A major human rights group has demanded that authorities in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, stop interfering with lesbian and gay rights demonstrations.

In a letter to Moldova’s president, Human Rights Watch noted that both European and domestic laws guarantee freedom of assembly and freedom from discrimination for all.

In April, Chisinau authorities banned a public march planned for later that month by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organisation GenderDoc-M. The march was to be a part of the “All Different, All Equal Campaign” of the Council of Europe and the European Commission.

In its letter, Human Rights Watch called on the Moldovan government as well as city officials to ensure that peaceful demonstrations proceed without hindrance and to pass as a matter of priority legislation outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“For the third year in a row, city authorities have tried to bar lesbians and gays from celebrating their community publicly in Chisinau,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program of Human Rights Watch. “Freedom of assembly and equality before the law are basic rights, and all Moldovan officials should protect them.”

The Chisinau city hall banned similar demonstrations in 2005 and 2006. Moldovan lesbian and gay activists are appealing the 2005 ban to the European Court of Human Rights.

When Chisinau authorities reviewed the 2007 gay pride application, they claimed the event would propagandise homosexuality and threaten public order and Christian values.

Reportedly, commission member and head of the Social, Humanitarian and Interethnic Division of City Hall, Nina Stratulat, accused members of GenderDoc-M of planning to parade naked through the streets and stated, “You want to use this opportunity to have public sex.” Alexandru Corduneanu, the vice-mayor of Chisinau, stated, “All countries are ruled by principles. Moldova is ruled by Christian principles, and that is why we cannot allow you to go against morality and Christianity by permitting this parade.”

The ban by City Hall came despite a February 13, 2007 finding by the Moldovan Supreme Court that the city’s ban on the 2006 pride march was illegal. The decision stated: “The Supreme Court considers unjustified the refusal of the Chisinau City Hall to authorise a march of solidarity by GenderDoc-M, rationalizing it by possible threat to public order, as this motive is inconsistent with the right to freedom of assembly.”

“Chisinau authorities prefer their own prejudices to the mandates of Moldova’s highest court,” said Long.

Within the past month, two other bans on European gay pride parades have been declared illegal. On May 3, 2007 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a ban on a 2005 gay pride parade by Warsaw’s then-mayor Lech Kaczynski, who is now Poland’s president, violated the rights to freedom of association and assembly, to effective remedy, and to freedom from discrimination. On April 12, 2007 the Regional Administrative Court in the Latvian capital of Riga ruled that a ban against a lesbian and gay pride march last summer was illegal.

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