There were further allegations that Romania was involved in the US-led secret detention and renditions programme, despite continued denials of any involvement by the government and the findings of a Senate commission of inquiry. There were reports of ill-treatment, excessive use of force and the unlawful use of firearms by law enforcement officials. Discrimination against Roma and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people persisted.
A progress report on Romania was published by the European Commission (EC) in July. This urged the Romanian authorities to improve the judicial system and to strengthen measures to tackle corruption, particularly at local government level.
Counter-terror and security
The authorities did not give satisfactory responses to repeated calls from the EC and others to clarify allegations about the use of Romanian territory in the US-led programme of renditions, secret detention and enforced disappearance.
In February 2008, a high-ranking Romanian official stated in a media interview that in 2004 and 2005 he had seen a black bus arrive five times in a secluded corner of the heavily guarded Mihail Kogălniceanu airport near Constanţa. He said that parcels that looked like bundled-up prisoners were taken from the bus and loaded onto the jet, which then left for North Africa with its cargo and two US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents on board. The official also said that US pilots routinely filed bogus flight plans, or none at all, and flew to undeclared destinations.
In February, the EC stated that Romania’s response to a request by the EU Commissioner on Justice, Freedom and Security for judicial inquiries into the existence of secret CIA detention centres on its territory was not complete. The EC again requested that Romania provide information on the possible transfer or detention of people suspected of involvement in terrorism. President Traian Băsescu declared he had no knowledge of any suspect packages being transferred at Mihail Kogălniceanu airport and noted that the airport was open to Romanian and foreign journalists.
"Discrimination against Roma remained widespread and entrenched."
The government repeatedly denied any involvement in US rendition and secret detention programmes. It noted that an investigation conducted by a Senate commission of inquiry during 2006 and 2007 had found no evidence of such involvement. The commission’s report, much of which remained classified, concluded that “the accusations brought against Romania are groundless.” The report was adopted by the Senate in April 2008.
In August, the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) filed a number of requests for information, including one to the Senate commission of inquiry. The commission responded in October that investigating the purpose of the flights entering Romania did not fall within its mandate which was “to investigate allegations regarding the existence of CIA detention centres on Romanian soil or of flights with planes hired by the CIA” on Romanian territory. As a result the commission had not requested and did not hold information about the purpose of the flights. It also stated that in May it had asked the competent authorities to consider declassifying certain information contained in its report; no decision had been made on this by the end of the year.
Torture, other ill-treatment and excessive use of force
Ill-treatment and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials continued to be reported. Many of the victims were members of the Romani community.
- A Romani man, Ion Boacă, and his 15-year-old son alleged that they were injured when local police and gendarmerie officers entered their house in the village of Clejani, Giurgiu County, in August. The officers hit Ion Boacă in the face with a gun and fired a rubber bullet at his son. Two children, aged two and four, lost consciousness after police fired tear gas into the house.
- On 4 March the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Romania had failed to conduct a proper investigation into allegations of police ill-treatment of Constantin Stoica. The 14-year-old Romani boy, who was represented by the NGOs European Roma Rights Centre and Romani CRISS, was injured during a clash between law enforcement officers and Roma outside a bar in Giulia in April 2001. He was knocked to the floor, beaten and kicked in the head by officers, despite telling them that he had recently undergone surgery on his head. Medical records following the attack stated that he was severely disabled as a result of the beating. The Court also found that the police officers’ behaviour had clearly been motivated by racism.
In December 2008 the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published a report of its visit to Romania in June 2006. The report noted that a significant proportion of the detainees interviewed reported “excessive use of force by the police during their arrest or physical abuse during interrogations that followed.”
The Romanian government failed to amend legislation on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials to bring it into line with relevant international standards.
- The authorities failed to respond to the findings of an investigation by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) into the deaths of two men and the serious injury of another during a demonstration on 10 February 2007 in Pristina, Kosovo. The UNMIK investigation had established that the deaths and injuries occurred as a result of the improper deployment of out-of-date rubber bullets by members of the Romanian Formed Police Unit. By the end of the year, no individual had been found responsible for the deaths; the investigation was continuing.
People with mental disabilities
A number of national and international NGOs, including Amnesty International, the Centre for Legal Resources and Save the Children-Romania, expressed continuing concern that the placement, living conditions and treatment of patients in many psychiatric wards and hospitals continued to violate international human rights standards.
The Romanian authorities acknowledged in May that measures to protect the rights of people with disabilities remained inadequate, that institutions and organizations caring for people with disabilities were seriously understaffed, and that staff lacked specialist training.
In its December report, the CPT expressed concern regarding the placement procedures and the legal status of people in psychiatric institutions and residential care centres. The Committee stressed that these institutions often operate with very limited funding and resources and that inadequate conditions and limited leisure and outdoor activities were reported. The Committee also reported cases of deaths related to severe malnutrition at the residential care centre at Nucet in 2004 and 2005 and urged the authorities to ensure that all deaths in psychiatric institutions and other social services of adults under 40, where a deadly disease had not been diagnosed, were investigated appropriately.
Discrimination against Roma, both by public officials and in society at large, remained widespread and entrenched. The Romanian authorities failed to take adequate measures to combat discrimination and stop violence against Roma.
In September, the High Court of Cassation and Justice ruled that the phrase “stinky gypsy”, used by President Traian Băsescu when referring to a journalist in May 2007, was discriminatory. However, the Court did not apply any sanctions because the remark had been made during a private conversation.
Roma continued to be denied equal access to education, housing, health care and employment.
In its report to the UN Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review in May, Romania acknowledged that Romani communities faced economic insecurity and were at particular risk of various forms of discrimination. The report also noted that Roma were subjected to policies which could in effect result in segregation, especially in the field of education.
- On 2 October, Istvan Haller, a member of the National Council for Combating Discrimination, began a hunger strike over the persistent failure of the Romanian government to implement measures which had been promised in the wake of serious attacks on Roma communities in Hãdãreni, Plăieşii de Sus and Casinul Nou in the early 1990s. At least five people were killed and 45 houses destroyed during mob violence. Hundreds of people were made homeless while local authorities failed to intervene or actively participated in the attacks.
Following judgments by the European Court of Human Rights in 2005 and 2007 in these cases, the Romanian government undertook to initiate community development projects to improve living conditions and inter-ethnic relations. Measures included the creation of infrastructure, including houses for those whose homes had been destroyed, as well as anti-discrimination, educational and other social measures. However, the government failed to fulfil its commitments. Istvan Haller ended his hunger strike on 9 October following assurances by the government that it would not obstruct funding for the Hãdãreni project, and a decision by the authorities to start the community development projects in Plăieşii de Sus and Casinul Nou.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
In its May Universal Periodic Review report to the UN Human Rights Council, the government acknowledged that LGBT people continued to face prejudice and discriminatory attitudes.
In February, an amendment by the Senate to the legal definition of the family effectively outlawed same-sex marriage. The amendment changed a 1953 law which referred to marriage “between spouses”; the new law defines marriage as “between a man and a woman”.
On 24 May, around 200 LGBT rights activists marched through Bucharest in a heavily policed pride parade, defying efforts by religious and far-right groups to have the annual event banned.