Lesbian and gay activists in Moldova have begged the European Union and the Council of Europe to intervene after their attempt to hold a Pride event at the weekend was banned and then blocked by police inaction and violence.
In the capital Chisinau yesterday a bus with 60 Pride marchers was surrounded by hundreds of members of co-ordinated groups, including extremist religious groups and members of the neo-fascist movement.
GenderDoc-M, the country’s gay rights group, reported:
“200 to 400 people had surrounded the bus. The core of the crowd was teenagers, some dressed military-style, some wearing black masks and others skinhead-like, carrying posters with derogatory messages and signs.
“The outer ring of the crowd was mostly middle-aged men wearing black clothes encouraging the former.
“Six traffic police cars stood approximately 100 metres away without taking any action whatsoever.”
See photos here.
Pride organisers said that the gay-hate crowds entered the bus and grabbed flags and banners, while their companions shouted “Beat them to death” and “Don’t let them escape.”
There were reportedly nine attempts to call the police during this incident, with no response.
The bus was able to make its way to the GenderDoc-M offices, followed by thugs in cars.
While the Pride marchers tried to disperse from the office in small groups, another crowd of several hundred surrounded the building. Police observed from a distance.
The blockade of the office continued for several hours. Fortunately there were no reported injuries.
Meanwhile, another demonstration, which appeared to have been sanctioned by the authorities, was held Great National Assembly Square.
Several hundred carried banners calling homosexuality a sin and proclaiming Moldova to be a “Christian country.”
GenderDoc-M said in a statement:
“The law on freedom of assembly of Moldova guarantees peaceful assembly to everyone, and puts an obligation on the police to guarantee the exercise of the right and the safety of participants.
“The police did not facilitate the exit of pride participants from the bus into the street, did not side out the rival aggressive groups from intervention, and through their passivity encouraged escalation of violence and the built up of the all-permissive hostile atmosphere.
“The new Moldovan Law on Assembly requires a simple notification of local authorities about a meeting.
“GenderDoc-M submitted to the City Hall on 21 April 2008 such a notification, respecting all legal requirements.
“On the eve of the march, the Mayor of Chisinau Dorin Chirtoaca issued a disposition informing the organisers that the march is banned by the City Hall.
“Such a disposition breaches the law, since only the court could ban a public march.”
GenderDoc-M claimed they are the only group to be banned from holding public meetings. Eight such meetings have been banned in the past three years.
The group is calling on the European Union, Council of Europe and human rights groups to raise these human rights violations “at the highest level with Moldovan authorities, and to put pressure on Moldovan government to implement its own laws without discrimination and its international human rights commitments. Moldovan authorities must be held responsible for their behaviour.”
In October Moldova was told to “ensure full respect of the fundamental rights of all minorities, including sexual minorities,” by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The report of the monitoring committee about the honouring of obligations and commitments by Moldova was adopted by PACE last year.
PACE rapporteurs gave over a large part of their report to violations of the right to freedom of assembly for LGBT people in Moldova.
In particular, the report stated: “We deplore the fact that after a final ruling by the Supreme Court of Moldova the Chisinau authorities continue to violate the law and deprive the representatives of the LGBT community of their right to freedom of assembly.
“Such situation cannot be tolerated in a democratic state governed by the rule of law. We expect the Moldovan authorities to take all necessary measures to put an end to this practice.”
Yesterday’s ban on Pride came despite the ruling of the Moldovan Supreme Court in December 2006 that a previous ban on the LGBT Pride march was illegal.
This is the fourth year in a row that Moldovan authorities banned the gay Pride march in the capital.
In September the country’s Supreme Court reiterated its previous position that the refusal by the Chisinau City Hall to authorise the march violates Moldovan law on the freedom of assembly, the Moldovan Constitution and the European Convention for Human Rights.
Moldova is not part of the EU, but is influenced by its neighbour Romania, an EU member state since January 2007.
The small landlocked country of four million people gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The 47-member Council of Europe predates the EU.
It promotes and protects democracy, educational and sporting co-operation and created the European Court of Human Rights.