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Article Moldova: Ban on Use of Communist Symbols

(Nov. 28, 2012) On July 12, 2012, the Moldovan Parliament adopted legislation banning the use of communist symbols. The law came into effect on October 1, 2012. (Communist Symbols Entirely Banned in Moldova [in Russian], VITEBSKII KURIER (Oct. 2, 2012); Law No. 192 of July 12, 2012, 646: 190-192 MONITORUL OFICIAL [official gazette, in Moldovan], Ministry of Justice website.)

On August 12, 2012, the Parliament adopted another act, the Decree on the Historical and Legal-Political Assessment of the Totalitarian Communist Regime in the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic, inspired by a number of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolutions and declarations of international organizations. (Decree No. 191 of August 12, 2012, 610:181-184 MONITORUL OFICIAL, Ministry of Justice website.) The Decree was based on a report prepared by a commission set up in accordance with Moldovan Presidential Decree No.165-V of January 14, 2010, on Research and Assessment of the Totalitarian Communist Regime in the Republic of Moldova. (Raport Analitic: Comisia Pentru Studiera si Aprecierea Regimului Comunist Totalitar din Republica Moldova [in Moldovan] (July 2, 2010).)

The newly adopted Law amends the Law on Political Parties to prohibit the use of symbols of the former totalitarian communist regime, such as the hammer and sickle, and the use by political parties of any object with these symbols. Propaganda about totalitarian regimes is also banned under the Law. (Law No. 192.) The Law also adds a new article 67 (1) to Moldova’s Code of Administrative Violations, which punishes propaganda about and the use of symbols of the former totalitarian communist regime, if such use pursues political goals, as well as propaganda about totalitarian ideologies, with a fine in the amount of Moldovan Leu MDL100-150 (about US$162-203) for natural persons and MDL300-500(about US$487-811) for legal entities (id.). The ban does not extend to possession or display of Soviet-period medals and military decorations. (Veterans: Medals and Decorations Show Pride and Memories of the Past [in Russian],PUBLICA.MD (Oct. 23, 2012).)

Reactions to the Law

Mikhai Gimpu, the head of the ruling parliamentary coalition, stated that the Law is “a great present to those who suffered from the Soviet regime.”(Igor Dodon: The Totalitarian Communist Regime Condemnation Law Is Directed Against the Communist Party [in Russian], ALL MOLDOVA (July 12, 2012).)

In the view of the Socialist Party of Moldova, the Law is directed against political opposition, and especially that of the Communist Party of Moldova, which still uses the Soviet-era symbols (id.). Vladimir Voronin, the head of the Moldovan Communist Party, said that the Party will in no way abandon its symbols, in spite of the ban. (Voronin Confirmed No Abandoning of Hammer and Sickle [in Russian],VESTI, (Aug. 24, 2012).)

Concerns about the Law were also expressed in Transnistria, a separatist region that Moldova claims as part of its territory but that proclaims itself to be an independent country (no other country has recognized it as such), which has the hammer and sickle depicted on its flag. (Ekaterina Zabrodina: Hammer and Sickle Assessed: The Ban on Communist Symbols Shall Complicate Negotiations Between Tiraspol and Chisinau[in Russian], ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA, No. 5900 (227) (Oct. 13, 2012)). A member of the Transnistrian Parliament, Oleg Khorzhan, identified problems with the new law, saying, “[i]t turns out that if a Transnistrian resident goes to the street with such a flag, he will be subject to a fine, according to Moldovan laws, which de jure are in effect in Transnistria. Similarly, shall the Transnistrian President be fined if he pays an official visit to Chisinau?” (Id.)

The head of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission (the European Commission of Democracy Through Law), Gianni Bukikkio, also voiced his dissatisfaction with the ban, calling it “an extremely unsuccessful idea.” (Council of Europe Does Not Support Ban on Communist Symbols [in Russian], RBC.RU (Oct. 10, 2012).)

Developments Since the Law’s Enactment

In September 2012, the constitutionality of legislation banning communist symbols was challenged by a group of Moldovan Parliamentarians. On October 4, 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that it lacks authority to review the constitutionality of the abovementioned Decree, as it does not contain legal provisions subject to compulsory implementation. (Ruling Nr. 30a of Oct. 4, 2012, MONITORUL OFICIAL, Nr. 228, Item 19, Ministry of Justice website.) In regard to the constitutionality of the Law, the Constitutional Court has asked for consultations with the Venice Commission. (Constitutional Court Asked for Consultations [in Russian],MOLDAVSKIE VEDOMOSTI (Oct. 23, 2012).)

Although the Law is now in effect, the fines reportedly have not been imposed on alleged offenders, due to the lack of established procedures. (The Law Banning Communist Symbols in Moldova Is in Effect [in Russian], LENTA.RU (Oct. 1, 2012).) Commentators suggest that the Parliament should adopt legislation giving police the authority to deal with violators of the ban. (Id.) Nevertheless, the leader of the Communist Youth Movement in Moldova, Nikolai Kukharenko, was fined for displaying communist symbols during a rally on October 29. (Sanctions for Using Hammer and Sickle Are Void: A Lawyer [in Russian], OMG.MD (Nov. 1, 2012).)

Prepared by Virab Khachatryan, Law Library contract Foreign Law Specialist, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.

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