Brussels, 24 July 2013
Dear Commissioners Füle and Malmström,
We are writing to call on your immediate response to a recent law severely limiting the freedom of expression in the Republic of Moldova. The law – article 90.1 of the Code of Administrative Offences – was approved by the Moldovan Parliament on May 23, 2013, and entered into force on July 12. The law bans “distribution of public information and/or committing acts aimed at the propagation of prostitution, paedophilia, pornography or of any other relations than those related to marriage or family in accordance with the Constitution and the Family Code” [emphasis added]. These actions committed by persons or legal entities are punished by fines from 125 to 500 euro and/or by prohibition of specific activities from three months to up to one year.
The broad wording of this law will enable it to be used to restrict the rights of human rights organizations, civil society groups or anyone else who works on issues such as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals or sex workers and will discriminate against individuals on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Moldovan civil society organisations were not made aware of the draft law until it was published in the Official Gazette on July 12, 2013. No public consultation took place before its adoption.
This discriminatory law violates fundamental human rights standards and Moldova’s obligations under international law. As an unjustified restriction on the freedoms of expression and assembly, the new law violates articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which both of Moldova is a party.
This law is also at odds with the visa liberalisation action plan agreed with the European Union, which requires the adoption of effective legislation to combat all forms of discrimination as this law will result in indirect discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In June 2013, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission condemned and called for the rejection of so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws in Russia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Previously, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe unanimously adopted a set of recommendations (CM/Rec (2010)5) to member states, including Moldova, on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The recommendations invite the member states to ensure that the stipulated principles and measures are applied in national legislation, policies, and practices relevant to the protection of LGBT people. Relevant recommendations are:
1. Examine existing legislative and other measures, keep them under review, and collect and analyze relevant data, in order to monitor and redress any direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;
2. Ensure that legislative and other measures are adopted and effectively implemented to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, to ensure respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and to promote tolerance towards them.
In addition, on October 14, 2011, the Moldovan government accepted recommendations put forward by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) working group on Moldova, as part of the UN Human Rights Council’s periodic reviews of the human rights situation in UN member countries. Two relevant recommendations are:
73.24 Prevent discrimination of social minorities, such as Roma people and LGBT persons and adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law (requested by Poland).
73.26 Intensify its efforts to address discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and investigate and prosecute crimes against LGBT community members (requested by Norway).
The new legislation directly contradicts the Council of Europe recommendations and the commitments Moldova accepted under the UPR procedure. We see clearly the negative impact of a similar law in Russia that bans the public dissemination of information on ‘non-traditional families’ when minors are involved. Such laws send a message condoning homophobia and transphobia which contributes to a climate of hatred and violence. State authorities have regularly banned or broken up peaceful public demonstrations in support of the rights of the LGBTI people.
We call upon you to make full use of the EU guidelines for supporting LGBTI people’s human rights and strongly to urge Moldova to repeal this law.
For ILGA Europe: Evelyne Paradis
For Human Rights Watch: Boris Dittrich
For Open Society European Policy Institute: Heather Grabbe
For Amnesty International: Nicolas Beger