In September the European Commission (EC) allowed Romania's accession to the European Union (EU) to go ahead in January 2007, despite continuing concerns about the transparency and efficiency of the judicial process and about the impartiality and effectiveness of investigations into allegations of high-level corruption.
In August, Romania ratified the Council of Europe's Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Unlike the previous year, the authorities did not oppose a parade called the Gayfest, organized by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, from going ahead in May in the capital, Bucharest. However, police had to intervene to protect marchers from counter-demonstrators who threw eggs, stones and plastic bottles.
In its report on Romania, published in February, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance expressed concern at the lack of knowledge about and the failure to implement anti-discrimination legislation. The Roma community continued to be discriminated against in all areas including employment, education and housing.
A law to prevent and punish all forms of discrimination was amended in June to meet the requirements of the EU's racial equality directive. However, by the end of the year Parliament had yet to approve a draft law on the protection of ethnic minorities.
The Romani community
In January, the National Council for Combating Discrimination ruled that an anti-Roma speech made by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party (Partidul România Mare), was in breach of Romanian anti-discrimination law. The speech referred to an incident in 1993 in the village of Hădăreni during which three Romani men were killed and 18 Romani houses were destroyed. No sanctions were initiated against him owing to parliamentary immunity.
The authorities failed to implement the July 2005 judgement by the European Court of Human Rights in the Hädäreni case. The community development strategy, initiated by the government in accordance with its obligations arising from the friendly settlement in the case, was reportedly shelved. The legal suits concerning the damages due to the victims of the attacks were still pending in national courts. A significant number of the perpetrators of the attacks, including law enforcement officials, remained unpunished.
In November, the National Council for Combating Discrimination fined several members of the New Right (Noua Dreaptă) organization for publishing a number of articles on the New Right website containing degrading, humiliating and offensive material about the Romani community. The Roma Centre for Social Intervention and Studies (Centrul Romilor pentru Intervenţie Socială şi Studii) lodged a formal complaint against the New Right and against its leader, Tudor Ionescu; a decision was still pending at the end of the year.
In October, the Tulcea municipality forcibly evicted 25 Romani families, around 110 people, from a building that they had occupied for the previous seven years. Some Roma accepted the offer by the municipality of rooms in two ruined buildings with no access to electricity, hot water and sanitation and only limited access to drinking water, located in an enclave inside the Tulcea industrial port. After their relocation, the children stopped going to school because of distance and their parents' fear for their safety.
The rest of the people evicted remained sleeping outside the building. The local authorities had only offered to move them to mobile housing located outside Tulcea, also in a heavily industrialized area. The authorities acknowledged these structures offered very limited shelter since they could not be connected to any utilities. Court proceedings challenging the legality of the evictions, which were brought by the European Roma Rights Centre and other Roma non-governmental organizations (NGOs), were continuing at the year's end. Penal code amendments
In June, international and domestic NGOs expressed their concern regarding amendments to the Penal Procedure Code. These allow prosecutors to intercept electronic mail and tap phones for up to 96 hours before informing a judge and to undermine client-lawyer confidentiality through phone tapping.
bIn August, five Romani individuals reported that they had been subjected to physical abuse during a joint operation by Bontida village police and Cluj county gendarmerie. Two of the Roma were minors who were allegedly prevented from contacting their parents while held at the police station. Both the police and gendarmerie denied any abuses. A complaint lodged by the men was still pending at the end of the year.
bIn September, violent clashes between police and members of the Romani community in Reghin, Apalina district, reportedly resulted in injuries to two policemen and 36 Romani women, men and children. The incident reportedly began when a police officer alleged that he had been assaulted by two Romani men. Shortly afterwards, a violent altercation broke out after plain-clothes police officers and masked Special Forces police officers arrived at the Apalina district, reportedly to serve two subpoenas. The police claimed they were attacked by several Roma using rocks, metal bars and pitchforks. The Roma claimed that Special Forces officers provoked the violence by using excessive force, including by firing rubber bullets and tear gas. The initial police investigation cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. In November, following a visit by two members of the European Parliament, the General Police Inspectorate opened a preliminary investigation into the incident. The investigation was continuing at the end of the year.
Violence against women
In June, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women published its concluding comments on Romania's sixth periodic report. It urged the authorities to enhance the effective enforcement of its domestic violence legislation and to ensure that all women who are victims of violence have access to immediate means of redress and protection, including protection orders, and access to a sufficient number of state-funded safe shelters and legal aid. It also called on the authorities to increase their efforts to prevent human trafficking by addressing its root causes, in particular women's economic insecurity.
Mental health care
In May an international human rights and advocacy organization, Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI), published a report on the rights of children with disabilities in Romania. In spite of government claims that the placement of babies in institutions had ended, MDRI found children, many of them unidentified, languishing in poorly staffed medical facilities. Some children were found in adult psychiatric facilities, tied down with bed sheets, their arms and legs twisted and left to atrophy.
In January, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture published its report on a visit to Romania in 2004. This raised concerns about the death of many patients, due to malnutrition or hypothermia, at Poiana Mare psychiatric hospital, an establishment already strongly criticized in the past in respect of the patients' living conditions, in particular food and heating.
• Following the deaths of 17 people at the Poiana Mare psychiatric hospital in 2004, and domestic and international pressure relating to the case, the Ministry of Health announced the decision to close down the hospital in November 2005. In February 2006 the Ministry of Justice closed down the ward for high security patients and transferred them to another institution. However, at the end of the year, 413 patients remained in Poiana Mare.
Secret detention centres and renditions
In June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's Rapporteur on secret detentions reported on a global "spider's web" of detentions and transfers by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and alleged collusion by 14 Council of Europe member states. He found that the Romanian authorities showed a lack of transparency and genuine willingness to co-operate with the investigation into whether the USA had secret detention centres in Romania.
In November, members of the European Parliament's Temporary Committee on allegations of illegal CIA activity in Europe said that more investigation of the CIA's possible actions in Romania was needed. It criticized Romania's inquiry report as superficial and expressed concern about the lack of control by Romanian authorities over US activities in military bases in Romania.
AI country reports/visits
• Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 01/017/2006)