Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Moldova is a republic with a form of parliamentary democracy. The country has an estimated total population of 3.95 million, including 532,000 in the secessionist-controlled region of Transnistria. The constitution provides for a multiparty democracy with legislative and executive branches, as well as an independent judiciary and a clear separation of powers between them. In the months leading up to the April 2009 parliamentary elections, the government restricted opposition parties' access to the major media outlets (which are government-controlled or  –affiliated) and instituted other measures that obstructed opposition parties, civil society, and the media. All branches of government are heavily influenced by the presidency. Despite the government's overall commitment to respect the human rights of its citizens, there were reports that security forces beat persons in custody, and that prison conditions remained harsh. There were reports of judicial and police corruption, arbitrary detention by police, and occasional illegal searches. The government attempted to influence the media and intimidate journalists, maintained some restrictions on freedom of assembly, and denied official registration to some religious groups. Persistent domestic violence and discrimination against women and children, trafficking in women and girls for sexual exploitation and of men for labor exploitation, discrimination against Roma, limits on workers' rights, and child labor problems were also reported.

Human rights conditions in Transnistria were generally worse than in the rest of the country. Authorities imposed some restrictions on the ability of residents to freely change their government and interfered with the ability of citizens to vote in national elections. Transnistrian residents were expected to vote in the 2005 and 2006 Transnistrian elections, but were unable to stand without hindrance as candidates, while authorities prevented the media from reporting freely on candidates or issues. Torture and arbitrary arrest and detention continued to be problems, and prison conditions remained harsh. Transnistrian authorities continued to harass independent media, opposition party leaders, and NGOs; to restrict freedom of association, movement, and religion; and to discriminate against Romanian speakers.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government's highest priority is to promote a vibrant and inclusive democratic process, and to support the country's movement toward acceptance of EU norms by promoting a more decentralized, participatory, and democratic political environment. In view of the parliamentary elections in the country on April 5, 2009, the United States placed a heavy emphasis on wide-ranging support for that process, including support for the development of political parties, and empowering the electorate, especially Roma, ethnic Ukrainians, and first-time voters. Key to the country's broader democratic development was increasing citizen participation in--and the strengthening of--the legal system, improved citizen confidence in the country's key institutions, and a more professional law enforcement and prosecutorial sector.

The U.S. also supported the fundamental freedoms necessary for a functioning democracy. Key to this was improving citizen access to and development of broad-based, objective information sources and public media institutions worthy of the name, and supporting freedom of assembly. The United States also promoted religious pluralism so that minority religious groups could more fully enjoy the freedom of religion. In addition, the United States promoted women's rights and antitrafficking measures.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

In preparation for nationwide parliamentary elections in April 2009, the United States enhanced the Central Election Commission's capacity to improve the election process. The United States supported training for members of the Central Election Commission, District Electoral Commissions and Precinct Electoral Bureaus in effective and efficient administration of the elections at the national, regional and local levels. At the same time, U.S. assistance providers helped all political parties to improve campaigning; build constituent support; improve voter outreach and political campaign techniques; and develop women's and youth groups and local branches. The U.S. Government and international donors supported get-out-the-vote projects designed to increase interest and participation in the April 2009 parliamentary elections. Projects included campaigns for first-time voters, and mobilization campaigns targeting specific groups such as women, Roma and the ethnic Ukrainian community. The United States supported a more effective local political leadership and increased citizen participation in decision-making processes. In addition, the United States tried to widen access for citizens to objective information provided by regional independent media. With regard to the rule of law, the United States supported the strengthening of the overall integrity and efficiency of the legal system; improvement in the implementation of laws and regulation; and an increase of citizens' confidence in the institutions and entities that create, adjudicate, and enforce the law.

U.S. assistance helped to improve the country's legal system through support to members of the country's law enforcement and judicial bodies, which remain underfunded and poorly trained. The United States supported the fight against corruption and transnational trafficking in persons in the country, and assisted police, prosecutors, and the judiciary to develop the necessary skills, tools and resources to accomplish these goals. The United States provided training and assistance to the government to revise legislation, improve its effectiveness, and increase transparency and accountability. The U.S. government supported programming to support the country's anticorruption efforts.

Media support included grants to local radio stations, local newspapers, and TV stations. In March 2009, U.S. officials traveled to all 32 districts in the country to interview officials of all political parties regarding freedom of assembly, access to voters and to media, and citizen participation in the campaign. Through public diplomacy programs, the United States involved individuals, non-political NGOs, and working-level local officials in Transnistria to lay the foundation for the eventual democratization of the region and its reintegration into the rest of the country. Educational and cultural exchange programs helped create a critical mass of educated citizens who understand and appreciate the benefits of a vibrant and working democracy. The United States provided the opportunity for broad and increasing participation in the Summer Work and Travel Program, allowing thousands of university students--including some from the Transnistria region--to visit and work in the United States.

The United States actively supported efforts of unregistered religious groups to gain legal status. The U.S. Government encouraged such groups to use liberalizing provisions of the new religion law to seek registration. The embassy hosted the third annual gathering at the ambassador's residence for leaders of all religious groups in the country, registered and unregistered, to discuss and encourage religious freedom. U.S.-funded civil society programs helped develop grassroots organizational and advocacy skills to enable communities to identify their most pressing needs and lobby local governments more effectively for assistance to repair schools and roads and to obtain natural gas connections. Sustained U.S. efforts increased the ability of civil society to create mechanisms for cooperation between civil society and government. In 2008 the United States provided training to lawyers and judges, to human rights NGOs and to networks of legal aid clinics, to improve the level of competency of key members of the judicial system. U.S. efforts also supported improvements for citizen access to legal representation, built public confidence in the integrity of the legal system, and addressed the ignorance of legal rights and remedies that hamper civic participation, especially among rural and disadvantaged persons. Two U.S. Government partners provided key commentary to improve draft legislation on domestic violence, which was signed into law in March 2008. One of the partners developed a legal representation program for domestic violence victims and trained 35 judges and prosecutors on the new law. Other programs provided training on asset forfeiture to law enforcement officials, pro bono legal clinic skills to law students, and legal services to 7,000 citizens through a traveling lawyers program. To combat human trafficking, the United States helped train staff at the Center to Combat Trafficking in Persons in interview and source-development techniques, investigation of corruption, task force operations, legal fundamentals, media relations, and investigative-analytical software.