right to freedom of assembly, guaranteed by Art.11(2) of the European Convention for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”

In 2006 (in Decision No. 417d) then Interim Mayor Vasile Ursu rejected GenderDoc-M’s application for a pride parade 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.” In response to Human Rights Watch’s condemnation of this of this decision, Deputy Mayor Petru Svet wrote to Human Rights Watch, “To avoid the unleashing of a protest gathering of such proportions that thousands of people might participate, which would provoke a violation of public order, with the possibility of grave consequences befalling society and the participants, the gathering called by the Information Center GenderDoc—M was not authorized.”

On May 16, 2005, Interim Mayor Ursu banned a similar planned demonstration in support of legislation outlawing discrimination against minorities, including LGBT people. Interim Mayor Ursu 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.” Because the city continued to contest the Court’s decision, GenderDoc-M has appealed this case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The actions of Chisinau City Hall violate European and international standards affirming equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. On May 3, 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the 2005 ban on a gay pride parade in Warsaw, Poland, violated the rights to freedom of association and assembly, to effective remedy, and to freedom from discrimination. On April 12, 2007, the Regional Administrative Court in the Latvian capital of Riga ruled that a ban of an LGBT pride march last summer was illegal. The EU-Moldova Joint Action Plan, jointly adopted on February 22, 2005, commits Moldova to implement anti-discrimination legislation consistent with European standards.

The European Parliament, in a resolution on “Homophobia in Europe,” has condemned “a series of worrying events” involving “banning gay pride or equality marches.” These bans—ranging from Poland to Latvia to 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 freedoms of expression and of peaceful assembly. Moldova is obligated to respect the substantive rights guaranteed by those treaties, and the guarantee that all persons enjoy those rights without discrimination.

The fundamental principle of equality before the law demands an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Moldova. Both the city government and the government of Moldova should ensure that all people can assemble, associate, and exercise free speech. Both the city government and the government of Moldova should train police and all other officials to protect and not harass those who exercise their rights. Both the city government and the government of Moldova should support the passage of national legislation barring all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We look forward to a future in which Moldova’s democratic freedoms can be enjoyed, without interference or exception, by all of its people.

Sincerely,

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

Cc:

Acting Chisinau Mayor Veaceslav Iordan

Alexandru Corduneanu, Deputy Chisinau Mayor

Ombudsperson Mrs. Raisa Apolschi

Speaker Marian Lupu, Parliament of the Republic of Moldova

Member of Parliament Stefan Secareanu , President, Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights