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Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the report of the Republic of Moldova

Committee on the Elimination
  of Racial Discrimination

27 April 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined tenth and eleventh report of the Republic of Moldova on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Introducing the report, Vera Petuhov, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, noted that significant progress had been seen in improving the legislative framework to combat and prevent discrimination.  Cases of discrimination based on the grounds of racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic identity were rare and not systematic.  There were no political parties or non-governmental organizations that espoused the ideas of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination or incitement to racial hatred.  There was no apartheid or segregation in the Republic of Moldova, which was a democratic society in which the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens were guaranteed, and in which hatred, intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism were not permitted.  The new National Human Rights Plan of Action 2017-2021 was based on the recommendations of various international relevant bodies, as well as independent national bodies.  It focused on the rights of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. 

Committee Experts welcomed the progress made by the Republic of Moldova in the implementation of the Convention in a very short time.  They expressed concern, however, that the Roma had continued to be one of the most vulnerable groups in the country, facing a high risk of marginalization, social prejudice, low representation in political decision-making, low school attendance, and higher rates of unemployment than the rest of the population.  They stressed that the number of Roma mediators was not sufficient, due to the lack of financing and the lack of understanding of the Roma mediators’ mission on part of local authorities.  Experts also inquired about the availability of education to the Roma and other minorities, the status of minority and regional languages, and discrimination against minority women.  Experts particularly underlined the rise of hate speech during the latest Presidential campaign, especially against Muslims.   

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Petuhov noted that the Government would pay close attention to the questions presented by the Committee Experts.  Although the Republic of Moldova was a young country, it strived to make all of its citizens feel at home. 

Yanduan Li, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Republic of Moldova, thanked the delegation for their cooperative and open attitude during the dialogue, and for the richness of information they had provided. 

Anastasia Crickley, Committee Chairperson, acknowledged the delegation’s effort to answer all the questions and to engage in the dialogue. 

The delegation of the Republic of Moldova included representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Family, and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Moldova to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will reconvene in public at 3 p.m. today, 27 April, to consider the combined seventh and eleventh periodic report of Armenia (CERD/C/ARM/7-11).
 
Report

The combined tenth and eleventh report of the Republic of Moldova can be read here: CERD/C/MDA/10-11.
 
Presentation of the Report
 
VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, said that the Republic of Moldova had adopted a constructive approach to implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  There had been improvements in combating discrimination on various grounds.  The ethnic diversity was part of the country’s history and culture, and various communities lived together in the spirit of peaceful coexistence.  Cases of discrimination based on the grounds of racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic identity were rare and not systematic.  There were no political parties or non-governmental organizations that espoused the ideas of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination or incitement to racial hatred.  There was no apartheid or segregation in the Republic of Moldova, which was a democratic society in which the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens were guaranteed, and in which hatred, intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism were not permitted.  According to the census of 2014, approximately 2.8 million people lived in the Republic of Moldova, out of whom 75 percent were Moldovans, 7 percent Romanians, 6.6 percent Ukrainians, 4.6 percent were Gagauz, 4.1 percent Russians, 1.9 percent Bulgarians, and 0.3 percent were Roma.  As for the linguistic structure of the country, 56.7 percent spoke Moldovan, 23.5 percent Romanian, 9.7 percent Russian, 4.2 percent Gagauz, 3.9 percent Ukrainian, while 1.5 percent spoke Bulgarian. 

Significant progress had been seen in improving the legislative framework to combat and prevent discrimination.  In 2015 and 2016, the Bureau of Interethnic Relations had received two complaints from citizens.  The legislation on interethnic relations and protection met the highest international standards.  Measures had been adopted to harmonize the national standards with international obligations in terms of human rights. In that context, the Government adopted a Strategy on Interethnic Relations 2017-2027, which provided a broad range of actions and participation of all citizens equally in public administration and public service.  The Law on Equality adopted in May 2012 aimed to combat discrimination and guarantee equal rights for all citizens.  The Council for Equality and the Elimination and Prevention of Discrimination was created to ensure equality and protect victims of discrimination, review legislation and promote equality.  As of October 2013, the Council had noted 18 cases of discrimination on the basis of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or religious identity.   The number of criminal cases in 2014 had amounted to 13, eight in 2015, five in 2016 and one in 2017.   The new legal provisions on the Office of Ombudsman had beenadopted in March 2014.  The mandate of the Ombudsman had been extended from five to seven years.  The role of the Ombudsman was to ensure that the rights of citizens were protected by State bodies, organizations and agencies, as well as non-State organizations.  The Ombudsman submitted an annual report to the Parliament. The new National Human Rights Plan of Action 2017-2021 was based on the recommendations of various international relevant bodies, as well as independent national bodies.  It focused on the rights of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, namely the discrimination against the Roma and Muslims.  There were no mosques in the country, but Muslims had the right to gather for collective prayers.  There had been no negative attitudes towards religious minorities and acts of vandalism against religious sites. 

According to the Education Code of 2014, the official language of school instruction was Romanian.  In the regions of minorities, the Government had made provisions for minorities to study in their mother tongues.  Out of 1,240 schools in the country, 267 operated in the Russian language.  In 2016-2017, Ukrainian was studied in 46 schools, Gagauz in 48 schools, Bulgarian in 30 schools, Polish in one school, and Hebrew in two schools.  The authorities were constantly seeking to improve the situation of the Roma community, which amounted to 9,323 persons.  The adoption of the Plan of Action on the Roma 2011-2015 aimed to promote and protect the rights of the Roma, but the plan could not have been implemented fully due to the lack of financial resources.  One of the main outcomes of that plan was the creation of a network of Roma mediators in 40 Roma communities.  The new Plan of Action on Roma 2016-2020 would focus on concrete measures in education, health and social services, development and housing. 
As for the Transnistria region, a new National Plan of Action for Human rights 2017-2021 aimed to develop mechanisms for the protection of human rights there.  In October 2012, the Government had opened the Centre for Human Rights and an office of the Ombudsman.  The Bureau of Reintegration was also active in that region. 

Questions by the Rapporteur
 
YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Republic of Moldova, asked for information about the situation in the country after 2014 and noted a significant progress in poverty reduction.  However, the Republic of Moldova remained one of the poorest countries in Europe.  The country had a considerable legal framework for the protection of minority rights, but political instability remained the main obstacle to its adequate implementation.  Ms. Li welcomed the holding of the recent census and an improvement in data collection, as well as the adoption of the Equal Opportunity Act, and amendments to the Criminal Code.  How would the State Party compensate victims of discrimination?  What was the role of the law in combating extremism? 

There was no penalization of hate speech.  How did the State Party implement Article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination?  Was there any other high-level Government body coordinating interethnic relations besides the Council for Equality and the Elimination and Prevention of Discrimination, and how did the State Party plan to strengthen and widen the Council’s powers?

The Roma had continued to be one of the most vulnerable groups in the country, and they faced a high risk of marginalization, social prejudice and representation in political decision-making.   They had higher rates of unemployment than the rest of the population.  The sufficient financial and human resources were necessary to effectively implement the new Roma Action Plan 2016-2020.  There had been severe budget constraints for the work of the Roma mediators.  How would the Government tackle those problems?  Were economic factors the only cause of the lack of budget for Roma programmes?

There had been a number of complaints about linguistic issues in the Republic of Moldova, as well as concerns about the stereotypes against Muslims.  Why were there no mosques in the Republic of Moldova, and what was the plan to better protect the rights of Muslims? 

There had been some concerns that media had not reflected the ethnic diversity in the country and that the number of hours allocated to minority languages had been insufficient.  On many occasions, the Roma had been portrayed by the media in negative terms. 

Was it true that there was discrimination against persons of African and Asian descent, as well as against HIV-positive persons? 

In what ways could the awareness of judges, police officers and other State servants be raised? Why did the percentage of minorities drop from 22.7 per cent in 2004 to 16.9 per cent in 2014, asked the Rapporteur. 

Questions by Experts

Experts pointed out at the absence of a follow-up report for 2012, as well as to the lack of information on anti-discrimination measures in languages other than Romanian, Russian and Romani.  Was there school instruction in the Yiddish language? 

What was the difference between the status of minority and regional languages, and what were the criteria for the classification of territorial and non-territorial ethnic minorities?

The use of terms “Gipsy” and “Roma” in the Republic of Moldova was not consistent with the European standards.  The Government preferred to use the term “Gypsy,” which was the reference the Roma themselves used, rather than “Roma”, an Expert noted.  

To what degree was medical care available to the Roma since many of them had low incomes?  Experts underlined the acts of discrimination against the Roma, namely the case of a club in the town of Soroca which explicitly banned entrance to the Roma. 

As for the education for Roma children and women, it was marked by very low numbers, particularly at the secondary level.  What strategies were thought about to address that problem?  The majority of history textbooks promoted the image of the Republic of Moldova as a country of Romanians, an Expert observed. 

What were the social and economic indicators used for housing plans for the Roma population?  What were the most significant problems and what strategies would be used to address them?

What type of administrative sanctions on discrimination in teaching and employment had been in place?  What kind of training on hate speech and hate crimes had been given to prosecutors, judges and police? 

Question was asked on the role of civil society in the preparation of the State Party’s report.  It seemed that the core document and the periodic report had been drafted by different entities. 

What was the scope of the Equal Opportunity Act and the implementation roadmap?  Who were the “second-generation migrants”, and what did the “restoration of rights” mean?

Racial profiling had been reported in the Republic of Moldova.  What strategies could be put in place to reduce Afrophobia in the society?  Had the draft bill against extremist activities been passed?

An Expert underlined the rise of hate speech to an unprecedented level during the latest presidential campaign, particularly the fake news about the arrival of Syrian refugees.  In general, there had been a lot of hate speech against Muslims.  Even though the Islamic League of Moldova had been created, questions remained about the extent of Muslims’ freedom of religion. 

When would the Government adopt the next National Human Rights Plan?  Experts commended the State Party for having granted identity cards to more than 200 stateless persons who were at severe risk.  However, the Government had to work harder to protect migrants from prejudice and hostility of the local population.   

Experts also raised the question of the independence of the Council for Equality and the Elimination and Prevention of Discrimination.  What impact did various projects have on female minorities? 

Was there any information from the National Audio-Visual Centre on the cases of negative media coverage of racial and ethnic minorities?

Experts commended the impressive progress made by the Republic of Moldova in the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in a short time since the ratification of the Convention.

What was done to ensure that the private sector followed the decisions of the Council for Equality and the Elimination and Prevention of Discrimination?

ANASTASIA CRICKLEY, Committee Chairperson, noted that the existence of racial discrimination at State and institutional level should be recognized.  The Committee was particularly concerned about the intersectionality of discrimination, and discrimination faced by minorities.  Ms. Crickley asked about the specific targets in eliminating racial discrimination. 

Responses by the Delegation
 
VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, explained that the mission of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, which had been founded in 1991, was to ensure that the Government’s policies with respect to inter-ethnic relations were applied and minority of languages used.  The Bureau formed working groups with members from relevant Ministries and non-governmental organizations.  Romanian-language courses were available to Government officials who belonged to minorities, as well as in regions mainly populated by minorities.  Ms. Petuhov explained that measures had been taken to involve the Roma in education and to ensure that Roma children went to school.  The numbers of the Roma children not attending school had declined.  There were cases of Roma children not attending all classes.  There was a major problem of the lack of the knowledge of the State language at elementary-level of education.  Funds had been made available for Roma families to buy school materials, textbooks and meals, as well as clothes and shoes. 

As for work for the Roma and discrimination in the labour market, the country had a fairly good labour support.  All citizens, including the Roma, were guaranteed access to employment services.  The Labour Ministry had been taking significant steps to improve legislation.  A new draft bill on employment was under discussion.  The level of employment among the Roma nonetheless remained low.  The main problem was the low level of preparation of the Roma:  75 percent of the unemployed Roma had no education whatsoever or only primary-level education.  Unfortunately, there had been cases of discrimination although the Law on Employment clearly prohibited discrimination on ethnic grounds.  Employers very often reverted to the fact that minority persons did not have the necessary qualifications.  Financing for some social services was lacking, such as for Roma mediators.  Another reason was the lack of understanding of local authorities of the mission of Roma mediators. 

As for the housing for the Roma, it was explained that they could obtain housing thanks to European Union projects.  With respect to access to healthcare and medicines for the Roma, it was true that medical expenses had risen in 2017.  The Government would try to conduct a campaign to include as many Roma as possible in the mandatory medical insurance schemes.  The Ministry of Labour had achieved quite a success with respect to the inclusion of the Roma women in the labour market, and to ensure gender equality.  In 2016, the Ministry of Labour made a number of amendments to the Labour Code, such as a 14-day parental leave for men.   Speaking of the number of women in the police, the delegation informed  that that figure amounted to 14 percent, out of which seven percent were in managerial positions.  Women could enter the police force regardless of their ethnicity, provided that they met the necessary requirements. 

The amendments to the Criminal Code aimed at extending the provisions on cybercrimes, namely the use of the Internet to disseminate hate speech.  The amendments now referred to “deliberate intent” to incite various forms of hatred.  According to the Criminal Procedures Code,  there was a provision for complaints, which could be sent directly to the Prosecutor’s Office.  Complaints could not be used to initiate criminal procedures.  That could only be done after relevant inspection.   In 2014, there had been 22 such notifications, in 2015 17 notifications, and in 2016 there had been 11 cases. 

The right to self-identification was important in the Republic of Moldova.  Demographic changes in the country were a result of resettlement movements, such of Russian speakers going to Russia, and of young people studying abroad.  The law provided for the broadcasts in minority languages, especially in regions where minorities formed the majority of the population.  In those regions, 80 percent of the broadcasts should be in minority languages, and 20 percent in the State language.  The regional languages were those spoken by the most numerous minorities, whereas non-territorial languages were spoken throughout the country, such as German, Yiddish, Polish and Romani. 

The website of the Anti-Discrimination Centre was available in the Romanian, Russian and Romani languages, but there was no limit for it to be available in other languages as well.

Muslims had an opportunity to develop their religious activities, meet for religious services, as well as to build mosques.  Religions were independent from the State, and the State did not interfere in religious affairs.  The Muslim community had, for the moment, not announced any intention to build a mosque. 

At the end of 2016, 85 asylum seekers had been registered in the Republic of Moldova, as well as 153 refugees, and 279 beneficiaries of humanitarian protection.  Most of them were from Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Armenia.  The Government had adopted the National Strategy for Migration and Refugees 2011-2020, and the Action Plan 2016-2020 to regulate that area.  The Migration and Refugee Bureau had consistently implemented measures to provide the necessary information on refugees and humanitarian protection.

In 2016, the number of appeals to the Ombudsman had decreased compared to previous years.  The appeals about the lack of access to justice amounted to 259 in 2015, and 296 in 2016.  Those appeals mostly concerned the non-implementation of laws, delays, lack of access to lawyers, failure to observe the presumption of innocence, and lack of compensation.  

Final Round of Discussions

YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Republic of Moldova, wondered whether the decentralization reform had affected the implementation of the Roma Action Plan.  Who was in charge of the implementation: central or local authorities?  Was it necessary to give more powers to the Council for Equality and the Elimination and Prevention of Discrimination, such as the power to investigate cases and to refer them?

As for persons of African descent, there had been reports of very long citizenship procedures.  Was the long citizenship procedure a regular occurrence, or did it apply only to some categories of people?

VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations of the Republic of Moldova, explained that the statistics on the Roma had used the term “Gypsy” (“Tsigan”) to collect data.  The young Roma wanted to be called “Roma” according to European standards.  However, the older generation of the Roma wanted to be called “Tsigan.”  During the census of 2014, the two terms had been used together.  Responding to the question on the impact of decentralization on the implementation of the Roma Action Plan, it  stipulated that local action plans be prepared for the implementation of the National Action Plan for the Roma.  The Bureau of Interethnic Relations acted as the coordinator in that respect.   In 2015, the number of Roma mediators had stood at its highest, namely 25.  It was now being discussed that the Roma mediators be included in the central salary system.

The Council for Equality and the Elimination and Prevention of Discrimination had been created to prevent discrimination and promote equality.  It was an independent and impartial body.  The Council consisted of 15 members, who were appointed by the Parliament, including representatives from civil society.  The Council took note of violations of equality in the labour sphere, education, social and information services.  The Council addressed all those breaches of the law, and it could take independent decisions on sanctions. 

As for citizenship procedures for persons of African descent, the biggest problem was in learning the State language.  Other obstacles did not exist.  A lot of work had been done with children of African descent and their integration.  In the post-Soviet space, there were the so-called “houses of nationalities” which promoted inter-national and inter-cultural relations.   

Experts drew attention to the term “national minorities” and asked whether the term was outdated since it could suggest that other minorities were lesser in status.  The grounds for discrimination should match the grounds mentioned in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  Experts observed that since the population would radically change in the future, the importance of race and colour would become more important.  Speaking of the issue of decentralization, Experts noted that firm responsibility at the national level should be maintained when implementing the State’s obligations.  The definition of discriminatory action should match the provisions of the Convention. 

ANSTASIA CRICKLEY, Committee Chairperson, asked whether the fact that only seven Roma mediators had been employed was the result of the inability of local authorities to pay more Roma mediators.  She suggested that the Government could use the European Union programme on the training of Roma. 

VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, agreed that the term “national minority” was obsolete as they were all citizens of the Republic of Moldova.  All national minorities enjoyed the same conditions of life in the country.  The Roma population was the most vulnerable group in the country, which was why a specific programme for their wellbeing was necessary.  It was not true that the Roma Action Plan had not been sufficiently financed.  There were also problems in coming up with precise statistics on the Roma.  In order to promote the culture and traditions of minorities, the Government organized annual events to highlight the multicultural character of the country.  To that end, the Government worked with grassroots organizations. 

During 2013-2014, the Ministry of Labour had worked had to establish a network of Roma mediators.  It was true that local authorities did not understand the role and mission of Roma mediators.  Only a Roma could apply for the position of a mediator, and very often applicants did not meet the minimum level of qualifications required. 

An Expert observed that perhaps criteria for hiring Roma mediators should be revised, and that the money given for that purpose to local authorities should be withdrawn in case of failure. 

VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, confirmed that the Government had used the European Union programme on the training of Roma.  The Government had tapped all the possibilities for the Roma mediators to meet the criteria for their role.  Roma communities themselves were supposed to come up with nominations for mediators.  It could be that the plan itself was problematic. 

Experts also raised the issue of discrimination of the most vulnerable minority women.  Their participation in political life had not been sufficient.  They encouraged the delegation to prove that minorities indeed enjoyed the same level of access to participate in social and political life. 

VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, said that the Government would ensure that the percentage of minority women in public positions was satisfactory.  Two Roma women had recently been elected to city councils, which was a major achievement.  Practically all women candidates were at the bottom of party electoral lists; thus, more work was necessary to promote gender equality.  Decentralization did not have a negative impact in implementing solutions for many problems. 

What was the exact penalty for the crime of belittling on the grounds of race?  Was such an offence reflected on the perpetrator’s record?  Was the poster banning entrance to the Roma in a club in the town of Soroca removed?

The delegation explained that the sentencing for the crime of belittling on the grounds of race could lead up to three years of prison, whereas the fine was in fact considerable.  As for the poster in Soroca, the delegation would revert with up-to-date information.  

Experts expressed concern about the “second-generation” migrants, and asked about the prospects for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  What kind of trainings were provided to judges, prosecutors and police officers?  How many of the 200 housing units had been allocated to the Roma?  What body was responsible to fight labour discrimination?  How often was the Convention mentioned in judicial decisions? 

VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, explained that the Government did not use the term “second-generation” migrants.  She said that training courses had been provided to assess the effects of the previous Roma Action Plan.  Teaching for Roma children would be in the focus of the current Roma Action Plan, given that education was directly related to employment opportunities. 

Employment discrimination was dealt with by the Labour Inspectorate, which was a State-sponsored body with eights sub-divisions.  There were no Roma-focused housing programmes at the moment.  Nevertheless, social housing construction had begun with the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.  There were 16 types of trainings for judges, prosecutors and police officers.  
 
Concluding Remarks

YANDUAN LI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Republic of Moldova, thanked the delegation for their cooperative and open attitude during the dialogue, and for the richness of the information they had provided. 

VERA PETUHOV, Deputy Director General of the Bureau of Interethnic Relations, noted that the Government would pay close attention to the questions presented by the Committee Experts.  Although the Republic of Moldova was a young country, it strived to make all of its citizens feel at home. 

ANSTASIA CRICKLEY, Committee Chairperson, acknowledged the delegation’s effort to answer all the questions and to engage in the dialogue.  She reminded of the specific obligations of the Convention and wished the Delegation success in future work and continued engagement with the Committee.   

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