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Monitors, ending Moldova visit, note ‘accelerated’ reforms but list concerns

Following their visit to the Republic of Moldova on 27-29 June 2016, PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs Valentina Leskaj (Albania, SOC) and Ögmundur Jónasson (Iceland, UEL) have said that they expect forthcoming reforms to be implemented in good faith and in line with Council of Europe standards and practices. “We noted that reform processes have accelerated, resulting in the adoption of new laws on the Prosecutor’s office, the media and the fight against corruption, which is welcome. However, our frank and open meetings led us to have some concerns about implementation of the laws, and also about the functioning of the judiciary. In particular:

- we regret that the trial of former Prime Minister Vlad Filat – sentenced to 9 years of prison on 28 June 2016 – was held in camera, thus preventing citizens from having legitimate access to information pertaining to a major bank fraud, which is an issue of public interest, impacting the State budget and the functioning of its institutions. An open and transparent hearing in line with the European Convention on Human Rights is a pre-condition for creating public trust in the fairness of the judicial system.

- the procedural aspects of legal proceedings against former PACE member Grigore Petrenco were raised with the authorities. We did not, however, receive satisfactory answers to our queries as to whether investigations into allegations of fabricated evidence have started, nor any convincing explanations about the restrictive measures imposed on Mr Petrenco, which prevent him from leaving Chisinau or from participating in protests “that might lead to disorders”. It remains to be clarified if these restrictions are necessary and proportional. In effect, they hamper the exercise of Mr Petrenco’s right to assembly and his political rights as a party leader. We fear that these and other restrictions and unpredictable legal decisions could be seen as amounting to political harassment and we emphasized our serious concern in this respect.

- the issue of the liability of judges was also on the agenda, and will require a close follow-up in a context marked by allegations of lack of independence of judges and State institutions being “captured” by oligarchs.

With the direct election of the President of the Republic in sight (30 October 2016), we enquired about the situation of the media in the country. We welcomed the adoption of the law limiting concentration of media ownership, but we understand that this law will not be fully effective until the expiration of current licenses. Media outlets will thus continue to operate under the current conditions during the forthcoming electoral campaign, which will make us particularly vigilant about fair media coverage. In this context, we discussed the newly adopted electoral code with political stakeholders in the light of the recently adopted opinion of the Venice Commission, and other electoral issues.

Concerns were raised about freedom of assembly, after four demonstrators from the “Dignity and Truth” Platform were arrested on 5 May 2016 on charges of “mass disorder” for participating in a large demonstration on 24 April. Two are still being detained and two are under house arrest, raising concern about the possible chilling effect of such arrests on opposition members.

Civil society representatives reiterated their concern about their lack of trust in public institutions.

Finally, we warmly encourage the Moldovan parliament and the People’s Assembly of the Autonomous Unit of Gagauzia-Yeri to pursue their constructive dialogue to address long-standing contentious issues on the harmonisation of Moldovan legislation with the autonomous status. Such initiatives deserve our wholehearted approval, and show the ability of Moldovan politicians to search for solutions and thus strengthen their country’s institutions, and to build an inclusive society,” said the co-rapporteurs.

In Chisinau and Tiraspol, Ms Leskaj and Mr Jónasson welcomed the resumption of the “5+2 “discussions and discussed with the Chief Negotiators the output of the Berlin meeting of 3 June 2016, as well as discussing human rights issues and freedom of expression with representatives of civil society.

During their visit, the PACE co-rapporteurs met the President of the Republic, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, the Justice Minister, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, the Governor of the Autonomous Unit of Gagauzia-Yeri, and the President of the Constitutional Court. They also had talks with leaders of political parties, the Moldovan delegation to PACE, the Deputy General Prosecutor and the Ombudsman, representatives of the media, NGOs and the international community.