The results of the Senate’s investigation into Romania’s alleged involvement in the US-led renditions (unlawful transfers of terrorist suspects between countries) and secret detention programme remained classified. Government surveys demonstrated widespread discrimination against Roma by the majority population. Several cases of forced evictions of Roma were reported.
A political crisis was triggered by an attempt to reform the pension system as one of the conditions of an International Monetary Fund loan, and Emil Boc’s government was forced to resign in October. After the presidential elections, the president reappointed Emil Boc as the Prime Minister, and his new government was approved by the parliament in December. The Romanian Academic Society reported in November that the country’s health system might be close to collapse in 2010.
A new Civil Code and Criminal Code were adopted in June. The Criminal Code introduced “aggravating circumstances” in cases of crimes perpetrated with discriminatory intent, and punished incitement to hatred or discrimination. However, these codes were not in force at the end of the year, as new procedural codes had not been adopted.
There was strong opposition by local NGOs to the content of the codes. The Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) criticized, among other things, an Article in the procedural codes that seemed to allow the use of information gained through torture as evidence in criminal proceedings.
Counter-terror and security
The New York Times newspaper reported in August that a secret US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prison had been constructed in Bucharest. The government denied this and emphasized that it co-operated with all the international commissions set up to investigate the allegations of the existence of CIA detention centres on their territory. The European Commission reacted with a repeated call for full, independent and impartial investigations to establish the truth.
In a response to a request by the APADOR-CH, the government confirmed that some CIA-operated aircraft took off and landed on Romanian territory, as had previously been identified by a Council of Europe report.
The report of the Senate commission of inquiry, which had investigated allegations in 2006 and 2007 regarding the existence of CIA detention centres in Romania and was adopted in 2008, remained classified.
Discrimination – Roma
There was widespread prejudice against Romani people among the majority population. Roma continued to experience discrimination in access to education, health care and housing, including lack of secure tenure. According to the government-sponsored Inter-ethnic Barometer 2009, 55 per cent of the respondents believed that Roma should not be allowed to travel abroad as they damaged the reputation of the country and over 43 per cent agreed that they would not hire Roma because they regarded them as “lazy and thieving”. The newspaper Jurnalul Naţional called for a popular legislative initiative to enforce the term “Ţigan” instead of Roma. Romani and human rights NGOs expressed concerns about the negative connotations of the term “Ţigan”. Cases of violence against Romani communities, including the destruction of properties, were reported.
- On 31 May, in Sanmartin, as a response to an alleged conflict between a group of local Roma and a non-Roma man, 400 non-Romani people reportedly attacked houses inhabited by Roma, damaging dozens of homes and properties. According to the NGO Romani CRISS, as a result of the attacks 170 Roma fled their homes and sought refuge in the woods, in the fields and on the streets, fearing for their safety. An informal local commission for dialogue (comprised mostly of the non-Roma population) was formed, which drafted a community agreement outlining obligations for the Roma. Following the adoption of this agreement, from June until August the Roma in Sanmartin allegedly continued to suffer harassment from local non-Roma people who gathered regularly in groups of 100 to 150 people, going round the Romani houses in the village allegedly to monitor the fulfilment of these obligations. Romanian NGOs expressed concerns over the lack of response of the authorities to ensure the safety of the community and the investigations of the attacks on Romani houses.
- The European Court of Human Rights took into consideration the government’s admission that there was a lack of remedies for the enforcement of the rights guaranteed by the European Convention in the case of Tănase and others v Romania, including the prohibition of torture, right to a fair trial, right to respect for private and family life, right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination. In 1991, a crowd of more than 2,000 non-Roma, together with the priest and mayor, had burned or otherwise damaged the houses of 24 Romani people in Bolintin Deal. Following the attacks, the entire Romani community in the village fled their houses and were left homeless for a month. In May, the government committed to paying damages totalling €565,000, and undertook to implement a series of measures to prevent and fight discrimination and to improve living conditions for the Roma community.
Right to adequate housing
Romani people continued to experience segregation in housing. The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing raised concerns about the housing conditions of poor and vulnerable groups, including Roma, and urged Romania to consider ratifying Article 31 on the right to adequate housing under the Revised European Social Charter. There were several cases of violations of the right to adequate housing.
- Five years after they were forcibly evicted from a building in the centre of Miercurea Ciuc, approximately 75 Romani people, including families with young children, continued to live in inadequate housing conditions, hidden behind a sewage treatment plant on the outskirts of the town. Since they were relocated there by the municipal authorities, they lived in metal cabins and shacks which were overcrowded, lacked fresh air and offered little protection from the cold and rain. The sanitation facilities remained inadequate, with only four toilet cubicles for the whole community. The proximity of the location to the sewage treatment plant violated the 300m protection zone established by national law to separate human habitation from potential toxic hazards. The municipality failed in its obligation to ensure the provision of adequate alternative housing. In 2008, members of the community assisted by Romani CRISS had filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights alleging violations of human rights enshrined in the European Convention.
Torture and other ill-treatment
- In April, the European Court of Human Rights found Romania in violation of the prohibition of torture. Nicu Olteanu was arrested in 1997 by the police on suspicion of stealing six bottles of mineral water. He complained that he was shot in the left foot by a policeman at the local police station after he attempted to escape, and that he did not receive appropriate medical assistance despite his injuries. In addition to the bullet wound, his medical report mentioned cuts on his right leg and right forearm. The ruling stated that the authorities had violated his right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, and that the degree of force used against Nicu Olteanu was excessive and unjustified. The ruling also stated that the authorities had failed to carry out an effective and impartial investigation into his allegations.
Mental health institutions
- In December, two NGOs, the Center for Legal Resources and Interights, filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of five patients who died at the Poiana Mare Psychiatric Hospital in 2004. The patients allegedly died from a combination of poor care, inadequate treatment and substandard living conditions. In 2004, the hospital was visited by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture which raised concerns about the treatment of patients, as well as the living conditions, and asked the authorities to take urgent measures to address these problems.
Amnesty International visits
- Amnesty International delegates visited Romania in January, May and October.