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17 May 2004

Excerpt from the report “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004” issued on May 17, 2004 regarding Moldova

The Constitution of Moldova provides for a multiparty representative government with power divided among a president, cabinet, parliament and judiciary. In 2001, parliamentary elections resulted in a new communist parliamentary majority and government. The elections were generally free and fair; however, authorities in the separatist Transnistria region interfered with the ability of residents there to vote. In 2001, the Parliament elected Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin president. Although local elections in May and June 2003 generally met international standards, observers raised concerns about intimidation and arrests of some opposition candidates, pressure on independent media and use of the state media to broadcast biased information. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, judges were reportedly subject to outside influence and corruption.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas, and the human rights record of the Transnistrian authorities was poor. Citizens generally had the right to change their government, although this right was severely restricted in Transnistria. Authorities reportedly tortured and beat some persons, particularly detainees and Roma. Prison conditions remained harsh. Security forces were widely believed to monitor political figures, use unauthorized wiretaps and at times conduct illegal searches. There were some restrictions on freedom of the press, including defamation and calumny laws that encouraged self-censorship, and the Government continued to restrict access to independent media. During the year, the Government adopted new limits on freedom of association. A few religious groups continued to encounter difficulties in obtaining official registration. Societal violence and discrimination against women, children and Roma persisted. There were some limits on workers' rights. Trafficking in women and girls remained a very serious problem.

The Transnistrian authorities reportedly continued to use torture and arbitrary arrest and detention. Prison conditions in Transnistria remained harsh, and three ethnic Moldovan members of the Ilascu group remained in prison despite charges by international groups that their trials were biased and unfair. Human rights groups were not permitted to visit prisoners in Transnistria. Transnistrian authorities harassed independent media, restricted freedom of association and of religion, and discriminated against Romanian-speakers.

The U.S. strategy to promote human rights and democracy in Moldova focuses on strengthening the rule of law, good governance and civil society, promoting free and fair elections and combating trafficking in persons. In Fiscal Year 2003, U.S. democracy assistance programs in Moldova totaled more than $8.4 million in technical assistance and grants. Of this total, $4.2 million was allocated for U.S.-based training and exchange programs.

The United States supported several efforts to promote the rule of law in Moldova. The Resident Legal Advisor (RLA) worked with the Government to combat corruption and human trafficking, and increase the effectiveness of law enforcement assistance programs. To combat corruption, the RLA's initiatives included a series of training seminars and roundtables addressing criminal procedure and prosecutor-investigator teamwork, efforts to institute codes of conduct, conflict of interest rules and independent audits within law enforcement bodies, and efforts to draft, enact and implement anti-corruption laws and policies. The U.S-funded Criminal Law program conducted training for judges on human rights and training for the defense bar on advocacy skills.

Other rule of law programs provided training and assistance on advocating human rights issues (including freedom of speech, association and religion, minority rights, labor law and family law), building legal associations and developing institutional capacity. The advocacy program in particular helped citizens gain a better understanding of the legal system. To improve local governance, the United States worked with more than 50 communities to improve fiscal management skills and capacities, increase transparency and citizen participation in community decision making and improve strategic planning for local governments and municipal associations.

The United States undertook a number of activities specifically related to local elections in 2003, including training local observers and election officials, fielding international observers, organizing a get-out-the-vote campaign and making repeated diplomatic interventions with Moldovan officials on the importance of free and fair elections. These efforts, combined with those of other international donors, helped prevent more serious problems from occurring. Several initiatives were undertaken to strengthen civil society. U.S. programs helped to foster local political leadership and support a non-governmental organization (NGO) resource center that worked to improve the accountability and managerial capacity of reform-oriented civil society groups. The Embassy-administered Democracy Commission program supported an information Internet portal called Moldova Azi, an independent newspaper that publishes a weekly youth supplement promoting democratic values and freedoms among youth in Transnistria, and a center working on children's rights.

The United States promoted media freedom in several ways. In 2003, the Ambassador raised concerns over licensing issues for independent media with high-level Moldovan officials. Many media outlets and media-related NGOs received U.S. financial support to implement different projects that promote freedom of speech and access to a full range of opinions. The United States supported the Institute of Social Technologies in producing 50 radio programs promoting democratic principles and human rights that aired on National Radio, Sanatatea radio in Edinet in producing a program for youth, "Jurnal de Chisinau" in developing and printing a column on small business, Flor TV in Floresti in producing a program promoting freedom of speech and free access to information, the Ungheni newspaper Unghiul in publishing its youth supplement "Junior" and Cuvintul Liber newspaper in Leova in publishing articles on women's issues. In addition, the Embassy sponsored several exchange programs, some of which are targeted at journalists. During 2003, ten Moldovan journalists traveled to St. Louis and spent three weeks discussing strategies and methods of investigative journalism with their American counterparts. The Embassy has also sent Moldovan journalists to the United States each year for the past several years to participate in a program called Television Cooperation. Through this program, teams of Moldovan journalists have the opportunity to work with an American producer and create programs about American life and American approaches to various issues for broadcast in Moldova. Last year, a team from Euro TV traveled to the United States and produced a series of programs on local elections in the United States.

The United States also brought American media experts to Moldova to participate in seminars and conferences with Moldovan media professionals and students. During 2003, an American professor taught Moldovan journalism students basic principles of news reporting, interviewing and newspaper design and layout during a summer camp, a former U.S. news anchor participated in a similar camp for more advanced students and young professionals on fundamentals of broadcast media and an American professor presented a course at Moldova State University on media ethics. The United States also continued to support a three-year partnership between Moldova State University, the Department of Communications, the Independent Journalism Center and Missouri School of Journalism to improve journalism education in Moldova.

The Expanded International Military Education and Training program promoted respect for human rights in the Moldovan military by providing a seminar on civil-military relations, emergency response training for military and civilian physicians, a seminar on "Legal Aspects of Deployment on Peacekeeping Missions" for the Moldovan military contingent sent to Iraq and a course for military officers on "Military and Peacekeeping Operations in Accordance with Rule of Law." The Defense Department also supported 18 military, civilian and law enforcement officials in Marshall Center courses focusing on democracy, civil-military relations and regional security issues. To ensure that the United States trains individuals who have not violated human rights, the United States uses a vetting procedure in accordance with the Leahy amendment.

In an effort to highlight U.S. concern for religious freedom, the Ambassador met with leaders of most major religious groups in 2003. The Embassy raised concerns about some religious groups' persistent registration difficulties to the Government's State Service on Religions. In December 2003, the Embassy forwarded copies of Holocaust-related documents turned over by the Government to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

The Ambassador and other U.S. officials repeatedly emphasized the importance of combating trafficking in persons. The RLA provided technical assistance for judges, prosecutors and investigators on trafficking in persons, including training that emphasized education, sensitivity and skills development, supported the creation of anti-trafficking units, case review teams, and working groups, with the goal of having a unit in each of Moldova's administrative regions provided assistance to improve law enforcement cooperation between transit and destination countries and provided legislative drafting assistance.

The United States continued to support the work of the Center for the Prevention of Trafficking in Women to provide legal assistance and counseling, legal representation and help processing identity papers and other lost documents for victims. Through the Center, the United States also promoted and developed specialized legal knowledge and practices for applying anti-trafficking laws and norms, and monitored activities related to strengthening the judiciary's capacity to reduce trafficking. Funding for an information campaign, implemented by the International Organization for Migration, targeted potential and actual victims of trafficking and relevant Moldovan authorities, seeking to prevent trafficking by increasing public awareness of a new toll-free hotline number and strengthening governmental institutions' and society's understanding of trafficking. In November 2003, the Embassy supported the Association of Electronic Media to distribute TV footage of a national conference on combating trafficking to local television stations in rural areas.

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