Romania

Executive Summary

Romania is a constitutional republic with a democratic, multiparty parliamentary system. The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, both elected by popular vote. Observers considered the 2019 presidential election and December 2020 parliamentary elections to have been generally free and fair.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police, the gendarmerie, border police, the General Directorate for Internal Protection, and the Directorate General for Anticorruption. The General Directorate for Internal Protection is responsible for intelligence gathering, counterintelligence, and preventing and combatting vulnerabilities and risks that could seriously disrupt public order or target Ministry of Internal Affairs operations. The directorate reports to the minister of interior. The Romanian Intelligence Service, the domestic security agency, investigates terrorism and national security threats. The service reports to the Supreme Council of National Defense. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the intelligence service and the security agencies that reported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; widespread serious official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence and sexual violence; and abuses targeting institutionalized persons with disabilities.

The judiciary took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, but authorities did not have effective mechanisms to do so and delayed proceedings involving alleged police abuse and corruption, with the result that many of the cases ended in acquittals. Impunity for perpetrators of some human rights abuses was a continuing problem.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

There were reports during the year that the government or its agents committed one arbitrary or unlawful killing. On April 16, in the city of Pitesti, several police officers tried to restrain a 63-year-old man who was arguing with security forces after being evacuated from a burning restaurant. According to surveillance camera footage of the incident, officers appeared to push the man to the ground roughly. Press reports indicated that the man immediately stopped breathing and could not be resuscitated. A representative of the forensic medicine unit in Pitesti told media that the cause of death was mechanical asphyxiation. On April 20, two officers were arrested for their involvement in the incident. As of November the prosecutor’s office attached to the Bucharest Military Tribunal was conducting a criminal investigation against two police officers and a gendarme involved in the incident for involuntary homicide and abusive behavior.

There is no agency specifically designated to investigate whether police killings were justified. Prosecutors’ offices handle investigations and prosecutions against police who commit killings, while military prosecutors’ offices handle investigations and prosecutions against members of the gendarmerie who commit killings.

In June, through a nonfinal ruling, the Iasi Military Tribunal imposed on a gendarme a suspended prison sentence of two years and seven months for manslaughter, battery, and abusive behavior. In 2019 the gendarme had tried to physically immobilize a 55-year-old man for 10 minutes and used tear gas spray against him, as he was suspected of inappropriately touching a child. During the altercation the man became unconscious and was taken to the hospital, where he died the following day.

As of November the trial of former communist-era Securitate officials Marin Parvulescu, Vasile Hodis, and Tudor Postelnicu was pending before the High Court of Cassation and Justice. The three officials had allegedly committed crimes against humanity in 1985 when, according to prosecutors, they were responsible for allegedly arresting and beating anticommunist dissident Gheorghe Ursu to death. In 2019 the Bucharest Court of Appeals issued a nonfinal ruling acquitting Parvulescu and Hodis, but Gheorghe Ursu’s son challenged the decision.

On November 10, the High Court of Cassation and Justice dismissed the indictment against former president Ion Iliescu and former vice prime minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1989 Romanian Revolution. The court returned the case to the Military Prosecutor’s Office. According to the court, the indictment included several irregularities. The General Prosecutor’s Office announced it would redraft and refile the indictment.

As of December the investigation of former president Ion Iliescu, former prime minister Petre Roman, former vice prime minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu, and former Intelligence Service director Virgil Magureanu for crimes against humanity committed during the 1990 “miners’ riot” was ongoing. The defendants were accused of bringing thousands of miners to Bucharest to attack demonstrators opposed to Iliescu’s rule. According to official figures, the violence resulted in hundreds of injuries, illegal arrests, and four deaths. Media estimates of the number of injuries and deaths were much higher.

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media that police and gendarmes mistreated and abused Roma, asylum seekers, minors, and other persons primarily with excessive force, including beatings.

The most recent report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), published in 2019, found, “a large number of allegations of physical ill-treatment (many of which were corroborated by medical evidence) by police officers were received from detained persons. The allegations consisted primarily of slaps, punches, kicks and baton blows inflicted by police officers against criminal suspects either at the time of the arrest or during questioning at a police station, apparently for the primary purpose of coercing a confession.”

In August the prosecutor’s office attached to the Bucharest County Court indicted seven police officers for torture, illegal deprivation of liberty, abusive behavior, and forgery. The seven officers, in addition to two others, were originally detained on March 5. In September 2020 the officers had detained and abused two persons who admonished them for not wearing face masks. The officers reportedly handcuffed one of the individuals, took him to a field at the outskirts of Bucharest, beat him for 30 minutes, and subjected him to degrading treatment. Police officers handcuffed the other individual, transported him to a dangerous area of Bucharest, and abandoned him in a dark alley. The prosecutor’s office attached to the Bucharest Tribunal started a criminal investigation against the officers for illegal deprivation of liberty and torture.

As of November the prosecutor’s office attached to the Giurgiu County Court was investigating a member of the police for abusive behavior. In April 2020 media outlets circulated a video showing the chief of police and a subordinate in the town of Bolintin Vale in Giurgiu County beating several Romani persons immobilized in handcuffs on the ground and verbally abusing them for speaking in the Romani language. In 2020 the Ministry of Interior announced it had dismissed the chief of police and started an investigation of the incident.

The 2019 CPT report noted, “a considerable number of allegations of physical ill-treatment of prisoners by prison staff were received, notably by members of the masked intervention groups, in the prisons of Aiud, Gherla, Iasi and Galati. The situation was particularly alarming at Galati Prison where a climate of fear was evident. The report details several allegations of physical ill-treatment including sexual abuse by staff and raises serious concerns over the lack of recording of injuries by the health-care service and failures to investigate allegations effectively.”

The 2019 CPT report stressed “repeated and numerous detailed allegations” of inmate abuse by “masked intervention groups” – prison guards who wear body armor, balaclavas, helmets, batons, gloves, which the CPT described as “designed to intimidate prisoners.”

During the year authorities’ investigations into two allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by Romanian peacekeepers originally reported in 2017 continued. The cases involved military observers deployed in UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. One case involved the alleged sexual abuse (rape) of a minor. The peacekeeper in question was repatriated by the United Nations. The other case involved alleged sexual exploitation (transactional sex).

Impunity was a significant problem in the security forces, particularly among police and gendarmerie. Police officers were frequently exonerated in cases of alleged beatings and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Prosecutors are responsible for investigating abuses. The Directorate for Internal Review within the Romanian Police can conduct, under prosecutorial supervision, criminal investigations of abuses committed by members of the police as well as internal administrative investigations. The government took the following steps to increase respect for human rights by the security forces: members of the police and gendarmerie received training on a wide range of human rights issues, including gender equality, abuse against children, prevention of torture, gender-based violence, and preventing discrimination; police schools and academies reserved several seats for admission opened only to persons of Romani ethnicity; police schools and academies, as well as gendarmerie schools, provided training to students, noncommissioned officers, and officers on racism, discrimination, and diversity.

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her detention. The government generally observed these requirements.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, although in practice the government did not completely respect judicial independence and impartiality. The Superior Council of Magistrates is the country’s judicial governance body, meant to ensure judicial independence and impartiality.

There were reports that judicial and prosecutorial independence was compromised by government bodies with the power to discipline or retaliate against judges and prosecutors for their decisions. Despite a May 18 European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruling that found the Section to Investigate Offenses in the Judiciary inconsistent with EU law, the government did not dismantle the entity. The Section to Investigate Offenses in the Judiciary was established in 2018 and has been criticized by judicial and law enforcement stakeholders for intimidating judges and prosecutors. The Superior Council of Magistrate’s investigative body, the Judicial Inspectorate, has been accused of using its authority to intimidate judges who spoke out against the Section to Investigate Offenses in the Judiciary and advocated for reform in the justice system. The Judicial Inspectorate used disciplinary measures against prosecutors and judges who sought international courts’ rulings on the Section to Investigate Offenses in the Judiciary or who had spoken publicly regarding corruption in the judicial system. On June 14, the Judicial Inspectorate opened an investigation into a judge in Pitesti who ruled that the existence of the Section to Investigate Offenses in the Judiciary was illegal, based on the May 18 ECJ ruling.

On December 13, the Superior Council of Magistrates dismissed proreform judge Cristi Danilet for alleged “social media misconduct” after he posted TikTok videos in which he was practicing martial arts and trimming hedges in his yard that the council deemed indecorous. Civil society and opinion makers reported that Danilet was removed for his vocal criticism of controversial, corruption-friendly changes to the justice laws during the previous Social Democratic Party-led government. Danilet could appeal the council’s decision. A European Commission’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report on June 8 also noted a pattern of Judicial Inspectorate disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors who drew attention to corruption.

Trial Procedures

The constitution and the law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Under the law defendants enjoy the right to the presumption of innocence, have the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them, and have the right to free linguistic interpretation, as necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. Trials should take place without undue delay, but delays were common due to heavy caseloads and procedural inconsistencies, as well as a lack of sufficient personnel, physical space, and technology necessary to enable the judiciary to act swiftly and efficiently.

Defendants have the right to be present at trial. The law provides for the right to counsel and the right to consult an attorney in a timely manner. Defendants had adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. The law requires that the government provide an attorney to juveniles in criminal cases; the Ministry of Justice paid local bar associations to provide attorneys to indigent clients. Defendants may confront or question witnesses against them (unless the witness is an undercover agent) and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. The law generally provides for the right of defendants and their attorneys to view and consult case files, but prosecutors may restrict access to evidence for such reasons as protecting the victim’s rights and national security. Both prosecutors and defendants have a right of appeal. Defendants may not be compelled to testify against themselves and have the right to abstain from making statements.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Judicial and administrative remedies are available to individuals and organizations for abuses of human rights by government agencies. Plaintiffs may appeal adverse judgments involving alleged abuses of human rights by the state to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after exhausting the avenues of appeal in domestic courts. According to the civil society coalition European Implementation Network, over the previous 10 years the government had not fully implemented 97 ECHR judgements concerning significant or systemic human rights problems.

Property Seizure and Restitution

According to the National Authority for Property Restitution, the Jewish community is entitled to receive compensation for buildings and land that belonged to the Judaic religious denomination or legal entities of the Jewish community and that were confiscated between September 6, 1940, and December 22, 1989. Individuals are entitled to compensation only for real estate confiscated between 1945 and 1989. The government has laws and mechanisms in place to address Holocaust-era property claims.

The law for returning property seized by the former communist and fascist regimes includes a “points” system to compensate claimants where restitution of the original property is not possible. Claimants may use the points to bid in auctions of state-owned property or exchange them for monetary compensation. Local authorities hindered property restitution by failing to complete a land inventory stipulated by law. In April the Association for Private Property stated that the land inventory was not completed. The government twice extended the deadline for the inventory’s completion in 2013 and 2014.

There were numerous disputes over church buildings and property that the Romanian Orthodox Church failed to return to the Greek Catholic Church, despite court orders to do so. The government did not take effective action to return churches confiscated by the post-World War II communist government. There continued to be lengthy delays in processing claims related to properties owned by national minority communities. Under the law there is a presumption of abusive transfer that applies to restitution of private property but not to religious or communal property. In many cases documents attesting to the abusive transfer of such properties to state ownership no longer existed. Religious and national minorities are not entitled to compensation for nationalized buildings that were demolished.

Associations of former owners asserted that the points compensation system was ineffective and criticized the restitution law for failing to resolve cases fairly, as well as for lengthy delays and corruption. While the pace of resolving restitution cases at the administrative level increased, the number of properties returned involving churches and national minorities was disproportionately low. The number of cases resolved annually has remained approximately constant over the past three years (an average of 1,300), but the number of positive decisions remained extremely low. Religious communities disputing these rulings continued to go to court and incur additional costs. As of October there were 3,852 pending requests for restitution from religious denominations.

According to advocates of the Jewish community, the disappearance of entire document repositories, combined with limited access to other archives, prevented the Jewish community from filing certain claims before the legal deadlines. The National Authority for Property Restitution rejected most restitution claims concerning former Jewish communal properties during its administrative procedures. The Caritatea Foundation, established by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania and World Jewish Restitution Organization to claim communal properties, challenged these negative National Authority for Property Restitution decisions in court. The World Jewish Restitution Organization also reported that the restitution of heirless private Jewish properties was not completed and that there was insufficient research concerning property that had belonged to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly on July 29, 2020, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

Although the constitution and law prohibit such actions, there were allegations by NGOs, politicians, and journalists that authorities failed to respect individual’s rights. There were reports that government authorities entered homes without judicial or appropriate authorization and unlawfully interfered with privacy. According to media reports, police and Ministry of Interior officials wrongfully ordered the surveillance of Radu Gavris, deputy chief of the Bucharest Police, to prevent him from competing for a leadership position in the police force. In January several police officers raided a restaurant where Gavris and several prosecutors were having dinner, allegedly in violation of COVID-19-related restrictions. Following the raid, the minister of interior announced that Gavris was removed from his position as anti-COVID-19 efforts coordinator. Media and the Europol police labor union suggested that police carried out the raid based on information they obtained from the surveillance.

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