UN expert urges Moldova to end its “punitive attitude” to human rights defenders

The Government of Moldova must adopt a more positive approach to human rights defenders and publicly recognize the crucial role played by civil society, says a UN human rights expert.

“Despite a globally satisfactory legislative framework, the situation of human rights defenders requires improvement in the Republic of Moldova,” says UN Special Rapporteur Michel Forst in a statement ending his first official visit to the country.

“Human rights defenders and journalists are victims of stigmatization campaigns, lawyers face politically motivated criminal charges or are threatened whenever they defend people with dissenting voices, and journalists’ access to information is restricted,” he added.

“Moreover, officials from Moldova’s National Human Rights Institutions feel disregarded in practice,” said Mr. Forst, the Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights defenders.

“The Government must end its punitive attitude towards human rights defenders, and embrace a more supportive approach to civil society in spite of possible disagreements and criticism” said Mr. Forst.

“While civil society organizations and human rights defenders have the right to freely conduct their human rights work and the Government has publicly declared its openness to engage with them, in practice human rights defenders face several challenges,” Mr. Forst emphasized.

“I have received allegations of intimidation and threats towards human rights defenders by public authorities, particularly after having expressed criticism of decisions taken by the Government,” he said.

“Allegations of corruption at judicial and prosecutorial level were also raised by civil society organizations during the mission. I have received allegations about fabricated criminal charges (such as knowingly delivering a decision that is illegal or wrong) against judges trying to investigate cases and taking decisions independently in politically sensitive cases,” said Mr. Forst.

The UN Special Rapporteur expressed his readiness to engage in further constructive dialogue to identify ways to strengthen civil society in Moldova, and support endeavours by the Government to draft new legislation on the protection of human rights defenders.

During his five-day visit, the expert met State officials, members of the judiciary, and the Ombudsman as well as human rights defenders and representatives of civil society, the media, and the diplomatic community.

The UN Special Rapporteur also travelled to the Transnistrian region where he met the de-facto authorities and human rights defenders in Tiraspol.

Mr. Forst will present a final report of his findings and recommendations to the Human Rights Council in March 2019.

Mr. Michel Forst (France) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in 2014. Mr. Forst has extensive experience of human rights issues and specifically of the situation of human rights defenders. He was the Director General of Amnesty International (France) and Secretary General of the first World Summit on Human Rights Defenders in 1998. He is a former UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Haiti and between 2012 and 2013 he was the Chair of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Moldova