[JURIST] United Nations (UN) [official website] High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] praised the engagement of Moldova [official website] government officials Friday but noted troubling deficiencies in citizens’ economic and social rights, during a press conference [statement, text] at the end of her four-day visit to the country. Pillay said, from the capital city of Chisinau, that her visit to Moldova was the first by a UN human rights chief, and that as the country strengthens its democracy its authorities need to address a number of concerns, including discrimination against minorities, a lack of social and economic protections for the impoverished and the need to shore up an independent judiciary to ensure equality. Pillay also noted the importance of a strong national infrastructure and education system in combating discrimination and inequality, and urged authorities to enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law:
During my talks with the Acting President, the Prime Minister and other senior ministers and officials I have discussed a range of problems related to discrimination against certain groups in Moldova, and discussed ways of combating it — most notably by enacting without further delay a truly comprehensive law banning discrimination on all grounds. My message to the Government — and to the public — is that diversity is among our highest values. A democracy is only as strong as its ability to protect its most vulnerable.
Pillay also visited the Transnistrian region, an unrecognized breakaway territory located on Moldova’s eastern border with Ukraine that claimed independence in 1990. Pillay held meetings with the de facto authorities there regarding violations of human rights of prisoners, including arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment of detainees. Pillay noted that the engagement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] with the de facto authorities does not amount to legitimization, only an effort by the OHCHR to address human rights issues in the region.
Moldova has taken several steps in recent years to become a more democratic nation. This year the country joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] after becoming the 114th signatory to the Rome Statute [JURIST report] in October 2010. In her statement this week Pillay observed that the “country is clearly on the road to strengthening its democracy, and aims at a number of ambitious reforms” despite the current lack of human rights enforcement for certain segments of the population. Recently Pillay made a similar statement stressing the the importance of the rule of law in Tunisia, another country taking recent steps toward democracy, after the nation held its first free elections last month. Also last month Pillay criticized Syria [JURIST report] for its failure to protect its population during the recent protests in that country, citing reports of snipers firing from rooftops at protesters and the use of live ammunition in the shelling of residential neighborhoods.