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World : Europe : Moldova
 
Moldova

The Republic of Moldova occupies most of what has been known as Bessarabia. Moldova's location has made it a historic passageway between Asia and southern Europe as well as the victim of frequent warfare. Greeks, Romans, Huns, and Bulgars invaded the area, which in the 13th century became part of the Mongol empire. An independent Moldovan state emerged briefly in the 14th century under celebrated leader Stefan the Great, but subsequently fell under Ottoman Turkish rule in the 16th century.

After the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-12, the eastern half of Moldova (Bessarabia) between the Prut and the Dniester Rivers was ceded to Russia, while Romanian Moldova (west of the Prut) remained with the Turks. Romania, which gained independence in 1878, took control of the Russian half of Moldova in 1918. The Soviet Union never recognized the seizure and created an autonomous Moldavian republic on the east side of the Dniester River in 1924.

In 1940, Romania was forced to cede eastern Moldova to the U.S.S.R., which established the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic by merging the autonomous republic east of the Dniester and the annexed Bessarabian portion. Romania sought to regain it by joining with Germany in the 1941 attack on the U.S.S.R. Moldova was ceded back to Moscow when hostilities between the U.S.S.R. and Romania ceased at the end of World War II. The present boundary between Moldova and Romania was established in 1947. Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union on August 27, 1991.

The Constitution of Moldova, adopted in 1994, provides for a multiparty representative government with power divided among a president, cabinet, parliament, and judiciary. Parliament amended the 1994 Constitution in July 2000 by voting to transform the country into a parliamentary republic and changing the presidential election from a popular to a parliamentary vote. In December 2000, after several tries, Parliament was unable to elect a president, and then-President Petru Luchinschi dismissed the Parliament. On February 25, parliamentary elections were held, which resulted in a new communist-majority Parliament and Government. International observers considered the parliamentary elections to be generally free and fair; however, the authorities in the separatist Transnistria region on the left bank of the Nistru River interfered with the ability of residents there to vote. On April 4, Parliament elected Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin as President. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, observers believe that judges remained subject to outside influence and corruption.

In 1991 separatist elements, assisted by uniformed Russian military forces in the area and led by supporters of the 1991 coup attempt in Moscow, declared a "Dniester Republic" in the area of the country that is located between the Dniester River and Ukraine. Fighting flared briefly in 1992 but ended after Russian forces intervened, and a truce has held since, although agreements to normalize relations have not been honored. Mediators from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have encouraged the two sides to reach a settlement that preserves the nation's sovereignty and independence while granting a measure of autonomy to Transnistria. Progress in resolving the ongoing conflict has been blocked by the separatists' continuing demands for statehood and for recognition by the Chisinau leadership of a country consisting of a confederation of two equal states: Transnistria and right-bank Moldova. In 1997 the Transnistrian authorities signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government. Further negotiations have been inconclusive. Upon his election, President Vladimir Voronin promised that the resolution of the Transnistrian problem would be one of his priorities, conducted an active campaign to win international support for a settlement, and conducted monthly direct negotiations with Transnistrian leaders until September.

 

CIVIL DISORDER

As the summer of 1990 advanced, the country's initially inchoate political divisions transformed themselves into competing governmental authorities. Delegates to city and raion councils in Transnistria and in the Gagauz region met independently with their Supreme Soviet delegates and called for regional autonomy. Republic-level officials denounced these efforts as separatist and treasonable.

As efforts to reach some form of accord foundered, more decisive measures were taken. On August 21, 1990, the Gagauz announced the formation of the "Gagauz Republic" in the five southern raioane where their population was concentrated, separate from the Moldavian SSR and part of the Soviet Union. The Transnistrians followed suit on September 2, proclaiming the formation of the "Dnestr Moldavian Republic," with its capital at Tiraspol, as a part of the Soviet Union.

It was under these circumstances that violence broke out in the fall of 1990. A decision by Gagauz leaders to hold a referendum on the question of local sovereignty was intensely opposed by the republic's government and by the Popular Front. Rival political forces mobilized volunteer detachments to defend their competing interests by force. Adding to the volatility of the conflict between the Gagauz and the ethnic Romanians, militia forces from Transnistria entered the Gagauz region to support the sovereignty movement there.

In the Transnistrian city of Dubasari, the militia seized the city council building as part of its preparations for a referendum on autonomy in the region. When the republic's police sought to retake the building, new forces were mobilized from ethnic Romanian regions as well as from Russian-speaking regions. In the ensuing conflict, three persons were killed and dozens more wounded.

Relations between the separatists and the republic's government were characterized by mutual denunciations and sporadic violence from late 1990 until early 1992, when conditions took a sharp turn for the worse. As efforts among Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to mediate the conflict floundered and as the Transnistrian separatists consolidated their position with the support of Russia's 14th Army, pressure built on President Snegur to take decisive action to resolve the conflict.

In late March 1992, Snegur declared a state of emergency across the republic, and soon afterward the government made an effort to disarm the separatists' militia. These efforts were met by armed resistance, which, by May 1992, had escalated into a full-scale civil war as weapons released to the Transnistrians by the 14th Army were used against Moldovan military units.

By the close of the summer, more than 300 people had been killed in the conflict, and more than 1,000 had been wounded. A large part of the city of Bender, which had become a focal point of the conflict, had been devastated; thousands of refugees flooded out of the region.

While combat in the civil war remained at a bloody stalemate into mid-1992, the political situation in Moldova changed dramatically, at least partly as a consequence of popular dissatisfaction with the conflict. In the first stage of the realignment, former CPM First Secretary Lucinschi was named ambassador to Russia. Lucinschi, the highest-ranking "Moldavian" outside of the country during the communist era, was able to use his connections with the Moscow political elite to promote accommodation.

Soon afterward, in July 1992, Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi (who had replaced Mircea Druc) was replaced by Andrei Sangheli of the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova. Sangheli was a former CPM raion committee first secretary and member of the Council of Ministers. Sangheli's new government included significantly improved minority representation and promised a more efficient economic reform program, as well as a more moderate approach to the ethnic conflict.

By taking this more flexible approach, Moldova was able to reduce the level of violence involved in the separatist dispute, if not to bring the conflict to an end. But the shift in policy direction precipitated a strong backlash from the more extreme elements of the Popular Front, which felt that it was slipping from power. This and popular dissatisfaction with the failing economy forced a fundamental political reorientation.

In December 1992, President Snegur, who clearly supported the more conciliatory course, touched off a crisis by delivering a speech to Parliament in which he laid out a course of foreign policy based on the pursuit of national independence. Snegur warned against the extremes of either unification with Romania or reintegration into some form of alliance with Russia. His public position against efforts to promote unification further soured relations between himself and the Popular Front and at the same time sharpened divisions between moderates and more extreme nationalists within the Popular Front itself.

Fallout from Snegur's speech was almost immediate. In early January 1993, Alexandru Mosanu, chair of the Moldovan Parliament, offered his resignation, citing the differences between himself and the president of the republic and complaining about tendencies within the government favoring the previous political system.

If, as some suggest, Mosanu's resignation was intended to rally support in an effort to undermine President Snegur, it failed miserably. Not only was the resignation accepted, but Parliament voted overwhelmingly to replace Mosanu with Petru Lucinschi, a leader of those very forces about which Mosanu had warned.

Lucinschi's election on February 4, 1993, to the leading position in Parliament marked the peak of a process of political realignment in Moldova. By early 1993, the Popular Front, now named the Christian Democratic Popular Front (CDPF) was in neartotal disarray. Moderate intellectuals (such as Mosanu), who had added tremendously to the prestige of the Popular Front during its early years, organized the "Congress of Intellectuals" in order to promote a nationalistic, but less extreme, agenda. As a result, they were expelled from the CDPF in mid-May.

As a consequence of factionalism and defection, the CDPF's voting strength in Parliament was reduced to approximately twenty-five deputies. With the CDPF in decline, power shifted to the bloc of Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova deputies (the Viata Satului legislative club), which, with support from independent deputies, was able to play a dominant role in Parliament.

Lucinschi's election and the realignment of forces among the deputies brought Parliament into much closer alignment with President Snegur and Prime Minister Sangheli's government on the ethnic conflict. As a consequence, Moldova was better positioned than it had been in the previous two years to end the infighting that had characterized its political life during that time. There was hope that Moldova's leaders would be able to resolve the ongoing civil conflict, which had, of necessity, been the dominant issue in the republic since its inception, and to proceed with the reforms that Moldova so desperately needed.

At the same time, the realignment moved Moldova's government into a more conservative position with respect to economic and political reform, marginalizing legislators who were elected as opposition candidates and vesting more power in the hands of those who were originally elected as representatives of the CPM. In particular, the realignment gave near-veto power to the bloc of Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova deputies, many of whom were state and collective farm presidents. Although the great majority of these individuals supported democratic politics, the strength of their commitment to the transition to a market economy was questionable.

Despite the powerful combination of government, the presidency, and Lucinschi's parliamentary leadership working in harmony, the hopelessly tangled web of factions and rivalries within Parliament could not be overcome, and legislation ground to a halt. The pro-Romanian faction objected, but a vote was taken to dissolve parliament and hold early Parliamentary elections.

Campaigning for the February 27, 1994, parliamentary elections revolved around economic reform, competing strategies for resolving the separatist crises, and relations with both the CIS and Romania. Debate on the issues of moving to a market economy, privatization, land reform, and foreign policy was polarized.

The results of the election quickly changed the course of Moldovan politics and stood in sharp contrast to the results of the 1990 election. Nationalist and pro-Romanian forces were rejected overwhelmingly in favor of those backing Moldova's independence and in favor of accommodating ethnic minorities.

Under laws passed in preparation for the February 27, 1994, elections, the Parliament was reduced from 380 seats to a more manageable 104. Fifty of these delegates were selected from fifty newly drawn single-member districts, and the remainder were elected from larger multimember districts on the basis of proportional representation. Candidates were nominated by voters (independent candidates had to submit petitions with at least 1,000 signatures), political parties, or "sociopolitical organizations"; parties had to receive at least 4 percent of the vote to be accorded seats.

The Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova won a majority of fifty-six of the 104 seats, followed by the Yedinstvo/Socialist Bloc with twenty-eight seats. Two pro-Romanian unification parties did not do well: the Congress of Peasants and Intellectuals won eleven seats, and the CPDF won nine seats. A number of other parties did not get a high enough percentage of the popular vote to be represented in the new Parliament.

In March the chair of Parliament, Petru Lucinschi, was elected to his post, and the prime minister, Andrei Sangheli, was reappointed to his post. In April Parliament approved a new Council of Ministers, Moldova's membership in the CIS, and Moldova's signing of a CIS charter on economic union (although the country would not participate in political or military integration within the CIS). A referendum on March 6, 1994, confirmed the country's course of political independence for the future: the Moldovan electorate voted overwhelmingly for Moldova to maintain its territorial integrity.

Now that the legislative logjam was broken, Parliament was able to work on a new constitution, which it ratified on July 28 and implemented August 27, 1994. The new constitution granted substantial autonomy to Transnistria and the "Gagauz Republic" while reasserting Moldovan national identity and sovereignty. Gagauzia (in Romanian; Gagauz-Yeri, in Gagauz) would have cultural, administrative, and economic (but not territorial) autonomy and would elect a regional legislative assembly, which in turn would elect a guvernator (in Romanian; baskan, in Gagauz), who would also be a member of the Moldovan government. This was ratified by Parliament in January 1995.

Members of the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova held a cautious attitude toward marketization and privatization, leading experts to believe that progress in economic reform would be slow, but would be more consistent and better implemented than previously. The hard-line nationalists and the former communists could not vote as a majority to block progress.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC SYSTEM

The country has a population of approximately 4.5 million. The Government is engaged in a program of privatization; agriculture, the most important economic activity, largely has been privatized. The majority of manufacturing sector enterprises are owned privately, but small equity positions (even 5 to 10 percent) give the Government disproportionate influence in the affairs of these enterprises. Most small shops and virtually all service sector businesses are owned privately. The leading exports are foodstuffs, wine, tobacco, clothing, and footwear. The per capita gross domestic product for the first 11 months of the year was $406 (5,330 Moldovan lei), but this figure may be considerably underestimated because of activity in the large shadow economy (which accounts for approximately two-thirds of the economy) and underreporting for tax purposes. According to government statistics, approximately 82 percent of the population lived below the officially designated "subsistence minimum."

 

BELIEFS

Most of Moldova's population are Orthodox Christians. In 1991, about 98.5 percent of the population belonged to this faith.

The Soviet government strictly limited the activities of the Orthodox Church (and all religions) and at times sought to exploit it, with the ultimate goal of destroying it and all religious activity. Most Orthodox churches and monasteries in Moldova were demolished or converted to other uses, such as warehouses, and clergy were sometimes punished for leading services. But many believers continued to practice their faith in secret.

In 1991 Moldova had 853 Orthodox churches and eleven Orthodox monasteries (four for monks and seven for nuns). In addition, the Old Russian Orthodox Church (Old Believers--see Glossary) had fourteen churches and one monastery in Moldova.

Before Soviet power was established in Moldova, the vast majority of ethnic Romanians belonged to the Romanian Orthodox Church (Bucharest Patriarchate), but today the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has jurisdiction in Moldova. Russian, Romanian, and Turkic (Gagauz) liturgies are used in the church. After the recent revival of religious activity, most of the clergy and the faithful wanted to return to the Bucharest Patriarchate but were prevented from doing so. Because higherlevel church authorities were unable to resolve the matter, Moldova now has two episcopates, one for each patriarchate. In late 1992, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia issued a decree upgrading the Eparchy of Chisinau and Moldova to a metropolitan see (for definition of eparchy--see Glossary).

Moldova also has a Uniate minority, mainly among ethnic Ukrainians, although the Soviet government declared the Uniate Church illegal in 1946 and forcibly united it with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Uniate Church survived underground, however, outlasting the Soviet Union itself.

Despite the Soviet government's suppression and ongoing harassment, Moldova's Jews managed to retain their religious identity. About a dozen Jewish newspapers were started in the early 1990s, and religious leaders opened a synagogue in Chisinau; there were six Jewish communities of worship throughout the country. In addition, Moldova's government created the Department of Jewish Studies at Chisinau State University, mandated the opening of a Jewish high school in Chisinau, and introduced classes in Judaism in high schools in several cities. The government also provides financial support to the Society for Jewish Culture.

Other religious denominations in Moldova are the Armenian Apostolic Church, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Molokans (a Russian Orthodox sect).

Citizens in independent Moldova have much greater religious freedom than they did under the Soviet regime. Legislation passed in 1992 guaranteed religious freedom but did require that all religious groups be officially recognized by the government. In 1992 construction or restoration of 221 churches was under way, but clergy remained in short supply.

 

INCIDENCE OF CRIME

Crime in Moldova, as everywhere in former Soviet republics, has risen dramatically since the demise of the Soviet Union. Economic and drug-related crimes, the most visible and predictable results of the deteriorating economic situations in the newly independent countries, have simply overwhelmed the human and financial resources devoted to them. Often, however, the problem is more extensive than what is acknowledged: many crimes are not registered. For example, in mid-1995, the Moldovan government stated that overall crime in Moldova had risen by 29 percent over the previous year. However, the number of motorbikes and motor vehicles "being searched for" was thirteen times the number of vehicles listed as "stolen." Illicit cultivation of opium poppies and cannabis is carried out in Moldova, mainly for consumption in CIS countries. In addition, Moldova is a transshipment point for illegal drugs to Western Europe.

With the exception of murder, thhe crime rate in Moldova is low compared to more industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Moldova. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Moldova will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 11.36 per 100,000 population for Moldova, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 5.92 for Moldova, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 32.19 for Moldova, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 12.3 for Moldova, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 51.09 for Moldova, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 681.55 for Moldova, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 10.02 for Moldova, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 804.43 for Moldova, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.

 

TRENDS IN CRIME

Between 1995 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 7.21 to 11.36 per 100,000 population, an increase of 57.6%. The rate for rape increased from 4.29 to 5.92, an increase of 38%. The rate of robbery decreased from 32.68 to 32.19, a decrease of 1.5%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 10.69 to 12.3, an increase of 15.1%. The rate for burglary decreased from 54.69 to 51.09, a decrease of 6.6%. The rate of larceny increased from 352.28 to 681.55, an increase of 93.5%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 8.79 to 10.02, an increase of 14%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 470.63 to 804.43, an increase of 70.9%.

 

POLICE

In 1995 the national police of Moldova were under the direction of the Ministry of Interior. Internal troops were reported to have 2,500 men, and the numbers of the OPON riot police (also known as the "Black Berets") were put at 900.

The scope and quality of Moldova's state security apparatus were difficult to determine. Like the armed forces, local assets of the former Moldavian KGB were transferred to the new government along with those personnel who wished to enter the service of the new government. These elements now function under the republic's control as the Ministry of National Security.

As of year 2001, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has responsibility for the police. The Information and Security Service (ISS) controls the other security organs, except for the Border Guards, which are a separate agency. The Constitution assigns to Parliament the authority to investigate the activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the ISS, and to ensure that they comply with existing legislation. In June Parliament dissolved the special committee that had been created in 2000 to oversee the ISS and placed it under a permanent Parliamentary Committee on National Security. The ISS has the right to investigate crimes but not to arrest individuals. There were reports that the security forces committed some human rights abuses.

It is believed widely that security forces monitored political figures, used unauthorized wiretaps, and at times conducted illegal searches.

The Transnistrian authorities reportedly used torture and continued to engage in arbitrary detention.

Prosecutors issue search warrants and there is no judicial review of search warrants; however, it is believed widely that the security agencies conduct illegal searches without proper authorization. Courts do not exclude evidence that was obtained illegally. The Constitution specifies that searches must be carried out "in accordance with the law" but does not specify the consequences if the law is not respected. The Constitution also forbids searches at night, except in the case of flagrant crime, and this prohibition generally is respected. By law the prosecutor's office must authorize wiretaps and may do so only if a criminal investigation is underway; however, in practice the prosecutor's office lacks the ability to control the security organizations and the police or to prevent them from using wiretaps illegally. It is believed widely that security agencies continue to monitor residences and telephones electronically. The head of the ISS denies this charge.

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, police reportedly informed persons of Middle Eastern origin that they were being monitored carefully, and ISS asked the rectors of universities with large Muslim foreign student populations to inform such students that they also were being monitored carefully. The ISS reportedly also conveyed the same message, by unspecified means, to popular gathering places of Muslim students.

 

DETENTION

The Soviet Code on Penal Procedure, which prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, remained in force with some amendments, and the authorities generally respected its provisions. Judges issue arrest warrants based on cases presented by prosecutors. As a result of a constitutional change which took effect on August 8, a suspect may be detained without charge for 72 hours, an increase from 24 hours. The suspect normally is allowed family visits during this period. If charged a suspect may be released on personal recognizance pending trial. No system of bail exists, but in some cases, in order to arrange release, a friend or relative may be allowed to give a written pledge that the accused will appear for trial. Suspects accused of violent or serious crimes generally were not released before trial.

Under the Constitution, detainees must be informed immediately of the reason for their arrest and must be made aware of the charges against them as quickly as possible. The accused has the right to a defense attorney throughout the entire process, and the attorney must be present when the charges are brought. Many lawyers point out that access to a lawyer generally is granted only after a person has been detained for 24 hours.

The Constitution permits pretrial detention for an initial period of 30 days, which, as a result of an amendment adopted on July 12, may be extended by a court to 12 months. Detentions of several months were fairly frequent. Parliament may approve the extension of pretrial detention on an individual basis to 12 months. The accused has the right, under the Constitution, to a hearing before a court regarding the legality of his arrest. At year's end 2001, according to figures provided by the Ministry of Justice, 1,890 persons of a total prison population of 10,632 were held in confinement awaiting trial.

On several occasions, individuals who claimed asylum were detained in the transit zone at the airport without access to legal counsel or to the UNHCR.

At times during the year 2001, the Transnistrian authorities used a "state of emergency" decree that they promulgated in 1994, and imposed a state of emergency in Transnistria that allowed law enforcement officials to detain suspects for up to 30 days, reportedly without access to an attorney. Such arbitrary detention procedures usually have been applied to persons suspected of being critical of the regime and sometimes last up to several months. According to a credible report by Amnesty International, many pretrial detentions in Transnistria fit this description. The decree was lifted on October 5.

The law prohibits forced exile and the Government does not use it.

 

COURTS

Independent Moldova's judicial and legal systems are carryovers from the Soviet period and conform to practices that were standard throughout the former Soviet Union. The most powerful legal institution is the General Prosecution Office, formerly called the Procuracy. Headed by the prosecutor general, the General Prosecution Office directs investigations, orders arrests, and prosecutes criminal cases. It is also charged with administering the judicial system and ensuring the legality of government actions. In the early 1990s, the Procuracy's corruption and political ties to the Communist Party of Moldavia made it the subject of substantial controversy in discussions on constitutional reform. A significant element of political opinion advocated the abolition of or the radical transformation of the Procuracy.

Moldova's judicial system is based on a network of local courts and higher-level appeals courts, with the highest court being the Supreme Court (Curte Suprema). Judges do not have a tradition of political impartiality and independence, and the role of defense attorneys is limited. The government of Moldova has initiated reform efforts, but corruption and a lack of organization continue to plague the legal system. Many former Soviet-era judges and chief prosecutors were replaced in 1990 and 1991 during a parliamentary review, but an independent judiciary was still not realized. The system was being reviewed in 1995.

 

CORRECTIONS

Conditions in most prisons in both Transnistria and Moldova remained harsh, with serious overcrowding. Cell sizes do not meet local legal requirements or international standards. Conditions were especially harsh in prisons used to hold persons awaiting trial or sentencing. As of September 1, 3,374 individuals, including 198 minors, were awaiting trial. These prisons suffer from overcrowding, bad ventilation, and a lack of recreational and rehabilitation facilities. Conditions for those serving sentences were only marginally better. The incidence of malnutrition and disease, especially tuberculosis, was high in all prison facilities. The medical section of the Department of Penitentiaries released figures at year's end 2001 showing that 1,150 inmates had active tuberculosis and 178 had HIV/AIDS. The Ministry of Justice administers the prison system. Attempts to improve prison conditions continue to be frustrated by a lack of financing. Abuse of prisoners by other prisoners or by jailers themselves, ostensibly for disciplinary reasons, has been reduced by the dismissal or retirement of some of the worst offending guards; however, the practice likely continued at diminished levels.

Female prisoners are housed separately from male prisoners. According to UNICEF, the country has only one small facility, similar to a detention camp, for juveniles convicted of crimes, and one women's prison has a small section for juvenile girls. There is no juvenile justice system. Children accused of crimes usually are tried by the criminal courts and, if sentenced, sent to prisons with adults. During the year 2001, as part of the country's celebratrion of 10 years of independence, President Voronin declared an amnesty for 1,500 prisoners, mainly war veterans and pensioners.

In general both government and independent human rights monitors were permitted to visit prisons. The Moldovan Center for Human Rights made regular prison visits during the year 2001. The Government has cooperated with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the past, permitting visits to prisoners from the 1992 conflict; however an ICRC request for permission to visit the Iliascu Group, imprisoned in Transnistria, was denied. The OSCE visited the Iliascu Group.

 

WOMEN

Spousal violence occurs; although the Government does not keep official data on incidences of domestic violence, human rights advocates assert that it is widespread. The Criminal Code does not specifically address crimes of domestic assault and there is no law on spousal rape; however, women abused by their husbands have the right to press charges under its general assault laws. Husbands convicted of such abuse may receive prison sentences (typically up to 6 months). In practice the Government rarely prosecutes domestic assault crimes. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported 48 cases of spousal abuse cases during the first 8 months of the year, including 27 resulting in serious bodily injury, 21 attempted murders, and 8 murders. There is no law on spousal rape. The Ministry of Internal Affairs recorded 139 cases of rape in the first 9 months of the year, a 13 percent decrease from the same period in 2000. Women's groups believe that the numbers of rapes and incidents of spousal abuse are underreported.

The Country's then-First Lady and the mayor of Chisinau initiated a project in October 1999 to open a women's shelter in Chisinau; however, it still was under construction at year's end 2001. The Government supports educational efforts, usually undertaken with foreign assistance, to increase public awareness of this problem and to train public officials and law enforcement officials in how to address domestic violence. On September 1, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) opened a women's shelter, mainly for victims of trafficking. Private organizations operate services that provide support to abused spouses, including a hot line for battered women.

Trafficking in women was a serious problem.

 

CHILDREN

Various laws contain provisions against neglect of children. There are no statistics on child abuse, but it is believed to be widespread in families. Although there is legislation forbidding corporal punishment in schools, corporal punishment is common. Observers allege that women begging on the streets of Chisinau often sedate their babies in order to spend long hours begging without having to take time out to attend to their babies' needs.

Trafficking in girls for prostitution between 15 and 18 years of age is a very serious problem.

The situation of children in the country's orphanages is generally very poor. Official statistics indicate that the there are 13,500 institutionalized children. An additional 5,000 children live in adoptive homes, 4,500 more live in foster homes or with legal guardians, and an unknown but large number live with one or more grandparents. Not all of the institutionalized children are orphans; the number of children entrusted to the State by needy parents, or parents leaving the country in search of work, reportedly is growing. NGO's estimate that up to 30,000 children are in institutions, including foster homes. Among the major problems in children's institutions are inadequate food, "warehousing" of children, lack of heat in the winter, and disease. Most of these problems are caused by lack of funding. One orphanage director lost his job for selling the food earmarked for the children on the black market. He also was rumored to have sterilized forcibly a teenage girl in his care.

 

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

Pursuant to July amendments, the law prohibits trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in women and girls was a very serious problem. Although no official statistics are available, the country is a major country of origin for women and girls who are trafficked abroad for prostitution. There have been unsubstantiated reports by local NGO's of involvement by government officials; however, no official charges have been made.

Women and girls are trafficked to various locations, including Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Yugoslavia for prostitution. There also were reports that women were trafficked to Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, France, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Australia. Women and girls reportedly were trafficked to Italy and Greece through Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, and Albania. The IOM reported that more than 50 percent of the women working in prostitution in Kosovo were from Moldova. The Government of Turkey deports approximately 2,500 Moldovan women for prostitution yearly. A prominent women's rights activist and Member of Parliament stated that more than 10,000 Moldovan women were working as prostitutes in other countries.

According to the NGO Partners for Community, the target population for traffickers is young women, often minors, in rural areas. Women and girls typically accept job offers in other countries, ostensibly as dancers, models, nannies, or housekeepers. In many areas, friends or acquaintances approach young women and offer them help to get good jobs abroad. This "friend of a friend" approach most often is used in the countryside. Save the Children and the Association of Women in Law report that many of the traffickers are women who target young girls in their own localities. Once they have arrived at their destinations, traffickers take their passports, require them to "repay" sizeable sums, and force them into sexual bondage. Traffickers commonly recruit women from rural villages, transport them to larger cities, and then traffic them abroad.

Another pattern of trafficking involves orphans who must leave orphanages when they graduate, usually at 16 or 17 years of age, and have no source of funds for living expenses or continuing education. Allegedly, traffickers know when orphan girls are to be turned out of their institutions and are waiting for them. This pattern has become so well known that one foreign adoption service registered as an NGO and organized a "foster-an-orphan" program in order to help curb the practice. Individuals from abroad send money to support individual orphaned girls from age 16 or 17 until they reach the age of 18 and can work legally. However, this sponsorship program is small compared to the number of orphan girls who become victims of traffickers each year.

The salaries of border guards and migration officials are low and frequently not paid regularly, making them vulnerable to bribery. The large profits of the trafficking industry finance the corruption of officials. According to a report by Save the Children, the Government does not want to stop any form of overseas employment that is contributing to the economy with much-needed remittance money. The Moldovan Center for Strategic Study and Reforms charges that there is corruption at all levels.

In July Parliament passed amendments to the law prohibiting trafficking and set severe penalties. For trafficking the penalty is 10 to 15 years in prison and confiscation of property. For repeated or serious offenses, such as trafficking of groups, minors, or pregnant women; trafficking through kidnaping, trickery or abuse of power; trafficking with violence; trafficking in body parts; or trafficking by a criminal organization; the penalty is 15 to 25 years in prison and confiscation of property. Five criminal cases were opened during the year 2001. There were no convictions as of year's end.

 

DRUG TRAFFICKING

At the end of 1998, Moldova was facing the most severe economic crisis of its short history as an independent country. With very limited financial resources, it has had a difficult time meeting its obligations under the 1988 UN drug convention, to which it is a party. The country is not a significant narcotics producer and its low per capita income makes it an unattractive market for drugs. Moldova, particularly the area along its eastern border, is being used for the transshipment of illegal narcotics from, and precursor chemicals to, central Asia. The Moldovan government is now in the process of drafting anti-money laundering legislation. In 1998, the United States continued to assist all Moldovan ministries and departments that are involved in counternarcotics and other law enforcement training and technical programs.

Moldova does not cultivate, process, or manufacture sizeable amounts of narcotics. Because it is not a regional or international banking center and generally has an underdeveloped banking system, there is little opportunity for money laundering. With the eastern border of Moldova controlled by the "authorities" of the illegal and unrecognized, self-declared "Transnistrian Republic," Moldova (primarily Transnistria) is used as a transshipment route for contraband, including some narcotics.

Moldova's anti-drug policies remained unchanged during 1998. At year's end 2001, the government was in the process of drafting anti-money laundering legislation to be implemented in early 1999. The Moldovan government endeavored to meet its obligations under the 1988 UN Drug Convention and other international narcotics agreements to which Moldova is a party; however, the severe economic crisis has made it difficult to give these priority over other issues.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs' Department to Combat Organized Crime and Corruption, established in 1997, has made a few high profile arrests, though not directly involving narcotics. According to Moldovan government statistics, during the ten-month period ending October 1998, police and customs officials made the following seizures: 236 kilograms of poppy straw; 153 kilograms of marijuana; and 8 kilograms of opium. No heroin was seized in 1998. The government destroyed 670 fields (13,008 square meters) of illegal poppy. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that the largest single seizure was eight kilograms of marijuana. Ministry sources further advised that drug traffickers were carrying smaller amounts of narcotics to reduce any possible criminal sentence.

Acceptance of bribes reportedly continues to interfere with the government's counter -narcotics efforts. Moldova has no law specifically dealing with narcotics-related corruption.

Hemp is the principal locally grown illegal substance. Originally introduced for rope making, legal hemp cultivation was eliminated fifty years ago. Narcotic-quality plants grow as weeds throughout the country and criminal elements have capitalized on its availability. No reliable yield estimates are available. Besides poppy plant oil, other locally produced substances include synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs such as Ephedrine, Pervitini, Omnoponi, and Methadone. None of these substances is exported in significant quantities.

Since 1991, the illegal and unrecognized, self-declared "Transnistrian Republic" has controlled much of Moldova's eastern border. There is significant anecdotal evidence that this area is used to transship all types of contraband, including narcotics. Intermittent seizures by Moldovan officials indicate that Moldova is a transit route for heroin and cocaine moving from central Asia to Europe and precursor chemicals moving in the opposite direction.

The Ministry of Health registered 3969 persons in drug treatment programs during the first nine months of 1998. This is an increase of 1,219 addicts over the same time period in 1997. Accurate statistics on the actual number of non-registered narcotics users are unavailable. With an overall cut in health care spending due to the current severe economic crisis, spending for Moldova's demand reduction program will remain constant at best.

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Dr. Robert Winslow
rwinslow@mail.sdsu.edu
San Diego State University