2005 USG Reports
Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2005 - 2006
Moldova is a parliamentary republic with power divided among a president, cabinet, parliament, and judiciary. (Note: In 1992, a separatist regime, supported by Russian military forces, declared a "Transdniester Moldovan Republic" in the region between the Dniester River and Ukraine. Since the Government of Moldova does not control this region, all references that follow are to the rest of the country, unless otherwise stated.) Despite reform setbacks in recent years, the OSCE judged the parliamentary elections on March 6, 2005 to have met most international standards, with the exception of campaign conditions and media coverage that favored the incumbent Communist government. Although the Communist Party won a majority in the legislature, it fell short of the two-thirds needed to return President Voronin to office, and several opposition groups eventually agreed to support him in exchange for commitments to undertake specific reforms. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Controversy continued over pro-government bias in the news programs of the public broadcaster, Teleradio Moldova. Widespread corruption persisted throughout government and society, particularly in the law enforcement, judicial, education, and health sectors. Authorities tortured and beat some persons in police custody. In some cases, people were held incommunicado for extended periods, and prison conditions remained harsh. Several religious groups continued to encounter difficulties in obtaining official registration. Societal violence and discrimination against women, children, and Roma persisted. Trafficking in persons (TIP) remained a very serious problem.
The democratization and human rights record of the separatist-controlled Transnistria region remained very poor. December 11 elections to the Transnistrian "Supreme Soviet" were not considered free and fair and were not recognized by the OSCE, the Government of Moldova, or any other state. Authorities in the region reportedly continued to use torture and arbitrary arrest and detention. Prison conditions remained harsh, and two members of the so-called Ilascu Group remained in prison despite a July 2004 ruling in their favor by the European Court for Human Rights. Transnistrian authorities harassed independent media and opposition lawmakers, restricted freedom of association and of religion, and discriminated against Romanian speakers.
The U.S. strategy for promoting human rights and democracy in Moldova continued to focus on strengthening the rule of law, good governance, independent media, and civil society; promoting free and fair elections; combating TIP; and supporting a just and speedy resolution to the conflict in Transnistria. The United States consistently stressed to the Government that it must take concrete steps to promote democracy and human rights in order to enjoy deeper bilateral relations and improve the country’s EU membership prospects. The United States worked closely with the EU to promote the conditions for free and fair elections and to maintain international pressure on the Transnistrian regime.
The United States worked through the OSCE and directly with the Government and mediators to push for a solution to the conflict in Transnistria that is fair and respects the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova. In 2005, the United States and the EU became observers to the settlement negotiations, and U.S. officials participated in negotiating rounds in November and December.
The United States raised the issue at the highest levels in bilateral and multilateral meetings and forums, in particular urging Russia to use its influence with the separatist authorities to promote a settlement and to fulfill its commitments, undertaken at the 1999 OSCE Summit in Istanbul, to withdraw its troops and munitions from Moldovan territory. U.S. assistance, while limited in its reach into Transnistria, maintained outreach and some support to the Transnistrian people, encouraged interaction between the two parts of Moldova, strengthened local civil society groups, and worked at the grassroots level to promote the growth of democratic institutions. Programs included educational and professional exchanges and training and support for a legal aid clinic. The United States also supported the development of two independent radio stations with reach into Transnistria to provide objective information to the people living there.
Through diplomatic efforts and support for civil society, the United States played a vital role in helping to ensure that the 2005 parliamentary elections met most international standards. During the pre-election campaign, the United States encouraged the Government, both bilaterally and with the EU, to conduct the elections fairly and ensure equal media coverage for all candidates. President Bush underscored the importance of democratic elections in Moldova in a speech in Bratislava in February, and high-level U.S. interventions emphasized to the Government that the conduct of the elections would affect Moldova’s standing among the world’s democracies. The United States supported a program to monitor the objectivity and content of all major news sources during the campaign period, the findings of which objectively demonstrated the public media’s pro-government bias and limited election coverage. This data was a key part of the successful international and domestic efforts to urge President Voronin and his Government to revise campaign media regulations to increase dramatically the airtime for debates on public stations and allow news programs to cover the election campaign. The United States supported the efforts of an association of local NGOs, "Coalition for Free and Fair Elections," to carry out electoral monitoring and voter education programs, develop voter and poll worker guides, and organize candidate debates on television and radio. In addition, the United States funded the work of several other local NGOs to carry out get-out-the-vote campaigns, and on election day, deployed dozens of election observers as part of the OSCE observation mission and supported the deployment of close to 2,000 domestic observers throughout the country.
Following the elections, the United States turned its attention to supporting the newly elected parliament in its unanimously stated priority of European integration. U.S.-sponsored exchange visits for Moldovan parliamentarians helped them learn about building democratic institutions and integrating into Europe from Latvian and Lithuanian legislators. In addition, the United States supported programs to assist the Moldovan parliament in developing a legislative process that is transparent and responsive to the needs and priorities of Moldovan citizens. In one innovative U.S.-funded project, two Moldovan NGOs introduced the American congressional hearing system to key parliamentary committees. The United States also encouraged greater integration of women and youth in political processes, for example through a study trip for 18 women parliamentarians to the United States, training for political party youth factions, and "political party fairs" at universities. To improve local governance and increase citizen participation, the United States supported the work of local governments and communities to implement community-initiated development projects. Assistance focused on building municipal capacity, encouraging local officials to engage their citizens in community decision-making, and enhancing the capacity of citizens to create tangible and positive change in their own communities through civic activity and democratic practices. In the community-led projects, citizens developed, planned, managed, and implemented projects to improve local water, heat, gas, and other municipal services, while the United States provided training, technical assistance, and small amounts of funding.
In support of media freedom, the United States worked on the diplomatic front and through various programs, including exchanges, grants, and training courses for journalists, to promote media freedom and high journalistic standards. U.S. officials raised concerns with authorities about the independence and transparency of the Audiovisual Coordinating Council (CCA) in distributing broadcast licenses and frequencies. The United States also pressed the Government to select a truly independent Supervisory Board for Teleradio Moldova, implement merit-based, transparent hiring practices within the station, and bring its broadcast laws in line with OSCE standards. Many independent media outlets received U.S.-funded grants for projects aimed at increasing the independence of media and promoting pluralism. Key to U.S. efforts was work with the News Department of the formerly state-owned television station, Moldova 1, a major source of news for most Moldovans, which U.S.-funded monitoring had shown to give consistently preferential and biased treatment to the Government in its broadcasts. A U.S.-funded media expert worked with the staff of Moldova 1’s News Department to improve the objectivity and balance of its daily newscasts and increase the use of multiple sources in its reports. The United States also financed the purchase of updated editing and video equipment, replacing broken and outdated equipment. In addition, the United States supported the development of civil society through the Democracy Commission Small Grants Program, giving grants to promote independent media and citizens’ access to information and to empower youth.
The United States supported several efforts to promote the rule of law and combat corruption and engaged the Government and President on the need to address the problem of corruption seriously. In 2005, the United States invited Moldova to submit a proposal for a Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program, through which it may receive targeted assistance to combat corruption. The United States provided management expertise, technical assistance, and training opportunities to the Center for Combating Economic Crime and Corruption and the Prosecutor General’s Office to develop initiatives to fight corruption and increase the effectiveness of law enforcement anti-corruption and anti-trafficking efforts. With U.S. assistance, the Government developed and passed the so-called "Guillotine Law," which led to the elimination of 189 costly and obsolete regulations, thus reducing opportunities for corruption and making it easier to open and operate a business. This process was accompanied by a U.S.-supported public information campaign to raise citizens’ awareness of the limits of government authority and encourage them to fight back against official abuse and corruption. Other rule of law programs assisted legal institutions, judges, bar associations, students, and lawyers to strengthen the quality and awareness of legal education and legal reforms. A U.S.-funded criminal law program conducted training for judges on human rights and for the defense bar on advocacy skills.
The United States highlighted its concern for religious freedom, advocating throughout the year the registration of several religious organizations that have been unable to register for many years. The Ambassador raised concerns about persistent registration difficulties at the highest levels of the Government. In observance of Human Rights Day in December, the Ambassador highlighted religious freedom in an editorial placed in two national newspapers. The Embassy repeatedly raised concerns about certain religious groups encountering hindrances to the construction of houses of worship.
The Ambassador and other U.S. officials, including a U.S. congressional delegation, emphasized the importance of combating TIP. The United States successfully pushed for the passage of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law and the ratification of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. In September, through President Bush’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative, the United States signed an agreement with the Government to support the creation of an inter-agency Center for Combating Trafficking in Persons. The President’s initiative also includes support for the creation of a network of transitional living and educational facilities to reduce the vulnerability to TIP of orphanage and boarding school graduates and returned trafficking victims. The United States funded several programs to address the economic roots of TIP by improving access for actual and potential trafficking victims to counseling, job training, and legitimate employment opportunities. The United States continued to support the work of the Center for the Prevention of Trafficking in Women in providing victims legal assistance and counseling, legal representation, and help in replacing identity papers.