Ahead of the 92th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in April 2017, where Armenia’s and Moldova’s official reports will be considered, ADC “Memorial” in partnership with the Civil Society Institute (Armenia) and PromoLEX (Moldova) has submitted to the Committee its reports (Armenia’s report Moldova’s report) that point out the existing discrimination of ethnic minorities in these countries.
As a participant in the Eastern Partnership preparing for association with European Union Armenia has obligations to adopt and improve its legislation and practices on combatting discrimination, corruption, and equality. However, Armenia still lacks and adequate legal framework to fight racial discrimination. In the Armenian law, there is no clear definition of racism and direct or indirect racial discrimination, and no clear anti-discrimination law.
The lack of an adequate legal framework along with the predominance of strong cultural and social stereotypes as well as the existence of a national preference leads to the perpetuation of racial discrimination in the country towards ethnic minorities. Unpunished racist declarations against ethnic minorities are not rare in media and on the internet. Yezidi, Bosha or Molokan people are often discriminated and considered as second rank citizens, although they have been living on the Armenian territories for centuries. Ethnic discrimination also concerns people arriving on the Armenian territory. There exists what can be called ethnic profiling when it comes to the grant of the refugee status, as people from non-Armenian origins are rarely granted the refugee status. People of non-Armenian origins living on the Armenian territory also suffer discrimination in the public space, in education. Although the Armenian constitution guarantees the secularity of the educational institutions, pupils of schools have a mandatory course called “The History of the Armenian Church” that is not secular.
After the 2011 review of Republic of Moldova on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN CERD urged the Government to improve its situation related to prejudice and intolerance towards ethnic minorities, hate speech and hate crimes. To fulfil obligation under the CERD and other international and regional standards, Moldova undertook legal and institutional measures.
However, despite these significant progresses in creating an adequate legal framework, ethnic minorities are still very often discriminated, victim of hate speech and violence and the existing legal framework is rarely efficiently implemented. People who use hate speech and discriminating speech consider that their opinion is covered by the law on freedom of expression. The impunity on hate speech was obvious during the 2016 presidential campaign when one of main candidates publically used homophobic and gender hate speech in order to denigrate a woman candidate. Such hate speeches can quite often be seen in the media mostly towards ethnic minorities. In the end of year 2016, hate speech tremendously increased because of false rumors concerning Syrian refugees coming to Moldova. Moldova counts a concerning number of hate crimes related to ethnic discrimination that are most of the time not properly investigated. Discrimination is quite often based on racial stereotypes; this especially concerns Roma people whose rights are violated; discrimination in the field of education goes along with high poverty, social isolation, and unequal access to jobs.
Both reports call for the improvement of the existing legal framework concerning racial discrimination and for a better implementation of the already existing laws, in order to improve the situation of ethnic and religious minorities and refugees, to promote tolerance and non-discrimination.