Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
While the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government failed to implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Despite some improvement, corruption remained a serious problem. Corruption in the judiciary and other state structures was widespread. The government made progress in investigating corruption cases involving public officials and the judiciary, which resulted in several high-profile detentions.
The law provides the National Anticorruption Center (NAC) the authority to verify wealth and address “political integrity, public integrity, institutional integrity, and favoritism.” The National Integrity Authority (NIA), which was formed to check assets, personal interests, and conflicts of interest of officials, was not fully operational due to delays in selecting the 30 integrity inspectors required by law. The former ruling coalition harshly criticized both the NAC and the NIA for lack of action in investigating corrupt officials.
Corruption: The two key anticorruption institutions, the NIA and the Criminal Assets Recovery Agency, were not fully functional and there was no monitoring of the implementation of the National Integrity and Anticorruption Strategy. According to a May survey, 26 percent of citizens admitted to having paid bribes to those working in the public sector in the previous year.
Reports noted that authorities’ attempts to compromise anticorruption processes, including by legalizing possibly illegally acquired assets, remained high during the first half of the year. A much-contested law on capital amnesty expired; it had been adopted in 2018, and could allow the legalization of unreported assets, tax liabilities, and cash. Observers noted that there were few safeguards to prevent the legalization of criminally acquired assets, although the amnesty law nominally prohibited it.
A 2018 report by Transparency International noted that the government hindered anticorruption efforts by: suppressing civic activists, whistleblowers, lawyers, and judges; initiating new criminal cases against political opponents at the local level; using the law on the protection of personal data to impede access to information of public interest; and amending election laws to benefit the largest, most organized political parties. The report concluded that these practices were indicative of high-level corruption and political corruption, which led to what it labelled “state capture” (i.e., private interests significantly influencing a state’s decision-making processes).
In 2018 the NAC detained 10 persons on corruption charges, including three judges from the Court of Appeals, two judges from the Chisinau Central Court, and a prosecutor from the Chisinau prosecutor’s office. During preliminary hearings in April, only seven out of the 10 suspects showed up in court. The cases were ongoing at year’s end.
In September the Superior Council of Magistrates (SCM) refused to endorse a request from the interim prosecutor general to criminally investigate five judges suspected of involvement in laundering more than 352 billion lei (20 billion) from Russia through the country’s banking system. The SCM postponed the request examination. On September 24 the SCM accepted the interim prosecutor general’s request to lift the immunity of Supreme Court of Justice head Ion Druta, who was being investigated on charges of illicit enrichment. On October 30 anticorruption prosecutors seized several assets (real estate and cars worth 12.9 million lei ($735,000)) belonging to Druta.
In a separate case, anticorruption prosecutors detained and then released on bail Oleg Sternioala, judge at the Supreme Court of Justice, on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment. Sternioala tendered his resignation in December.
Financial Disclosure: Laws require financial disclosure by public officials, including state officials, judges, prosecutors, civil servants, and officials holding leadership positions. The NIA has the legal power to apply sanctions. The law provides that officials who fail to declare their assets may be dismissed from office and barred from holding public office. NIA integrity inspectors have authority to alert relevant authorities (Tax Office and Prosecutor’s Office) and request seizure of illegally acquired assets by a court decision. The law requires the heads of state enterprises and local councilors to submit income statements and provides for an online system for wealth and interest statement submissions. By law officials must make public income statements within 30 days of their appointment and before March 31 of each year for the duration of their term in office. The NIA was not fully functional, and the government enforced these requirements inconsistently.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were somewhat cooperative and responsive to their views.
Authorities in Chisinau did not have full access to or control over the Transnistrian region. According to local and international experts, authorities in Transnistria continued to monitor and restrict activities of human rights NGOs. There were credible reports that no human rights NGO in the region investigated serious human rights violations due to fear of repression and harassment from authorities.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The ombudsman was fully operational and active in reporting on human rights issues. The law provides for the independence of the ombudsman from political influence and for his or her appointment to a seven-year, nonrenewable term. The Office of the Ombudsman may initiate an investigation based on complaints or on its own authority. Although the Office of the Ombudsman lacked the power to enforce decisions, it acted as a monitor of human rights violations, including monitoring conditions in prisons and other places of detention. A separate ombudsman for children’s rights operates under the same framework within the Office of the Ombudsman.
Parliament also had a separate standing committee for human rights and interethnic relations.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape or forcible sexual assault and establishes penalties for violations ranging from three years to life in prison. The law also criminalizes spousal rape.
Rape remained a problem, and there were no specific governmental rape prevention activities. From January to September, police registered 264 cases of rape, compared to 303 total registered cases in all of 2018.
According to the international NGO La Strada, the subject of sexual violence remained sensitive for the country. Societal attitudes affected the behavior and the reticence of sexual violence victims to report incidents. The number of complaints from persons with multiple vulnerabilities who were subjected to sexual violence increased. Sexual abusers frequently used information technologies to threaten, frighten, humiliate, or cause the victim not to report abuses to law enforcement agencies. Specialists responsible for intervening in sexual violence cases were affected by prejudice and stereotypes and sometimes contributed to the victimization of or discrimination against victims of sexual crimes. Media outlets sometimes reinforced stereotypes and contributed to social stigma in their reporting on cases of sexual violence.
As of September, police registered 1,429 cases of domestic violence, 625 of which were treated as criminal cases and 804 as misdemeanors. Twenty cases of domestic violence resulted in deaths–a 33 percent increase over the same period in 2018. Police carried out prevention activities against persons who showed violent behavior in family relationships.
In one prominent case, in August 2018, a 15-year-old Romani girl and her mother from Soroca were kidnapped, raped, set on fire, and murdered. The perpetrator pled guilty to committing a hate crime and was sentenced to life imprisonment in June.
A study published in 2017 by La Strada noted that the country’s legal system does not provide an effective remedy for victims of sexual abuse. According to the study, in many cases rape was reclassified as sexual intercourse with a person younger than 16 and victims’ statements on the lack of consent were not taken into account, which reduced the potential penalty. In an estimated one-third of cases, law enforcement officers initiated criminal investigations for less serious offenses than the ones reported by the victims. In 90 percent of the cases, the victims were not present at the preliminary hearings or the first court hearing on the case. Victims were commonly forced to confront their attacker in court.
The law defines domestic violence as a criminal offense, provides for the punishment of perpetrators, defines mechanisms for obtaining restraining orders against abusive individuals, and extends protection to unmarried individuals and children of unmarried individuals. The law regulates five forms of domestic violence–physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and spiritual. The maximum punishment for family violence offenses is 15 years’ imprisonment.
The law requires the victim to prove they were subjected to violence. The law does not provide criminal penalties for abuse resulting in “nonsignificant bodily harm.”
According to NGOs, after release from detention, abusers commonly returned to their homes, although the law permits excluding an abuser from lodging shared with the victim, regardless of who owns the property. Law enforcement officials may apply emergency restriction orders requested by domestic violence victims. Police protection of victims and proper execution of protective orders improved slightly; the law requires that authorities issue protective orders within 24 hours.
The law provides for cooperation between government and civil society organizations, establishes victim protection as a human rights principle, and allows third parties to file complaints on behalf of victims. La Strada, for example, operated a hotline to report domestic violence, offered victims psychological and legal aid, and provided victims options for follow-up assistance. The Women’s Law Center offered legal, psychological and social support to 340 victims of domestic violence in comparison with 411 victims during the same period in 2018.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a problem. The law provides criminal penalties for sexual harassment ranging from a fine to a maximum of three years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual advances that affect a person’s dignity or create an unpleasant, hostile, degrading, or humiliating environment in a workplace or educational institution. According to NGOs, law enforcement agencies steadily improved their handling of sexual harassment cases, addressing harassment of students by university professors and several instances of workplace harassment. Civil society groups criticized the judicial system for displaying inadequate concern for the safety of victims and for not holding perpetrators accountable for their behavior.
According to a recent survey, one in five women reported being sexually harassed by a teacher. Societal attitudes and lack of interest from law enforcement discouraged victims from reporting instances of sexual harassment. In one prominent example, in August 2018, two university assistants accused a professor from the State Medical University of sexual harassment. The professor denied the allegations and demanded compensation for libel of one million lei ($57,300) from the assistants. The victims refused to proceed when the university ethics commission requested additional evidence. In September a court ruled that the victims must pay damages to the professor in the amount of 30,000 lei ($1,700) each and apologize publicly to the professor.
Coercion in Population Control: Unlike the previous year, there were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Women and men enjoy the same legal status in family, labor, property, nationality, inheritance law, and in the judicial system. The law requires equal pay for equal work, which authorities generally respected. The law requires that women fill a minimum of 40 percent of decision-making positions in government and political offices; prohibits sexist and discriminatory language and images in the media and advertising; and spells out employers’ responsibilities in ensuring that workplaces are free of discrimination and sexual harassment.
Birth Registration: Persons may acquire citizenship through birth to a citizen parent, birth in the country to stateless persons, birth to parents who cannot transmit their citizenship to the child, or through adoption by citizen parents. Registration of birth is free of charge for all citizens. The lack of registration certificates for a number of children, especially in rural areas and in Romani families, remained a problem. Experts estimated that more than 1,000 children lacked identification documents.
Education: Primary education was free and compulsory until the ninth grade. Education of Romani children remained a problem; only half of Romani children attended school and one in five attended preschool. According to Romani representatives, absenteeism and school dropout rates in Romani communities stemmed from poverty and fear of discrimination.
Child Abuse: Although the law prohibits child neglect and specific forms of abuse, such as forced begging, child abuse remained a problem. According to UNICEF’s Children in the Republic of Moldova: Situation Analysis 2016, 76 percent of children between the ages of two and 14 were subjected to violent methods of discipline. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection has noted that social norms created a permissive environment for violence against children at home and at school.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Research reported 4,515 cases of violence against children in the first half of the 2018-19 academic year, a decrease of 6 percent compared to the same period the previous year. Some 1,128 children reported neglect, while there were 46 cases of labor exploitation and 22 of sexual abuse. During the year authorities sent 698 cases to institutions tasked with protecting children’s rights. Local public authorities failed to monitor all cases of abuse against children, claiming a lack of experts. The ombudsman for children’s rights stated that most child neglect cases were due to alcohol abuse in the family.
A special unit for minors and human rights in the Prosecutor General’s Office was responsible for ensuring that particular attention and expertise were devoted to child abuse victims and child offenders.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 16 for women and 18 for men. There were no official statistics regarding child marriages.
Child marriage was most common in Romani communities, where it was reportedly acceptable to marry off girls between the ages of 12 and 14. This either took the form of a forced marriage, whereby a girl is married off to an adult man against her will, or an arranged marriage, whereby “match makers” arranged for two children to be married in the future. In both cases, marriage takes place without official documentation or registration. After marriage, girls commonly dropped out of school to take on household duties.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Child prostitution is punishable by three to seven years’ imprisonment. Authorities punished commercial sex with minors as statutory rape. The law prohibits the production, distribution, broadcasting, import, export, sale, exchange, use, or possession of child pornography, for which the punishment is one to three years’ imprisonment and fines of 150,000 to 250,000 lei ($8,520 to $14,200). These laws were generally enforced. The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The country is a destination for child sex tourism. According to UNICEF, about 10 percent of children in the country were exposed to sexual abuse.
The Prosecutor’s Office to Combat Organized Crime and Special Cases is responsible for investigating and prosecuting child sexual abuse cases, and the Antitrafficking Bureau of the General Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for investigating and prosecuting child trafficking and child sexual exploitation. During the year law enforcement identified seven victims of child pornography production, ranging in age from three to 14. From January to November, La Strada’s Child Safeguarding Team registered 79 new cases of child sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Law enforcement referred 63 cases for assistance.
Institutionalized Children: As of 2018, 1,119 children were in government residential institutions, including 476 children with mental disabilities, 377 orphans and children without parental care, and 266 children with sensory disabilities. Children raised in residential institutions were at greater risk of unemployment, sexual exploitation, trafficking, and suicide as adults compared with their peers raised in families. According to human rights watchdogs and the ombudsperson for children’s rights, legal protective mechanisms for homeless children were not functional.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at HYPERLINK “” HYPERLINK “https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html”https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
The Jewish community numbered between 25,000 and 30,000 persons, including 2,000 living in Transnistria.
According to the Jewish community, anti-Semitic discourse and attitudes increased, particularly on social media. No acts of vandalism or Jewish property destruction were reported, however. Property restitution continued to be a problem for the Jewish community, and there was no law to address it (see section 1.e., Property Restitution).
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to public facilities, health services, or the provision of other government services, but authorities rarely enforced the law. There were an estimated 180,000 persons with disabilities in the country.
Investigation of degrading treatment of patients in psychoneurological institutions was deficient. In most cases, prosecutors refused to investigate complaints submitted by patients, questioning the accuracy of allegations made by persons with mental disabilities. According to Promo-Lex, most prosecutors and investigators lacked technical skills to investigate acts of violence or torture in psychiatric institutions. Another problem was the lack of a regulatory framework for the psychological assessment of victims of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in psychiatric institutions.
A doctor arrested in 2013 for the serial rape, sexual assault, forced abortion, and abuse of patients with mental disabilities received a final sentence.
During the first nine months of the year, members of the Council for Prevention of Torture, as part of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (NMPT), conducted preventive visits to residential institutions for persons with disabilities. The NMPT identified a shortage of personnel in most residential institutions, including of medical staff for institutions hosting persons with disabilities; verbal and physical abuse by personnel of persons with disabilities; involuntary confinement of patients; insufficient qualified staff at specialized institutions for children with disabilities; and lack of a complaint mechanism.
During its monitoring activities, The Moldovan Institute of Human Rights (IDOM), identified systemic deficiencies in psychiatric hospitals and temporary placement centers for persons with disabilities. While noting some improvements, experts reported cases of forced medication without a legally mandated court order. Patients isolated in temporary placement centers reported the administration of psychotropic drugs without consent and mistreatment by personnel. IDOM also found deficiencies in documentation, investigation, and management of cases involving persons with mental/psychosocial impairments by police, prosecutors, judges, and health service providers.
According to IDOM, in two out of three psychiatric hospitals there were no separate wards for patients who committed crimes while “acting without discernment.” Persons with different types of disabilities and widely different ages were sometimes lodged in the same rooms, and unjustified restrictive measures sometimes applied.
The law requires new construction and transportation companies’ vehicles to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Authorities implemented the provisions of the law only to a limited extent. While many newly built or reconstructed buildings were accessible, older buildings often were not. More than 70 percent of public institutions lacked access ramps for persons with disabilities. Persons with limited mobility complained about the lack of access to public transportation and public institutions as well as the shortage of designated parking places.
Most schools were ill-equipped to address the needs of children with disabilities. Some children with disabilities attended mainstream schools, while authorities placed others in boarding schools, or they were home schooled. Although the law provides for equal employment opportunities and prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities (with the exception of jobs requiring specific health standards), many employers either failed to provide accommodations or avoided employing such persons.
An audit on the accessibility of polling stations conducted by the Central Electoral Commission and the UNDP found that only 1 percent of 612 stations assessed were fully accessible for wheelchair-bound persons.
The government continued the deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities and provided alternative community-based services under the National Program of Deinstitutionalization of People with Intellectual and Psychosocial Disabilities from residential institutions for 2018-26. The Equality Council examined more cases of discrimination based on disability status than any other type of discrimination in 2018.
Human rights observers criticized the country’s guardianship system. A person placed under guardianship loses all standing before the law and cannot perform social and legal acts, such as marriage, voting, claiming social benefits, and consenting to or refusing medication. Most residential institutions lacked proper accommodation for persons with mobility impairments.
In Transnistria the law provides for protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the areas of education, health care, and employment. Reliable information about the treatment of persons with disabilities in Transnistria was generally unavailable but there were reports that children with disabilities rarely attended school and lacked access to specialized resources.
Roma continued to be one of the most vulnerable minority groups in the country and faced a higher risk of marginalization, underrepresentation in political decision making, illiteracy, and social prejudice. Roma had lower levels of education, more limited access to health care, and higher rates of unemployment than the general population (see section 7.d.). According to the most recent statistics, only 21 percent of Roma were actively employed. Romani women were particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and discrimination. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the country’s Council for Preventing and Eliminating Discrimination and Ensuring Equality, Roma continued to be one of the least accepted groups in the society.
Approximately 60 percent of Romani families lived in rural areas. Some Romani communities lacked running water, sanitation facilities, and heating. Other problems facing Roma included lack of emergency health-care services in secluded settlements, unfair or arbitrary treatment by health practitioners, and lower rates of health insurance coverage. Authorities lacked an effective mechanism to address vulnerable families whose children did not attend school.
According to a survey conducted by the Roma Women Network in Moldova, in a survey of 476 Romani women from 48 localities, the most serious problems reported were limited access to: education; the job market; medical services; and information about health and hygiene. The survey shows that only 36.6 percent of Romani women attended some form of state guaranteed education, while 57.8 percent said they did not have an opportunity to continue their studies. About 84.7 percent of respondents were unemployed, and many of them alleged that they were subject to discrimination when trying to get a job. According to the same survey, one-third of women reported discrimination at the doctor’s consultation. At the same time, 70 percent of women did not have access to information about health and hygiene.
According to Roma leaders, the community faced a high rate of emigration and the state did not provide financing for Romani community mediators, as prescribed by law. Roma complained of reluctance by local authorities to finance and support the mediators. About 70 percent of the 31 Roma community mediators did not have access to a computer and did not receive any support from the mayoralty. The government’s 2016-20 action plan for the Roma community was unfunded.
The law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity continued. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community reported verbal and physical abuse. In most cases, police were reluctant to open cases against the perpetrators. According to a survey conducted by the Antidiscrimination Council in 2018, the LGBTI community had the lowest societal acceptance rate of any minority group.
In May the NGO Genderdoc-M organized the 18th annual Solidarity Pride March. For the second year in a row, an estimated 1,500 police were deployed to ensure the safety of the 200 to 300 participants who marched 1.5 miles through central Chisinau. No attempts were made to disrupt the march, and only a few isolated counterdemonstrators protested. On the same day, President Dodon and the Moldovan Orthodox Church organized a festival to celebrate traditional family values.
Genderdoc-M reported eight verbal and five physical assaults against LGBTI individuals during the year. Genderdoc-M reported that 13 cases of discrimination, hate speech, hate crime, infringement upon family rights, and freedom of assembly based on sexual orientation or gender identity were under examination at the ECHR, including two filed during the year. In June Genderdoc-M reported a case of intentional arson of the car of lawyer and human rights defender Doina Ioana Straisteanu. The organization believed the crime was motivated by her efforts to defend the LGBTI community.
Civil society organizations reported that, although transgender individuals were allowed to change their names (e.g., from a male to a female name) on legal identity documents, including passports, the government did not permit them to update gender markers to reflect their gender identity. Transgender individuals also experienced employment discrimination (see section 7.d.).
In Transnistria, consensual same-sex sexual activity is illegal, and LGBTI persons were subjected to official as well as societal discrimination.
Persons living with HIV continued to face societal and official discrimination.
The law prohibits hospitals and other health institutions from denying admission or access to health-care services or requesting additional fees from persons with HIV or suspected of being HIV positive. Prison inmates with HIV/AIDS faced high levels of discrimination by both prison staff and other inmates. Hospitals disclosed HIV status without consent to persons not entitled to have such information.