(Moldova) - On Sunday, participants in the 7th Moldovan Pride were precluded from marching peacefully in support of anti-discrimination legislation and tolerance in the centre of Chisinau. Police did not guarantee the right to freedom of assembly. Large aggressive coordinated groups, including extremist religious groups, members of the neo-fascist movement “New Right”, and legionnaires blocked the bus with participants, forced the door, violently hit the windows, and attempted to remove the engine, while shouting “lets get them out and beat them up”.
The police distanced itself from the events by taking the role of passive observers. GenderDoc-M (www.gay.md) has informed local authorities and the ministry of internal affairs as early as 21st of April about the route of the march, and asked for protection. 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. Independent human rights observers witnessed hatred shouts, such as “Beat them to death”, “Don’t let them escape”. No medical emergency was foreseen.
About 60 people were blocked in the bus for over 45 minutes. Two unidentified well-built men wearing the signs of the rival groups, forced the doors from both sides of the bus and demanded ceasing of all march materials (banners asking for anti-discrimination law and tolerance, European Union and Moldovan flags and rainbow balloons) as condition for lifting the blockage of the bus. According to the estimates of independent observers from 200 to 400 people had surrounded the bus. The core of the crowd were teenagers, some dressed military-style, some wearing black masks and others skinhead-like wearing A4 posters with derogatory messages and signs. The outer ring of the crowd was mostly middle-aged men wearing black clothes encouraging the former. No police was identified by the observes on the place. Some 6 traffic police cars stood approximately 100 meters away without taking any action whatsoever. GenderDoc-M has made 9 unsuccessful attempts to call the police. After ceasing of all materials, the two men ordered to unblock the bus and let it go. The bus headed towards GenderDoc-M office, followed by a car with members of the crowd. Participants left the office in dispersed groups on alert of possible repeated attack by the crowd.
Another crowd of approximately several hundred people surrounded GenderDoc-M office demanding that pride participants exit the office. Two police and one ambulance cars observed from distance the events. The office remained blocked for several hours.
In parallel to the events described above, several hundred people of all ages, men and women gathered on the Great National Assembly Square, carrying banners saying “Family is the Union between Man and Woman”, “Homosexuality is a Sin”, “Immorality Ruins Society”, “Moldova – Christian Country”, and “Do Not Turn Sin into Virtue”. GenderDoc-M has no information whether these various groups had their manifestations authorised.
All remaining activities, including a small meeting, sightseeing in Chisinau and visit of historic places in Moldova were cancelled due to lack of security.
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 organizers that the march is banned by the City Hall. Such a disposition breaches the law, since only the court could ban a manifistation. Since the new Mayor, exponent of the Liberal Party and former staff of a human rights NGO in Moldova, took office, GenderDoc-M remains the only organisation whose public manifestations have been banned. Since May 2005 already eight public manifestations by GenderDoc-M were banned. Absence of action by police amounts to grave violations of the right to freedom of assembly and put in danger the personal security of all march participants.
The statement of the organization says:
"GenderDoc-M calls on Moldovan authorities to guarantee freedom of peaceful assembly and expression to everyone. We also call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to fulfil their lawful responsibilities and ensure exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and safety of those taking part in public manifestations.
GenderDoc-M calls on the European Union, Council of Europe, OSCE and human rights NGOs 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."
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