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Romania: Amnesty Reports Further Human Rights Abuses

  • Ben Partridge

London, 21 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Amnesty International says serious human rights violations persist in Romania despite the change of government in the November 1996 elections.

The London-based human rights organization says it continues to receive reports of violations including the jailing of prisoners of conscience, the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, as well as police shootings in disputed circumstances.

Amnesty says it remains concerned about the lack of progress in the protection of some fundamental human rights guaranteed by Romania's constitution, international treaties and domestic law.

The release of the report today is timed to coincide with a meeting of the Council of Europe's Monitoring Committee later this month which -- among other things -- is to review Romania's compliance with a set of human rights recommendations.

The report explores the failure of legislative reforms to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms; the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience; and the authorities' failure to investigate cases of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officers, including incidents of racist violence against Romany communities.

The report refers to the elections 18 months ago which brought to power President Emil Constantinescu and a coalition of opposition parties. The report says, in casting their votes, Romanians apparently had high hopes for speedier reforms of a crumbling economic and social welfare system, an end to widespread corruption and what it calls to "rule by unfulfilled promises."

The report says the international community, too, had high expectations of the new government. But domestic public opinion currently views the political situation with "growing skepticism".

The report says divisions in the governing coalition are slowing down economic reforms and keeping the government from undertaking essential political and institutional reforms.

Over the years Amnesty has urged Romania to bring a number of laws into line with its international human rights commitments. They include laws dealing with the penal code and the police.

But legislative reforms so far have failed to safeguard some fundamental rights and freedoms. In view of the current political situation the eventual success of any proposals which might be introduced in the Romanian Parliament is "uncertain."

The report says "A change in the mentality of those representing the state, so that they would consider the protection of fundamental rights of individuals as the ultimate state interest, is yet to take place. Old attitudes still prevail among civil servants, the judiciary, public prosecutors and law enforcement officers."

The report says that mentalities need to change if Romania is to establish a "truly democratic state" where the rule of law safeguards civil and political rights and those of individuals.

The report says the international community shares a responsibility to ensure that Romania's laws and practices are consistent with its international commitments and obligations.

"In view of Romania's membership of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and its aspirations to join the EU, regional intergovernmental organizations have a particularly important role to play."

The 32-page report makes extensive recommendations as to legislative reforms and the investigation of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officers.

Two appendices to the report document cases of shootings, deaths in custody, torture and ill-treatment which the organization has urged Romanian authorities to promptly and fully investigate.