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Separatist elements in Moldova established a breakaway republic in Transnistria following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The population of seven-hundred-fifty-thousand is made up of ethnic Moldovans, Russians, and Ukranians.

Recently, authorities there began forcibly closing Moldovan language, Latin script schools. Ivo Petrov of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the forced closure of one school and measures taken against another “were accompanied by acts of vandalism and the illegitimate use or threat of force by law enforcement personnel against children, including orphans, parents and school personnel.”

The United States strongly condemns the Transnistrian actions of closing, harassing, and intimidating these schools and the pupils and parents. Transnistrians should immediately reopen the schools, restore the normal movement of people and goods, stabilize the situation, and take any grievances to the existing negotiating forum for discussion.

The human rights situation in Transnistria is poor. Authorities continue to use torture and arbitrary arrest. Prison conditions remain harsh. Human rights groups are not permitted to visit prison inmates. Transnistrian authorities also harass the independent media. In 2003, the opposition newspaper Glas Naroda was ordered dissolved as a result of a lawsuit that many observers saw as politically motivated.

The Transnistrian government does not respect the right of free assembly or association. On those occasions when they have issued permits for demonstrations, they have often harassed organizers and participants. Authorities have organized mass rallies in their own support and called them “spontaneous rallies by the people.”

Religious freedom is also restricted. In recent years, the Tranistrian government has harassed and denied registration to Baptists, Methodists, and members of the Church of the Living God. Unregistered religious groups are not allowed to hold public assemblies, such as revival meetings.

Clearly, the authorities in Transnistria have a long way to go toward respecting fundamental human rights. The only way to start is by immediately re-opening the Moldovan language schools and allowing ethnic Romanians to preserve and develop their linguistic, ethnic, and cultural identity.