Reforms made to unreasonable government control of registered ethnicity

Ciubotaru v. Republic of Moldova  | 2010

Reforms made to unreasonable government control of registered ethnicity


During the Soviet period, most people in Moldova were systematically registered as having Moldovan ethnicity.

Mihai Ciubotaru is a writer and a professor of French. He lived in Chisinau. His parents were born in an area which was then part of Romania. However, it later became part of the Soviet Union, and is now in present-day Moldova. Mr Ciubotaru and his parents had all been registered by the Soviet authorities as ethnically Moldovan.

In 2002 Mr Ciubotaru applied to have his identity changed from “Moldovan” to “Romanian”. His request was rejected, both by the State authority and the courts. The reason was that Mr Ciubotaru’s parents had not been registered as ethnic Romanians. According to the authorities, Mr Ciubotaru had no way to challenge these records, and register a different identity.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The Strasbourg court ruled that Mr Ciubotaru had clear links with the Romanian ethnic group. However, under Moldovan law his ethnicity was determined by the records of his parents. This left Mr Ciubotaru with in an identity determined by a previous government policy, which he was not able to change. In these circumstances, the Moldovan authorities had failed to safeguard his right to private life. 


In 2012 the Moldovan Parliament changed the law. It decided that, when someone reaches their sixteenth birthday, their ethnicity is registered at their request according to their own wishes. Information on birth certificates and other documents can also be altered at the request of an individual.

Mr Ciubotaru’s legal proceedings were re-opened, and the Moldovan courts found in his favour. They ordered the authorities to change the ethnicity on his birth certificate to Romanian.