Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government partially respected this right. Independent organizations such as Media Monitoring Agency, Freedom House, and Center for Independent Journalism noted excessive politicization of the media, corrupt financing mechanisms, and editorial policies subordinated to owner interests.
Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits denying the Holocaust and promoting or using the symbols of fascist, racist, xenophobic, or Legionnaire ideologies, the latter being the nationalist, extremist, anti-Semitic interwar movement that was among the perpetrators of the Holocaust in the country.
Press and Media Freedom: While independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without overt restriction, politicians or persons with close ties to politicians and political groups either owned or indirectly controlled numerous media outlets at the national and local levels. The news and editorial stance of these outlets frequently reflected their owners’ views and targeted criticism at political opponents and other media organizations.
Mass demonstrations in Bucharest on August 10 sharply criticized the government’s performance on curbing corruption. According to watchdogs and independent reports, progovernment media played a key role in spreading misinformation during the demonstrations. Representatives of the governing party claimed that the August 10 protests were sponsored from abroad and aimed to be a coup d’etat. They presented no evidence to support these claims.
The National Audiovisual Council (CNA) and Council Fighting Discrimination (CNCD) avoided sanctioning unprofessional and unethical behavior by media outlets controlled by businessmen and politicians related to the ruling party, while sanctioning reporters criticizing the government. For example, in January the CNCD fined both Republica analyst Cristian Tudor Popescu and Digi24 TV’s Cosmin Prelipceanu 1,000 lei ($250), for criticizing the hairdo of the newly appointed prime minister and for refusing to retract the remark. On June 19, the Bucharest Court of Appeals cancelled the CNCD decision on the grounds that it violated freedom of expression.
During the year media outlets, anchors, and commentators controlled by owners who were connected to the government and ruling parties criticized press outlets whose coverage was critical of the ruling parties and their proposed legal curbs on magistrates’ powers.
Violence and Harassment: More than 20 civic and human rights NGOs condemned the June 20 use of violence by the gendarmerie against peaceful protesters, including the detention of a German reporter.
On August 10, at least 15 journalists suffered physical, verbal, or tear gas assaults by gendarmes while monitoring a major anticorruption, antigovernment protest taking place in Bucharest, according to Active Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, and the International and the European Federations of Journalists. According to NGOs, media reports, and testimonies, the journalists abused by gendarmes included Robert Mihailescu (Hotnews.ro), Cristian Stefanescu (Deutsche Welle), Vlad Ursulean (Casa Jurnalistului), Ioana Moldovan (Documentaria.ro), Silviu Matei (Agerpres), Cristian Popa and Cristi Ban (Digi 24), and Robert Reinprecht and Ernst Gelegs (Austrian public television).
On November 8, invoking privacy legislation, the National Supervisory Authority for Personal Data Processing (ANSPCP) asked investigative media group Rise Project to disclose the sources of the information they used for the articles they published into suspected cases of fraud and corruption with public money. Reporters’ articles referred to TelDrum, a company based in Teleorman County, allegedly connected to the Chamber of Deputies speaker, who is also the chair of the ruling party, PSD. ANSPCP threatened the group with an unprecedented penalty of a 20 million euro ($23 million) fine if it did not provide access to their databases and ongoing investigations. It was the second consecutive year that Rise Project was subject to harassment by government agencies after it started thorough investigations into the assets of the ruling party chair and his family.
Libel/Slander Laws: On May 13, Chamber of Deputies speaker Liviu Dragnea announced that he had requested authorities investigate G4Media.ro reporter Dan Tapalaga, claiming he had revealed a classified memorandum on the possible move of the country’s embassy to Jerusalem. G4Media was able to show that the report was based on open sources.
Voluntari Mayor Florin Pandele sued the news outlet PressOne.ro after the magazine disclosed academic evidence that he and dozens of other officials plagiarized their Ph.D. theses, after which the granting university rescinded his degree. Pandele was claiming damages of 300,000 euros ($339,000) for defamation. On November 20, the High Court of Cassation and Justice sent the case back to the appellate court, ruling that its previous rejection of Pandele’s second appeal was “not convincing.” After another appellate court ruling, the case could return to the High Court for a final ruling.
The government did not systematically restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 64 percent of the population used the internet in 2017.
In January media outlets reported that police opened two criminal cases against individuals in Timisoara who were accused of “instigating” unrest in Facebook messages in connection with antigovernment protests in December 2017. The human rights NGO Societatea Timisoara reported that the police action was aimed at intimidating street protesters mobilizing for democracy.
On July 19, media and NGOs criticized the Judicial Inspection of the Superior Council of Magistrates for initiating a disciplinary investigation against prosecutor Alexandra Lancranjan for a Facebook post explaining European legislation relating to abuse of office.
National Security: On June 26, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that the arrest of journalist Marian Girleanu in 2006 was disproportionate and constituted an interference with his right to freedom of expression. The court order the state pay 4,500 euros ($5,180) to the journalist and 3,695 euros ($4,250) to his lawyer. Girleanu was arrested and fined in 2006 for sharing classified military information without publishing it. At the time Girleanu was working for the daily newspaper Romania Libera, pursuing investigations into the armed forces and police.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
Media outlets and NGOs accused the Vrancea Popular Atheneum, a cultural events venue sponsored by the Focsani municipality, of cancelling a planned conference in February on women’s empowerment and gender equality organized by high school students because one of the speakers was transgender. The Vrancea Bar Association, a county councilor, the Vrancea School Inspectorate, the “Parents for Religion Classes” Association, and the Vrancea and Buzau Archbishopric intervened to block the conference and attempted to dissuade the organizers from holding it. In a statement to media, the director of the Athenaeum asserted, “We are a public, serious-minded institution, I cannot agree with discussions about lesbianism, homosexuality, and transgender taking place in the Athenaeum.” The conference was eventually held at a different location.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The constitution and law provide for the freedom of association, but the government occasionally restricted freedom of peaceful assembly.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government partially respected it. The law provides that unarmed citizens may assemble peacefully but also stipulates that meetings must not interfere with other economic or social activities and may not take place near such locations as hospitals, airports, or military installations. In most cases organizers of public assemblies must request permits in writing three days in advance from the mayor’s office of the locality where the gathering is to occur.
On October 15, the Supreme Court ruled that public gatherings, including protests, must be declared in advance when they are to be held in markets, public spaces, or in the vicinity of institutions “of public or private interest.” The decision was mandatory. Activists opposed these restrictions, stating that by announcing the protests, those who take to the streets will be forced to take responsibility not only for themselves, but also for larger groups or for instigators to violence who may be brought there to compromise peaceful anticorruption protests. Civic organizations also warned that in Bucharest, authorities granted public spaces for longer periods to NGOs with no activity only as a pretext to refuse permits to protest to legitimate organizations.
On August 10, a major protest at Victoria Square in Bucharest attracted approximately 100,000 protesters. According to the Ministry of Interior, several hundred persons allegedly attempted to get close to the cabinet office building and threw objects at gendarmes. Media and civic groups reported that the number of violent protesters was much lower, amounting to several dozens of persons. Gendarmes used tear gas and water cannon in an indiscriminate manner, harming peaceful protesters, some of whom were children or elderly. Many bystanders were also injured. NGOs, observers, and journalists noted that gendarmes launched tear gas canisters in adjacent areas of the square against persons who did not pose a threat. Because of the large crowd, protesters did not have the opportunity to disperse when gendarmes began using tear gas grenades. Gendarmes also used violence against protesters who left the protest and were on adjacent streets. Numerous broadcast television reports showed members of the gendarmerie punching, kicking, and hitting peaceful protesters with their batons. Several protesters suffered injuries caused by shrapnel from exploding tear-gas canisters.
According to the Interior Ministry, 452 individuals needed medical care during the protest, of which 33 were gendarmes; 70 persons were taken to the hospital, including 14 gendarmes. Hundreds of protesters reported side effects from irritant agents after the protest. Four Israeli tourists and a driver who happened to be in the area were dragged out of a taxi and beaten by gendarmes. Numerous reports showed that several gendarmes had the identification numbers on their helmets covered with duct tape. Dozens of civic and human rights NGOs condemned the intervention of the gendarmerie, which they viewed as a highly disproportionate response to the actions of most protesters.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right. The law prohibits fascist, racist, or xenophobic ideologies, organizations, and symbols.
In August the government adopted an ordinance that authorizes the Ministry of Public Finances to check whether NGOs use the funds redirected by citizens from their income tax according to the organizations’ primary goals. The ADHR-HC asserted that this measure would allow the government to harass NGOs.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The constitution and law provide for the freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, which could include irregular migrants potentially in need of international protection.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: According to UNHCR, several incidents of harassment and crimes against refugees and migrants were reported throughout the year in Bucharest and other parts of the country, although many incidents were not reported because of fear, lack of information, inadequate support services, and inefficient redress mechanisms. Authorities consistently declined to investigate incidents of this kind as hate crimes.
In-country Movement: The internal movement of beneficiaries of international protection and stateless persons was generally not restricted. Asylum seekers may be subject to measures limiting their freedom of movement and to detention in specific circumstances. The law and implementing regulations provide that the General Inspectorate for Immigration may designate a specific place of residence for an applicant for asylum while authorities determine his or her eligibility or may take restrictive measures, subject to approval by the prosecutor’s office, that amount to administrative detention in “specially arranged closed areas.” According to UNHCR, as of September no cases of asylum detention were recorded during the year. Applicants who do not qualify for asylum were treated as aliens without a right to stay in the country who may be taken into custody pending deportation. According to the law, those applying for asylum while in public custody were released from detention if granted access to the ordinary procedure. Detention in public custody centers is subject to regular review and should not exceed six months unless there are specific circumstances, in which case detention may be extended for up to 18 months. Applicants for or beneficiaries of international protection in certain circumstances, particularly those declared “undesirable” for reasons of national security, may be subject to administrative detention in public custody centers.
The government may grant “tolerated status” to persons who do not meet the requirements for refugee status or subsidiary protection, but who cannot be returned for various reasons. These reasons include cases where stateless persons are not accepted by their former country of habitual residence or where the lives or well-being of returnees could be at risk. Persons with “tolerated status” have the right to work but not to benefit from any other social protection or inclusion provisions, and the government restricted their freedom of movement to a specific region of the country. According to UNHCR, 244 persons were holders of “tolerated status” as of January, of whom 141 had been granted “toleration” as an alternative to detention or following prolonged detention.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Refoulement: The law establishes exceptions to the principle of nonrefoulement and the withdrawal of the right to stay following a declaration of a person as “undesirable.” This may occur, for example, when classified information or “well founded indications” suggest that aliens (including stateless persons), applicants for asylum, or persons granted asylum intend to commit terrorist acts or favor terrorism. Applicants for protection declared “undesirable” on national security grounds were taken into custody pending the finalization of their asylum procedure and then deported. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of the end of November, 390 persons had been subjected to refoulement.
Access to Asylum: The law provides access to asylum procedures to foreign nationals and stateless persons who express their desire for protection, which may be in the form of refugee status or temporary “subsidiary protection” status. The asylum law prohibits the expulsion, extradition, or forced return of any asylum seeker at the country’s border or from within the country’s territory, but this was not without exception, particularly in cases that fell under the country’s national security and terrorism laws.
UNHCR reported several allegations of denial of access to the country, pushbacks, and deviations from asylum procedures at border areas.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The law provides for the concept of safe countries of origin. This normally referred to EU member states but could also include other countries approved by the Internal Affairs Ministry at the recommendation of the General Inspectorate for Immigration. Procedurally, the government would normally reject applications for asylum by persons who had arrived from a safe country under accelerated procedures, except in cases where the factual situation or evidence presented by the applicant shows the existence of a well-founded fear of persecution. Between January and August, one asylum application by an EU national was rejected at the administrative level of the asylum procedure; no information regarding the legal basis for the rejection was available.
The law also refers to the concept of a safe third country. The law extends to irregular migrants who transited and were offered protection in a third country considered safe or who had the opportunity at the border or on the soil of a safe third country to contact authorities for the purpose of obtaining protection. In such cases authorities could deny access to asylum procedures if the designated safe third country agreed to readmit the applicant to its territory and grant access to asylum procedures.
Freedom of Movement: The law incorporates four “restrictive” measures under which the internal movement of applicants for asylum may be limited. The first two establish an obligation to report regularly to the General Inspectorate for Immigration or to reside at a regional reception center. A third restrictive measure allows authorities to place applicants in “specially arranged closed areas” for a maximum of 60 days, either to access the asylum procedure or if the asylum seeker is deemed to pose a danger to national security. There was no case of an asylum applicant being placed in a specially arranged closed area through September. Authorities may also place asylum applicants in administrative detention in a public custody center if they are subject to a transfer to another EU member state under the Dublin Regulations or if they have been declared “undesirable” for reasons of national security, pending their removal from the country.
Under provisions of the law to limit “abuse to the asylum procedure,” irregular migrants who submitted their first application for international protection while in custody were released from detention only if granted access to the ordinary asylum application procedure. The provisions raised concerns among UN agencies and civil society due to the ambiguity in the phrases “abuse of the asylum procedure” and “risk of absconding.”
The period of detention in a public custody center could be prolonged up to a maximum of 18 months.
Employment: Asylum seekers have the right to work starting three months after they submit their first asylum application, if the process was not completed. This period begins again if the applicant obtains access to a new asylum procedure. Even when granted permission to work, many asylum seekers faced problems finding legal work, mainly due to the limited validity of their identification documents and lack of awareness among potential employers of their right to work.
While persons granted protection have the legal right to work, job scarcity, low wages, lack of language proficiency, and lack of recognized academic degrees and other certifications often resulted in unemployment or employment without a legal contract and its related benefits and protections.
Access to Basic Services: Effective access by persons with refugee status or subsidiary protection to education, housing, lifelong learning and employment, public health care, and social security varied across the country, depending on the level of awareness of various public and private actors responsible for ensuring access to these services.
The government provides asylum seekers 16 lei ($4) per day in financial assistance, with slightly increased allowances for vulnerable persons. The allowance was low relative to the local cost of living, and persons with special needs or vulnerabilities were particularly affected. Supplementary financial support was provided under EU-sponsored projects, but timing gaps between these projects restricted funding availability. Applicants for asylum had limited options for meaningful activities, such as language classes, cultural orientation, and skills training. Romanian language classes were no longer available for adults. State-provided social, psychological, and medical assistance for asylum applicants remained insufficient, with many dependent on NGO-implemented projects for such help. Proper identification and assistance for victims of trauma and torture was lacking.
Durable Solutions: According to UNHCR, the country had become a resettlement country, having agreed to resettle small quotas of refugees every year. For 2018-19, the quota pledged by the government was 109 Syrian refugees, to be resettled from Turkey (69) and Jordan (40) with UNHCR and IOM support. As of September no arrivals had been recorded.
UNHCR reported that, as of August, 4,072 persons benefiting from any of several forms of legal protection were residing in the country. By the end of August, 1,406 persons had submitted new or repeat asylum applications.
Beneficiaries of international protection continued to face problems with local integration, including access to vocational training adapted to their specific needs, counseling programs, and naturalization. According to UNHCR, no municipality provided targeted support services or targeted integration and inclusion programs to refugees. Access to education was problematic, and several school inspectorates refused to organize Romanian language classes. According to several reports, schools across the country, including in large cities such as Bucharest or Timisoara, refused to enroll refugee children in school for several months. Obtaining a legal work contract remained difficult for various reasons, including tax concerns and the reluctance of employers to hire refugees. Recipients of subsidiary protection complained of problems regarding their freedom of movement to other countries due to the additional visa requirements. UNHCR reported that refugees saw citizenship acquisition as a cumbersome, costly, and difficult process, with some requirements, particularly related to the applicant’s financial situation, that were difficult to meet.
Temporary Protection: The government did not grant temporary protection to any individuals during the year.
According to UNHCR, as of August there were 337 stateless persons with valid residence documents in the country. These included legal residents under the aliens’ regime, stateless persons of Romanian origin, as well as 120 persons granted some form of international protection. Data on stateless persons, including on persons at risk of statelessness and persons of undetermined nationality, were not reliable due to the absence of a procedure to determine statelessness, the absence of a single designated authority responsible for this purpose, and the lack of adequate identification and registration of persons with unknown or undetermined nationality.
The law includes favorable provisions for stateless persons of Romanian origin to reacquire citizenship. Nevertheless, a significant gap persisted due to the lack of safeguards against statelessness for children born in the country, who would be stateless because their parents either were themselves stateless or were foreigners unable to transmit their nationality.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally met with human rights NGOs and were cooperative and sometimes responsive to their views. There were some reports that government officials were reluctant to cooperate with NGOs that focused on institutionalized persons with disabilities or to accept NGO criticism of institutions for persons with disabilities. In July 2017 the Ministry of Labor and Social Justice ceased to allow representatives of the Center for Legal Resources (CLR) to visit institutions for persons with disabilities, stating that the ministry’s agreement with CLR would not be renewed. CLR is an NGO that reported on alleged abuse of institutionalized persons with disabilities.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsperson has limited power and no authority to protect citizens’ constitutional rights in cases requiring judicial action. Although the Office of the Ombudsperson is the only institution that may challenge emergency ordinances in the Constitutional Court, as of September it failed to challenge several controversial ordinances despite persistent calls by civil society to do so. The ombudsperson is the national preventive mechanism implementing the optional protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. This gives the ombudsperson the power to conduct monitoring visits to places where individuals are deprived of their liberty, including prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and asylum centers. As of September the ombudsperson issued 15 reports with recommendations, based mainly on visits to penitentiaries and psychiatric facilities. Some observers continued to regard the institution as ineffective.
In October 2017 the government established the Office of the Children’s Ombudsperson empowered to examine human rights complaints made by children or their legal representatives. In 2016 parliament established the Council for Monitoring the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The council was authorized to make unannounced visits in centers and hospitals for persons with disabilities in order to check if the rights of these persons are respected, issue recommendations, and submit criminal complaints. As of September the council had issued 12 reports during the year with recommendations based on visits to residential centers for persons with disabilities. Some observers regarded the institution as ineffective and believed that the inspectors who drafted the reports lacked the necessary human rights expertise.
Each chamber of parliament has a human rights committee tasked with drafting reports on bills pertaining to human rights. On several occasions members of these committees expressed the views of their political parties rather than addressing problems impartially.
The National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) is the government agency responsible for applying domestic and EU antidiscrimination laws. The CNCD reports to parliament. The CNCD operated with the government’s cooperation and, for the most part, without government or party interference. According to the CNCD, the institution did not receive adequate resources. Observers generally regarded the CNCD as effective, but some criticized it for a lack of efficiency and political independence.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal. The law provides for three to 10 years’ imprisonment for rape and two to seven years’ imprisonment for sexual assault. If there are no aggravating circumstances and the attack did not lead to death, police and prosecutors may not pursue a case on their own, but they require a victim’s complaint, even if there is independent physical evidence.
The criminal code classifies family violence as a separate offense and stipulates that when murder, battery, or other serious violence is committed against a family member, the penalty is increased. The code also states that, if the parties reconcile, criminal liability is removed.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem that the government did not effectively address. The law provides for the issuance of provisional restraining orders by police for a maximum of five days and restraining orders by a court for a maximum of six months upon the victim’s request or at the request of a prosecutor, the state representative in charge of protecting victims of family violence, or, if the victim agrees, a social service provider. Violation of a restraining order is punishable by imprisonment for one month to one year. The court may also order the abuser to undergo psychological counselling. The FILIA Center for Gender Studies and Curriculum Development–an NGO that aims to promote gender equality–stated that police lacked procedures for the implementation and monitoring of restraining orders.
Courts prosecuted very few cases of domestic abuse. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when the alleged victims dropped their charges or reconciled with the alleged abuser. Anais, an NGO that assists victims of domestic violence, reported the case of a victim who, since 2013, had obtained 10 restraining orders against her former husband. In spite of the restraining order, for the past five years, the former husband had been following and abusing her both verbally and physically and threatening to kill her. The victim pressed charges on multiple occasions for the violation of the restraining order, but the Prosecutor’s Office attached to Bucharest Sector 3 Court had not sent the case to trial.
Sexual Harassment: Criminal law prohibits sexual harassment, which it defines as repeatedly asking for sexual favors in a work or similar relationship. A victim complaint is necessary to initiate a criminal investigation. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment of three months to one year. The law on equal opportunities for men and women defines sexual harassment as the occurrence of unwanted behavior with a sexual connotation, which can be expressed physically, verbally, or nonverbally and has the effect or result of damaging a person’s dignity and, in particular, the creation of a hostile, intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Civil fines range from 3,000 to 10,000 lei ($750 to $2,500).
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: Under the law women and men enjoy equal rights. Women experienced discrimination in marriage, divorce, child custody, employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses or property, education, the judicial process, and housing. The law requires equal pay for equal work, but there was a 4.5 percent gender pay gap according to EU data. Segregation by profession existed, with women overrepresented in lower-paying jobs. There were reports of discrimination in employment.
Birth Registration: Children derive citizenship by birth from at least one citizen parent. Although birth registration is mandatory by law, it was not universal, and authorities denied some children public services as a result. Most unregistered children had access to schools, and authorities assisted in obtaining birth documents for unregistered children, but the education of unregistered children depended on the decision of school authorities. The law provides simplified birth registration for children whose mothers do not have proper documentation to register their children.
Child Abuse: Child abuse, including emotional, physical, and psychological violence and neglect, continued to be serious problems. Media reported several severe cases of abuse or neglect in family homes, foster care, and child welfare institutions. The government had not established a mechanism to identify and treat abused and neglected children and their families.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal age of marriage is 18 for both men and women, but the law permits minors as young as 16 to marry under certain circumstances. Illegal child marriage was reportedly common in certain social groups, particularly among some Romani communities. Child protection authorities did not always intervene in such cases. There were no public policies to discourage child marriage.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides one- to 10-year prison sentences for persons convicted of sexual acts with minors, depending on the circumstances and the child’s age. Sexual intercourse with a minor who is 13 to 15 years of age is punishable by a one- to five-year prison sentence. Sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 13 is punishable by a two- to seven-year prison sentence and deprivation of some rights. The law also criminalizes sexual corruption of minors (which includes subjecting minors to sexual acts other than intercourse or forcing minors to perform such acts), luring minors for sexual purposes or child prostitution, and trafficking in minors. Pimping and pandering that involve minors increase sentences by one-half. The Ministry of Labor confirmed that authorities did not maintain a registry of individuals who had committed sexual offenses against children.
Child pornography is a separate offense and carries a sentence, depending on the circumstances, of up to seven years’ imprisonment, which may be increased by one-third if the perpetrator was a family member or someone in whose care the child was trusted or if the life of the child victim was endangered.
Institutionalized Children: During the year there were several media reports of abuses in placement centers for institutionalized children, including sexual abuse, physical violence by colleagues or staff, and trafficking in persons. Numerous reports noted a lack of adequate food, clothing, medical treatment, and counselling services. According to an investigation by Newsweek Romania, at least 362 children from placement centers and schools for persons with special needs died between 2013 and 2017, mostly because of accidents, suicide, or health problems. The investigation showed that the Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Adoptions did not centralize data on the causes of these deaths. In June media outlets reported that two mentally challenged children from a placement center in Peris, Ilfov County, were sexually abused by an older child in the center. According to a media investigation, the director of the center knew about the abuse but did not notify authorities. In 2016 prosecutors indicted members of an organized crime network who were recruiting girls from orphanages in Iasi for sexual exploitation. In December 2017 the Iasi Tribunal convicted the defendants to prison sentences ranging from three to seven years for trafficking in minors. The defendants appealed the ruling, and as of December the case was pending before the Iasi Court of Appeal.
By law unaccompanied migrant children are housed in placement centers, where they have access to education and benefits other children receive. The detention of families with children is allowed by law, with preservation of family unity used as justification. Several such cases were recorded during the year.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
According to the 2011 census, the Jewish population numbered 3,271. Acts of anti-Semitism occurred during the year.
The law prohibits public denial of the Holocaust and fascist, racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic language and symbols, including organizations and symbols associated with the indigenous Legionnaire interwar fascist movement. The oppression of Roma as well as Jews is included in the definition of the Holocaust.
Streets, organizations, schools, or libraries continued to be named after persons convicted for war crimes or crimes against humanity, according to the Elie Wiesel Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania. For example, Radu Gyr was a commander and anti-Semitic ideologist of the fascist Legionnaire movement convicted of war crimes. The Wiesel Institute requested the renaming of Radu Gyr street in Cluj-Napoca. As of September the local government had not changed the name of the street.
Material promoting anti-Semitic views and glorifying legionnaires also appeared in media, including on the internet, while several government officials made trivializing comments about the Holocaust. In July Agriculture Minister Petre Daea stated on the Antena 3 news channel that the incineration of pigs in response to a swine flu outbreak was similar to what happened at Auschwitz.
During the night of August 3, anti-Semitic and other offensive messages were painted on the childhood home of Auschwitz survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel in Sighetu Marmatiei. The local office of the national police started an investigation of the incident and identified one suspect.
In April 2017 vandals destroyed 10 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Bucharest. Police identified three underage persons who were allegedly responsible for the crime and stated they had acted without any specific reason. As of September the case was pending before the Prosecutor’s Office.
In June 2017 the Jewish community in Cluj-Napoca notified police of anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial messages painted on the exterior wall of the Memorial Temple of Deported Jews synagogue in the city. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of September the case was pending before the prosecutor’s office attached to the court in Cluj-Napoca.
While not explicitly anti-Semitic, verbal attacks during the year holding a foreign Jewish philanthropist responsible for domestic problems had anti-Semitic connotations. Politicians and the media ascribed negative actions to him, such as controlling a “network of influencers” and paying for activities of opposition parties and antigovernment protesters.
The government continued to implement the recommendations of the 2004 International Commission on the Holocaust in Romaniareport. On October 9, National Holocaust Remembrance Day, the president honored several Holocaust survivors and condemned anti-Semitic hatred and legislation in the country during the Holocaust, stating they were “inconceivable for a society strongly attached to democratic principles and the rule of law.” On the same occasion, the prime minister pledged that the government would support initiatives “to counter anti-Semitism and xenophobia.” The Wiesel Institute continued to organize training courses for teachers and other professionals on the history of the Holocaust.
The Education Ministry did not include a mandatory class on the country’s Holocaust history as part of the general history curricula in force. The high school course History of the Jews–The Holocaust was optional. During the 2016-17 school year, 2,894 pupils from 75 schools took the course.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government did not fully implement the law, and discrimination against persons with disabilities remained a problem.
The law mandates that buildings and public transportation be accessible for persons with disabilities. The country continued to have an insufficient number of facilities specifically designed to accommodate persons with disabilities who could have extreme difficulty navigating city streets or gaining access to public buildings. Persons with disabilities reported a lack of access ramps, adapted public transportation, and adapted toilets in major buildings.
Discrimination against children with disabilities in education was a widespread problem due to lack of adequate teacher training on inclusion of children with disabilities and lack of investment to make schools accessible. Most children with disabilities were either placed in special schools or not placed in school at all. According to the NGO the European Center for the Rights of Children with Disabilities (ECRCD), abuses against children in special schools, including violence by staff, occurred frequently. Several reports by the ECRCD indicated that children with disabilities placed in regular schools faced abuse and discrimination from classmates and staff.
The Center for Legal Resources identified a series of problems in centers for persons with disabilities or psychiatric sections, including verbal and physical abuse of children, sedation, excessive use of physical restraints, lack of hygiene, inadequate living conditions, and lack of adequate medical care.
The National Authority for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities, under the labor ministry, coordinated services for persons with disabilities and drafted policies, strategies, and standards in the field of disabilities rights.
Discrimination against Roma continued to be a major problem. Romani groups complained that police harassment and brutality, including beatings, were routine. Both domestic and international media and observers reported societal discrimination against Roma. NGOs reported that Roma were denied access to, or refused service in, many public places. Roma also experienced poor access to government services, a shortage of employment opportunities, high rates of school attrition, and inadequate health care. A lack of identity documents excluded many Roma from participating in elections, receiving social benefits, accessing health insurance, securing property documents, and participating in the labor market. Roma had a higher unemployment rate and a lower life expectancy than non-Roma. Negative stereotypes and discriminatory language regarding Roma were widespread.
Despite an order by the Ministry of Education forbidding segregation of Romani students, several NGOs continued to report that segregation along ethnic lines persisted in schools. In 2016 a house, annex, outbuildings, and agricultural storage belonging to Roma were burned and destroyed in the city of Gheorgheni. Media reported that, prior to the arson, police noticed mobs moving towards the area and observed several groups shouting anti-Roma statements. Following the incident the Gheorgheni mayor blamed Roma for triggering the attack. As of September an investigation was pending before the prosecutor’s office attached to the Harghita Tribunal.
Researchers and activists reported that a significant number of the remaining Romani Holocaust survivors who applied for a pension were denied because of unreasonable administrative barriers raised by the pension offices, problematic standards, lack of knowledge about the Holocaust, and burdensome requirements. According to researchers, despite historical evidence, in hundreds of cases authorities considered that Roma were resettled and not deported, and consequently granted them smaller pensions.
Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related mainly to the use of the Hungarian language. There were continued reports that local authorities did not enforce the law, which states that in localities where a minority constitutes at least 20 percent of the population, road signs must be bilingual. On January 11, Prime Minister Mihai Tudose stated on national television that if anyone raised the Szekler (Hungarian) flag on a public building, they would “wave beside it themselves” (a phrase in Romanian that implies hanging). The CNCD sanctioned Tudose with a warning. In April, during a soccer match in the city of Voluntari between teams from Bucharest and Sfantu Gheorghe, a city inhabited mostly by ethnic Hungarians, a song played through the loudspeakers included xenophobic expressions that incited violence against the Hungarian community. The Romanian Football Federation fined the host team 10,000 lei ($2,500).
Several politicians and government officials made derogatory remarks about ethnic Germans and equated German ethnicity with National Socialism and the Holocaust. On September 2, an advisor to Prime Minister Darius Valcov posted a video clip on his Facebook page that depicted the German Democrat Forum, an organization of ethnic Germans in the country, as a National Socialist organization and compared the country’s president, Klaus Iohannis, to Adolf Hitler. The ethnic German and Jewish communities, the Elie Wiesel Institute, several NGOs, and opposition political figures condemned Valcov’s behavior, and some of them called for his resignation. On August 23, Senator Liviu Pop stated during a television program that President Iohannis, a former chair of the German Democrat Forum, was the head of a successor group to a Nazi organization. After Iohannis condemned the excessive use of force by the gendarmerie against protesters on August 10, Labor Minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu criticized him with the comment, “Cheeky, as a German, to speak of attacking [people] with gas.”
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. NGOs reported that societal discrimination against LGBTI persons was common, and there were some reports of violence against them.
Discrimination in employment occurred against LGBTI persons. On June 9, a pride parade with more than 5,000 participants took place without incident in Bucharest. Before the event approximately 100 persons took part in a counterprotest.
On June 5, the European Court of Justice ruled that those EU states that do not permit same-sex marriage may nevertheless not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his/her same-sex spouse, even if he/she is a not an EU national, a derived right of residence in their territory. The ruling was issued in the case of Romanian citizen and a non-EU foreign citizen who were married in Belgium in 2010 and denied the right of permanent residence in Romania.
The law governing legal gender recognition for transgender persons was vague and incomplete. In some cases authorities refused legal gender recognition unless an individual had first undergone sex reassignment surgery. Access to adequate psychological services was also limited because some psychologists refused to accept transgender patients.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Although the law provides that HIV-infected persons have the right to confidentiality and adequate treatment, authorities rarely enforced it. Authorities did not adopt regulations that were necessary to provide confidentiality and fair treatment, and discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS impeded access to routine medical and dental care.
Promotion of Acts of Discrimination
Public figures, politicians, supporters of the Coalition for Family, and representatives of several religious denominations made discriminatory remarks concerning the LGBTI community. In July Vice-President of the Romanian Academy Razvan Theodorescu stated in an interview for Evenimentul Zilei newspaper that “all this fuss about homosexuals and lesbians is an aberration and we don’t need it. These are pathological aspects, certain people are sick.” In October, during the campaign for the revision of the constitutional definition of family, flyers distributed in Bucharest and Craiova by several supporters of the referendum referred to alleged cases of children sexually and emotionally abused by gay couples. Some members of parliament made offending or discriminatory comments about women.