Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1985

Romania is a highly centralized Communist state. The Romanian
Communist Party, led since 1965 by President Nicolae
Ceausescu, is constitutionally described as "the leading
political force in the whole of society." Through the
Government, the party seeks to control every significant
aspect of the country's life. In practice, an imperfect
bureaucratic system leaves varying degrees of latitude to
local officials to carry out central directives as well as to
abuse their powers in violation of constitutional rights.
Almost all aspects of life proceed within narrow bounds
defined by the party and its leader. Political dissent is not
tolerated. Criticism of the regime and its policies is
suppressed by the ubiquitous Department of State Security
(DDS) .
Continuing its policy of repaying its foreign debt obligations
as soon as possible, Romania in 1985 made strenuous efforts to
increase productivity and conserve energy and raw materials.
Severe weather during the winter of 1984-1985 aggravated the
domestic economic situation and increased consumer hardships.
Food shortages were more pronounced in 1985. Energy
conservation measures included government-sanctioned fuel and
power stoppages to nonindustrial and some industrial
consumers. Many homes in Bucharest and elsewhere were without
heat or cooking gas. There has been generally milder weather
so far in the winter of 1985-86, but hardships have
continued. Many basic foodstuffs are still rationed. The
supply of other items not universally rationed, such as meat,
has decreased and at times has been unavailable.
In the area of human rights, major discrepancies exist between
generally accepted standards, for example as embodied in the
Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe, and Romanian practice. Though many
rights are guaranteed by the Romanian Constitution, both that
document and Romanian law impose party control or set
standards so vague as to make guarantees meaningless. The
party, through the Government, continues to restrict and
control the right to free speech, free assembly and
association, and the practice of one's religion.
In 1985 the Government took several significant human rights
steps, which included freeing a celebrated "prisoner of
conscience" and permitting or facilitating both private and
official factfinding visits by U.S. religious activists to
Romania. Numerous /American religious travelers reported that
they were able to visit persons and places of their choosing,
although they or their contacts may have been closely
c[ue3tioned by authorities. In early fall. Rev. Billy Graham
spent 10 days in Romania and, with government monitoring
throughout his tour, preached to crowds totaling over 110,000.
In 1985 the Government continued its "principled opposition"
to emigration. Nevertheless, 1985 departures for the United
States, Israel, and the Federal Republic of Germany totaled
17,312, mainly under the rubric of "family reunification."
Serious problems remain with respect to emigration procedures.
Departure — whether for purposes of emigration, family
reunification, or binational marriage — is strongly discouraged
by complicated, slow-moving procedures and coercive tactics.
Potential emigrants often wait several years after applying
before receiving exit permits. During this period, reductions
in job status, dismissals from universities, and other
sanctions are common.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
There have been no substantiated reports of political killings
in Romania during 1985. In November, a detainee died while in
pretrial custody. Romania officials attributed the death to
complications following surgery for a serious medical
problem. Other sources have expressed concern that the
prisoner had suffered beatings at the hands of the police,
which may have led to his death. Amnesty International
reported the death of a Romanian convict but gave no cause of
death .
b. Disappearance
There have been no substantiated reports of politically
motivated disappearances during 1985. Several sources,
however, have reported disappearances in circumstances which
seem clearly to indicate that those who disappeared were in
police custody; the authorities denied this (see Section Id).
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
In 1985 there have been a number of credible reports of
torture. A Roman Catholic priest in western Romania was so
severely beaten by DSS functionaries that he temporarily lost
the use of his hands. A leading member of a religious group
under heavy pressure from local authorities reportedly was
detained and beaten over a period of some 16 hours, frequently
losing consciousness. After release, the victim was examined
by a physician and reportedly found to have suffered extensive
internal injury. Amnesty International reported that in late
1984 a Baptist was arrested on suspicion of helping a relative
emigrate illegally. The DSS searched his apartment and found
religious literature. Amnesty International reported that
while in detention the victim was hung by his wrists and
Romanian authorities reportedly also use physical and mental
degradation to intimidate those caught or suspected of
wrongdoing. Persons detained for questioning are often kept
for long periods without sleep, food, or toilet facilities, as
well as being held incommunicado. Numerous reports say those
caught attempting to leave the country illegally, for example,
are subject to extreme physical and mental harassment, often
prior to being given only relatively light sentences if they
are first offenders. Prisoners also report that, in the case
of those who have received long sentences for political
offenses, wives are sometimes pressured to divorce their
spouses .
In its 1985 Report (covering the year 1984), Amnesty
International stated that "prison conditions under which
prisoners of conscience were held were reported to be harsh,
with poor food, hygiene and medical care." The report claimed
that, at the Galea Rahovei prison in Bucharest, prisoners were
"shackled with handcuffs and leg-irons to a ring fixed into a
concrete pyramid, approximately 40 centimetres high, in such a
way that it was only possible for the prisoner to scjuat . "
Among numerous other reports of cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment, the most common complaints concern cells which are
badly ventilated and poorly heated, bad food in extremely
small quantities, difficult working conditions, long periods
of isolation, excessive use of force by guards, overcrowding,
and segregation of persons deemed "dangerous to the State"
because of religious belief or for other reasons. By law some
Romanian convicts are not required to work; the State uses
this provision to keep some prisoners effectively in solitary
confinement, whereas others in this category, whom the State
does not wish to segregate, reportedly are made to sign
"voluntary" requests to be allowed to work.
Several cases of alleged incarceration of dissidents in
psychiatric institutions were reported in 1985. Although
corrobatory information has not been received, some
independent evidence tends to support the allegations.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
There are no provisions for habeas corpus or bail in Romanian
law. Prisoners under investigation often are held
incommunicado. Detention of varying duration, usually a
matter of hours, and then release without charge, continues to
be widespread. Such arbitrary detention may be repeated, with
subjects called back for additional lengthy interrogation
several times.
Typically, persons detained for political or other offenses
disappear abruptly, and family and friends are left unaware of
their circumstances or whereabouts. In two substantiated
cases of such disappearance in 1985, the subject later was
found to have been arrested, tried, and convicted the same
day, reemerging only some days later when his family was
notified of his prison sentence. In another current case,
authorities deny knowledge of the subject's whereabouts, but
Western sources report the family has been ordered regularly
to appear at a detention facility, bringing clean clothing
which is exchanged for a set of the subject's soiled clothes.
The scope of Romanian criminal law is broad enough to insure
that persons coming under official scrutiny may be convicted
of some offense. Examples of typical charges are "defaming
the Socialist order" for speaking frankly to a foreigner;
"disturbing the peace" or "illegal assembly" for private
prayer meetings in the home; "social parasitism" if unemployed
but technically guilty of no other offense; or "distributing
literature without a license" — a felony — if found attempting
to hand out free Bibles.
"Exile" is not a punishment found in Romanian law. The
authorities, however, have used residence permit requirements
to harass religious activists, in one case in 1985 seeking to
banish a Baptist minister to the provinces. There have also
been substantiated cases of persons "temporarily exiled" by
being taken to a remote location and detained, for example,
during the time Western visitors interested in their cases
were in the country.
Romanian practice requires involuntary labor from citizens
but, for the most part, this seems to fall within the area of
"civic obligations" and thus outside the International Labor
Organization's definition of "forced or compulsory labor."
For example, a law passed after the 1977 earthquake required
up to 6 days' unpaid labor per year (and cash contributions)
from each citizen. Though still widely applied, sanctions for
nonperformance are light. In some jurisdictions, the work
requirement is automatically converted to an additional cash
payment. Students 11 years and older perform "patriotic work"
in agriculture or elsewhere, sometimes 8 to 10 hours daily for
several weeks, especially during the harvest. The Union of
Communist Youth organizes "youth brigades" for this purpose.
Some religious groups reportedly have been "encouraged" by
local authorities to perform unpaid labor in the fields on
Sundays as a means of securing official approval for church
building permits or other benefits for their congregations.
These types of labor contributions are general throughout the
population, not selectively applied as a "means of political
coercion or education, or as a sanction against free
expression of political or ideological opinions." There are
no reports of "gulags" or other practices which fall within
the ILO definition of "forced or compulsory labor."
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
In Romania, an accused person is considered guilty until
proven innocent. The ability of the accused to defend himself
effectively in a fair trial, however, is severely
circumscribed. Although the authorities in 1985 seemingly
displayed increasing regard for correct procedure and due
process of law. Western observers often gained the impression
that being brought to trial in Romania is an almost sure
guarantee of conviction. In 1985 there were clear cases of
fabrication of evidence and suborning of witnesses by
prosecuting authorities, as well as of what appeared to be
violations of Romanian law regarding court procedures.
Defendants are often tried without counsel or are represented
by state-appointed attorneys whose role appears to be that of
apologizing for defendants' offenses. Members of the
judiciary, like other officials, are subject to the authority
of the Communist Party.
A notable example in 1985 both of an unfair trial and of an
unsuccessful attempt to obtain justice through appeal
prodecures was the case of Constantin Sfatcu. A Baptist from
eastern Romania, Sfatcu was charged with "attempted murder of
a policeman" after a chance search of his car revealed some
600 copies of Bibles and other religious literature in the
trunk. Despite what even a government prosecutor later called
highly questionable evidence, Sfatcu was convicted and given a
sentence close to the maximum. On appeal to the Supreme
Court, the prosecutor recommended returning the case to the
lower court for retrial because of the character of the
evidence and the failure of the State to sustain its charge.
The Supreme Court instead found Sfatcu guilty of a lesser
offense and reduced his sentence to 4-1/2 years.
The majority of trials are held in public, though secret
trials are common where state security is involved and may
also be permitted in certain other cases. Foreign observers
face some difficulties in attending public trials with high
local or international interest. In at least one case,"
Western interest caused the judge arbitrarily and abruptly to
order a routine trial closed over the objection of defense
attorneys. The alleged offense did not fit any of the
categories for which the law permits closed trials.
It is impossible accurately to estimate the number of
political prisoners in Romania, though the number could be
several thousand, including those who have attempted to leave
Romania illegally.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
Romanian laws and regulations governing the security apparatus
sanction a high degree of interference with the individual and
the family. The interference is somewhat mitigated by the
impossibility of total control, by uneven application of
regulations, and occasionally by corruption of officials.
Deliberate and arbitrary interference with the privacy of the
family, home, and correspondence is a freqxient occurrence.
Searches are made of private homes, persons, and personal
effects without search warrants or probable cause that a crime
may have been committed. Militiamen at checkpoints located on
most roads leading out of the cities and at major highway
intersections in the countryside randomly stop and search
vehicles as a matter of course. Persons on tram cars and city
buses often are asked for identity documents and have shopping
bags and personal belongings checked by the authorities.
The authorities often enter homes on the pretext of looking
for building code violations, excessive consumption of
electricity (60 watt bulbs maximum), illegal use of electrical
appliances, etc. These searches facilitate the discovery of
other items, such as forbidden books and publications,
religious materials, or any other evidence of "wrongdoing."
Violation of privacy of the person also arises from the
ongoing antiabortion campaign. Some female workers undergo
mandatory bimonthly pregnancy tests and physical examinations
to insure that pregnancies are discovered and carried to term.
Complaints about interference with both domestic and
international correspondence continue. Letters to or from
persons considered "of interest" often never arrive at their
destination. People have reportedly been questioned by the
security police about topics discussed in letters which were
delivered seemingly unopened. On other occasions, people have
been questioned about statements made in letters sent abroad
but never received by the addressees.
The Government has the capability to monitor domestic and
international telephone calls closely and appears frequently
to do so.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Rights, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and of the press
but prohibits their use for any purpose "hostile to the
Socialist system and the interests of the working people," as
defined by the State and party. Similarly, the Penal Code
prohibits "propaganda with a Fascist (as defined by the State)
character delivered in public by any means. . . (or) . . .the
undertaking of any action for the changing of the Socialist
system...." It also prohibits acts "which would result in a
danger to state security"; these offenses are punishable by
prison terms of up to 15 years.
The Government seeks to control the domestic dissemination of
information in a variety of ways. Though official censorship
was abolished some years ago, all media are state-owned,
rigidly controlled, and used primarily as the vehicle for
government and party propaganda. Western radio broadcasts in
the Romanian language are not jammed and are a major source of
both foreign and domestic news for the Romanian people.
Western publications are not available to the general public,
and unauthorized import or distribution of foreign
publications is forbidden. In 1985 there were frequent
reports of confiscations of foreign-source materials,
including Hungarian-language publications, at the border.
Romanian libraries carefully control access to "restricted"
materials such as prewar historical texts. In 1985 there was
reportedly an increase in the number of books banned or
restricted. For live theater, censorship boards must approve
all new productions before the opening performance. Serial
numbers and type-face samples of all typewriters must be
registered with the authorities, and the use of duplicating
machines is strictly regulated.
Foreign cultural centers and libraries enjoy open access to
the public and are allowed to distribute limited quantities of
Western periodicals.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Government attempts to control all group activity. No
organization independent of government or party influence is
permitted to exist. Peaceful assembly and association without
permission are usually short-lived and may bring severe
repercussions to those involved. Citizens are strongly
discouraged from making contact with foreigners, and the law
requires that all such contacts be reported to the authorities
within 24 hours.
The Constitution guarantees the right to join a union. As
noted earlier, however, it also enshrines the Communist Party
as "the leading political force in the whole of society,"
which applies specifically with respect to labor unions and
other "mass and public organizations." Trade unions
independent of the party are thus prohibited, and workers do
not have the right independently to form associations, elect
representatives, or affiliate with international organizations.
Workers do not have the right to organize or bargain
collectively. While they nominally have a direct voice in the
management of the workplace through the unions that all must
join, in most factories the senior party official is also the
union's chief executive, and the primary function of the
unions is to channel party doctrine and directives to the
workers. Unions also dispense social benefits, such as
vacations at union-owned hotels, for which the member pays
only a fraction of the real cost, low-interest loans, and
access to cultural, educational, and other leisure activities.
Romania's labor code is silent on the right to strike, except
to elaborate procedures by which the union leadership is
required to mediate disputes between the workers and
management, with recourse to the courts where the dispute
cannot be settled. In practice, sanctions available to the
party and the union make it unlikely that such disputes would
reach the courts. In the past, the Government's reaction to
actual strikes, or to advocacy of the worker's right to
strike, has been harsh repression.
Based on complaints by the World Federation of Labor about
Romanian suppression of widespread strikes in the Jiu valley
coal mines in 1977 and the 1979 suppression of an attempt to
establish an independent trade union, the International Labor
Organization (ILO) in 1980 began an investigation of Romania's
labor practices. In 1984, the ILO found that Romania's
response to allegations made against it and to charges that
its Constitution violated international labor standards was
inadequate. The Committee on the Application of Standards
and Conventions recommended that Romania accept a
direct-contacts mission from the ILO. In 1985, Romania
refused both to consider a direct-contacts mission and to
appear before the Committee to respond further to charges
about its labor policies.
There continue to be unconfirmed reports about work stoppages
and labor unrest caused by dissatisfaction about food
shortages, pay, or lack of heat.
c. Freedom of Religion
Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, the
practice of religion in Romania continues to be closely
controlled by the Government. The Communist Party advocates
atheism, and religious activism by state officials and party
members is strongly discouraged. The Department of Religious
Affairs recognizes religious denominations, including Romanian
Orthodox (the largest), Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist,
Unitarian, Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh-Day Adventist,
Jewish, and Muslim. The 14 officially approved faiths
encompass an estimated 95 percent of all Romanians claiming
religious affiliation.
The Government, through the Department of Religious Affairs,
subsidizes clerical salaries, issues licenses to preach,
approves permits for church construction or renovation,
establishes the number of new admissions to seminaries, and
controls the importation or printing of religious materials,
including Bibles.
Attempts by members of officially unrecognized faiths to
gather for worship generally are treated by local authorities
as "illegal assemblies" or "disturbing the peace," with
participants arrested and fined. Among the denominations
refused recognition by the Government are the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Nazarenes, and
Jehovah's Witnesses. The latter two faiths were singled out
for strong attacks in government periodicals in 1985.
The Romanian Orthodox Church has from historic times been able
to coexist with a series of governments. It tends to accept
government policy and did not, for example, take public issue
with the authorities over the destruction of a number of
churches and monasteries in 1985 which caused some public
outcry. The church is believed, however, to have registered
quiet objections which led to the physical relocation of
several structures outside of the area of urban redevelopment
plans. Government policy toward the Orthodox Church appears
less restrictive than toward the more Evangelic
congregations. Orthodox Church officials claim they are able
to build churches as needed and have no pressing need for new
churches, despite major urban and rural redevelopment programs
which are causing a substantial percentage of the population
to move into new high-rise apartment communities.
The remarkable growth of what the Government calls
"neo-Protestant" denominations — Pentecostals , Evangelical
Brethren, and especially the Baptists — has led to repeated
confrontations with the Government during the last 15 years.
Government animosity towards these groups is strengthened by
their insistence on the primacy of religious belief over state
authority in matters of conscience.
In what was seen as a positive step in 1985, the Government
promised Baptist leaders additional badly needed seminary
entry positions and building permits. So far, these promises
remain substantially unfulfilled. The country's largest
Baptist church in Oradea is scheduled for demolition in an
urban renewal program but has been allowed to stand pending
completion of a replacement. On the other hand, a Baptist
church in Bistrita was partially demolished by the authorities
in November, 1984, and has not been repaired. A Baptist
church in Blaj was destroyed because of building code
violations in October 1985, and a large Baptist church in
Bucharest was substantially demolished during the summer for
the same reason. A Baptist church in the village of Gaujani
was confiscated in 1984 for use as a nursery school; the
congregation has been unable to obtain either a replacement or
The Government in late 1984 permitted the consecration of the
Administrator of Bucharest's Roman Catholic Archdiocese, Msgr .
loan Robu, as a bishop. The Archdiocese had been without a
prelate since the death of Archbishop Cisan in 1954.
Government officials attended Bishop Robu's consecration in
Rome, and a number of Catholic clergy were permitted to travel
there for the ceremonies as well. The Government, however,
continues to disagree with the Roman Catholic Church over the
number of dioceses to be allowed in the country, and the
church technically remains without an approved government
charter. In 1985 Bucharest's largest Roman Catholic Church,
St. Joseph's, was partially renovated inside, and a small, new
Catholic church was consecrated in the resort town of Baile
The Government continues to support a widespread and active
Jewish community organization throughout the country. Jewish
cemeteries in Romania are typically well maintained; the
organization runs some 11 kosher restaurants throughout the
country. When city redevelopment plans threatened the smaller
of two Jewish old people's homes in Bucharest in 1985, Jewish
community leaders were able to gain government support for the
construction, mostly with funds contributed by groups in the
United States, of a new facility now nearing completion.
Though current redevelopment work has destroyed a number of
the Jewish organization's buildings in Bucharest, including
former synagogues, the organization maintains that these
buildings were no longer necessary. The organization's
headquarters, the main ("Choral") synagogue, and the Jewish
museum — all in the redevelopment area — have been left
untouched. There have been no repetitions of the anti-Semitic
literature which troubled relations in 1984 between the
Government and the Jewish community. Jewish leaders are
allowed to travel outside the country and do so frequently.
The apparent severe shortage of Bibles continue to lead some
Romanians to risk harsh penalties for smuggling them into the
country. In 1985 persons were convicted for offenses stemming
from smuggling Bibles. Four of these, Evangelical Christians,
were sentenced to penal work programs for about 1 year for
"distributing literature without a license" when they
attempted to give out Romanian-language Bibles. The
Government has indicated, however, that it would be willing to
permit the importation of Bibles, if a need were demonstrated
which could not be met from within the country. Many
religious leaders say privately that they need Bibles, but
apparently no denomination has put forward a formal request
for the import of Bibles. Various problems are said to have
delayed implementation of a government offer, now some years
outstanding, to have more Bibles printed locally for several
Protestant faiths.
In what was perceived as a significant positive step. Father
Gheorghe Calciu, a Romanian Orthodox priest imprisoned from
1979 to 1984 for sermons critical of the Government, was
allowed to emigrate in July 1985. Upon his arrival in the
West, Calciu told of several other prisoners of conscience who
were in prison with him and presumably remain there for
"offenses" similar to his own.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Except for certain military or other restricted areas (access
prohibited) and border areas (access limited to residents of
the areas and those with economic need to travel there), there
are no official restrictions placed on travel within Romania.
Because of economic problems, however, travel within Romania
can be difficult for the average citizen. A national ban on
the use of private cars was in effect during the first quarter
of 1985. During this time public transportation was
curtailed. A ban on driving on alternate Sundays, based on
license numbers, remained in effect throughout the year.
Gasoline rationing also severely inhibited automobile travel.
Reports continue that the authorities seek to discourage
citizens from traveling to meet foreign visitors or to attend
particular functions, notably of a religious character.
During the visit of Rev. Billy Graham to Romania in 1985,
reports were received of government efforts to discourage
attendance at his appearances. When these efforts proved
unsuccessful, despite a total clampdown on domestic publicity,
the Government threw heavy cordons of security troops and
police around his public appearances in Bucharest, the last
stop on his tour .
The right of a citizen to change his place of residence or
work is restricted. Residence permits are rec[uired, and
citizens may not legally move from one town to another, or
between districts within a city, without official permission.
Official denial of residence permits has been used to hamper
and harass religious activists, in one case requiring a
minister to live in a city many miles distant from his
congregation. Residence-permit and ant i unemployment laws have
been used to dilute the ethnically homogeneous nature of some
parts of the country heavily populated by national minority
groups. Workers are technically free to change jobs although
antiunemployment laws and government controls limit this
freedom in practice. A government declaration of a "state of
necessity" in the energy industry in the fall of 1985 froze
all energy workers in their jobs.
Travel outside Romania is a privilege usually reserved for
those who hold relatively high positions in the party or
Government, or those who can "guarantee" their return, usually
by leaving a close family member behind. Older persons
wishing to visit their children resident abroad generally have
few problems .
Officially, Romania encourages tourism by making visas
available for most visitors at the border. In 1985, however,
a number of Hungarian travelers — including some with valid
Romanian entry visas — were turned away at the border; usually
no reason is given for such entry denials. In other cases the
Government has indicated that certain U.S. citizens who
formerly visited Romania as tourists would neither be given
visas for future visits nor allowed to reenter the country; in
most cases the visitors are alleged to have engaged in
Bible-smuggling or religious activities unacceptable to the
authorities. Others visiting coreligionists report they
encountered little or no difficulty in entry and movement
about the country.
Official policy continues to oppose emigration for any purpose
but family reunification. Those who seek to leave Romania
continue to face harassment designed to dissuade them and
others who might be considering permanent departure. To avoid
enlarging the figure of "passport denials," the Government
refuses to accept passport applications until a decision to
issue has been made. Successful applications take one year or
more before passport approval. Once emigration passports have
been issued, applicants are required to show they have
divested themselves of almost all property, including currency
assets. Those in state- or employer-supplied apartments
typically face eviction and must find accommodation in the
already overcrowded dwellings of family or friends while they
await foreign visas necessary for departure from Romania.
During this period, which was often very lengthy until recent
changes in procedures, applicants were nearly always demoted
or dismissed from their jobs although most were offered other
employment, such as digging ditches in a distant city, cutting
wood in forests, or farm labor positions in the provinces with
no provision for family accommodation at the proffered job
In 1985 an understanding was reached between the United States
and Romanian Governments on passport and visa procedures which
has reduced these humanitarian costs for intending emigrants
to the United States who have received the Romanian
Government's permission to depart. The understanding provides
that the Romanian Government will issue certificates of
passport approval to those citizens approved for permanent
departure for the United States. Passports are then issued to
them after they receive letters from the American Embassy
indicating that they are eligible for prompt issuance of U.S.
visas or other travel documentation. In this way, the
understanding delays the application of Romanian predeparture
requirements (relinquishment of previous employment, housing,
access to social services) until the emigrants are assured of
early departure.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Though the Constitution guarantees the right of Romanians to
change their government and leaders, in practice the
individual citizen has almost no voice in shaping public
policy or choosing public officials. The Romanian Communist
Party, led by the President, his wife, and a few advisers,
rules. No actual or potential alternatives to this present
rigidly centralized control are apparent, and no meaningful
opposition exists or would be tolerated. Public criticism of
the Government, the party, and the state leadership is
The Communist Party comprises more than 13.5 percent of the
total population of the country. Women officially represent
52 percent of the general membership, and minorities are
reportedly represented in proportion to their numbers within
the general population. The higher echelons of the party,
however, are predominantly male Romanians.
National parliamentary elections by secret ballot are held
every 5 years. The public has no effective voice in the
nominating process; candidates are chosen by the Front for
Democracy and Socialist Unity, a mass organization whose
president is Nicolae Ceausescu. Over 75 percent of its
officers are Communist Party central committee members.
Official statistics published after the March 1985 general
election claimed that 99 percent of those registered actually
voted, and 97.3 percent of these voted for the Front's
candidates. Western observers closely watching the elections
consider these figures highly suspect.
In Romania the chief party executive for each city, county, or
enterprise is also the chief civil executive. Internal party
elections were held for the new Communist Party leadership
late in 1984. Though these preceded the national general
election by several months, those chosen for senior party
posts the previous fall were universally "elected" to the
corresponding public posts the following spring.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights .
There are no human rights monitoring organizations operating
in Romania. The Government has permitted Western observers
seeking to investigate the human rights situation here to
visit Romania but discourages such visits and seeks to
control, screen, and orchestrate such visits when they do
occur. The Government has not commented officially on the
reports issued by other governmental or nongovernmental
organizations such as the Council of Europe, Amnesty
International, or Freedom House, all of which have been
critical. On the other hand, the Government organized a visit
in 1985 for a human rights observer group led by three U.S.
Congressmen, who traveled freely about the country and had
contacts with virtually everyone — including religious
dissidents — of interest to them. The group included a team of
television newsmen, who produced two programs on religious
freedom in Romania later broadcast in the United States.
Romania continues officially to proclaim that discussion and
examination of its human rights situation is "unwarranted
interference in domestic affairs," despite its professed
support for human rights standards embodied in the United
Nations Charter and in the Final Act of the Conference on
Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In its 1985 Report (covering the year 1984), Amnesty
International was concerned about the incarceration of
prisoners of conscience, including religious believers, and
about reports which indicated that defendants in political
cases did not receive fair trials. Amnesty International also
received allegations that political prisoners had been
ill-treated. Freedom House rated Romania "not free."
Romania's population, according to World Bank figures, was
22,734,000 in 1985, and the annual growth rate was 0.4
percent. Per capita gross national product in 1982 was
$2,558. Romania reached its present semi-industrialized level
by maintaining extremely high rates of industrial investment
financed by the earnings of agriculture and the petroleum
industry, the restructuring of consumption, and foreign
borrowing. The agricultural sector, at one time a major
supplier of grain to Central Europe, has received relatively
little investment emphasis.
In 1985, the national economy continued to confront rising
costs, energy shortages, and stringent efforts by the
Government to reduce the country's foreign debt as quickly as
possible. Both agriculture and industry continued to suffer
during 1985 from lack of needed imports, though less than in
1984. The harsh winter of 1984-85 and the Government's
inability to solve the energy problem aggravated the economy's
poor performance. Many factories closed due to lack of fuel
or to failure by subcontractors to deliver needed input stock
or subassemblies for the same reasons. Workers laid off or
working reduced hours received no assistance from the state to
balance their lost wages, causing considerable hardship.
Inadequate energy supplies left many homes with little or no
heat, no cooking gas, and a severely restricted electrical
supply. Use of private cars was banned for several months,
and public transport was curtailed at the same time.
To meet energy needs during the 1985-86 winter, the Government
in October declared a "state of necessity and militarized
regime" in the national energy system. The government decree
assigned military commanders to coal-fired power plants and
other installations and made them coequal in responsibility
with management and union leadership.
Although food supplies expanded during the harvest period,
basic foodstuffs remained rationed. Food availability was, in
general, slightly reduced from previous years because of the
reduced flow of goods from private plots to farmers' markets,
stricter government controls on the sale of produce from
private plots which discourage private farming, and the
Government's policy of increasing food sales abroad as a major
source of foreign exchange earnings.
Education is universal and mandatory for the first 10 school
years. Romania has almost total adult literacy. The quality
of technical and scientific instruction is considered good.
Adult and continuing education is available once neccessary
permission has been obtained.
Over the past two decades, the Government has made a
determined effort to provide adequate housing for its urban
population. As a result, large new multistory apartment
developments abound throughout the country, and the practice
of several families sharing apartments, kitchens, and
toilets — common only a few years ago — is gradually
The urban and rural redevelopment program was accelerated
considerably in 1985, especially in the countryside. One
result of this was the wholesale destruction of small farm
villages around Bucharest and elsewhere. This campaign,
according to those who felt its effects, was carried out with
little advance warning. Residents were sometimes given no
more than 24 hours to vacate their homes in severe winter
weather and find alternate shelter. Western observers report
many instances of families, dispossessed the day before,
picking through the ruins of their houses to salvage what
little they could. The purpose of this program, according to
government statements, was to eliminate inefficient
single-family traditional rural housing and to increase the
amount of land available for tillage. While some evictees
were given city apartments, others were offered housing in
"farm complex" rural apartment developments which they said
had not yet been built.
In Bucharest, the accelerated urban renewal program
encompassed several additional areas in 1985. Thousands of
older houses and other buildings, some of historical value,
were demolished to make way for new development. President
Ceausescu announced a new program to move some older people
out of the cities to agro-industrial complexes scheduled for
construction in rural areas. Some movement in this direction
reportedly has already begun.
Romania seeks to provide free medical care for all its
citizens. According to 1984 statistics, average Romanian life
expectancy is 71.6 years, and infant mortality is 27 per 1,000
live births. Romanian statistics claimed 9.3 hospital beds
per 1,000 inhabitants, and one physician per 507 inhabitants
in 1984.
President Ceausescu in late 1984 declared that culture must be
devoted totally to serving the needs of society, by
contributing to the development of the "new Socialist man."
Though literature and the arts remain active, government
policies leave many Romanians concerned for their country's
cultural future.
The Romanian Constitution guarantees the right to work.
Unemployment is a crime ("social parasitism"). The Government
closely controls the labor market and claims that there is no
unemployment .
The Constitution guarantees equal pay for equal work.
Government statistics claim the average monthly net wage in
all sectors in 1984 was about $245. Government statistics
indicated the losses in real earnings in 1982-83 were
compensated by wage hikes in 1984, returning individual
earnings to their 1980 level; there were no wage increases in
1985. A new system of wage determination, introduced in 1984,
tied most wages to overall enterprise output, with no
allowance for underperformance due to factors beyond the
workers' control. As a result, despite the Government's
claims, there were numerous reports in 1985 of greatly reduced
worker pay, with widespread "moonlighting" required to reach
minimum needed levels of income. A similar government plan
announced late in 1985 established special bonuses (up to 20
percent of base pay) for managers in the export and extractive
industries as well as a schedule of penalties (up to 50
percent) for underfulf illment of performance quotas.
The Constitution guarantees an 8-hour workday (or a 6-hour day
in "arduous" occupations), a 24-hour rest period each week,
paid vacations, and the "right to leisure." Labor law
elaborates these guarantees but allows employers to override
these standards "if conditions warrant." In 1985 there were
numerous reports of workers required to perform extra,
uncompensated days of labor to make up for lagging production
or for some official holidays. Shift schedules and workdays
have been arbitrarily adjusted, in some cases, to rationalize
machinery use or energy consumption patterns.
There is no specific minimum employment age, although Romanian
law requires schooling to the age of 16. Exceptions, however,
are allowed for 14-year-olds in temporary jobs and for youths
of 15 employed in industrial work, so long as the employer
provides continuing educational opportunities and shows that
the work being performed is "appropriate for the age and
condition" of the employee. In such cases, the law limits
work to 6 hours per day. Children from age 11 may work in the
fields, or in other "patriotic work," usually as part of a
school or other group activity.
The Romanian Labor Code guarantees Romanian workers a safe
environment. The Ministry of Labor has established safety
standards for most industries and is responsible for enforcing
these standards. In practice, however, observers report that
workplace conditions in many factories present substantial
health or safety hazards. Although management is reportedly
aware of these deficiencies in most cases, emphasis on meeting
production goals clearly takes precedence over safety and
health in light of the Government's insistence on rapidly
paying off the foreign debt and on pursuing industrial and
economic development .
Women are constitutionally guaranteed the same rights and
privileges as men. The Government seeks to upgrade the role
of women in society with specific policies in the areas of
education, access to employment, and comparable wages. As a
result, women are employed in virtually all sectors of the
economy, and there is equal opportunity in education, but at
the senior levels of responsibility and authority they appear
in far smaller numbers. Many women are still found in the
most menial jobs, such as agricultural stoop labor, street
cleaning, and snow removal.
According to official figures, the country's population
includes about 2.7 million members of ethnic minorities, of
whom 1.7 million are ethnic Hungarians. Hungarian sources
claim that the true figure is closer to 2-2.5 million ethnic
Hungarians. Hungarians, Germans, Gypsies, and members of many
smaller groups constitute about 12 percent of the total
population. The Constitution forbids discrimination on the
basis of ethnic background. Although the Government claims it
does not discriminate against minorities, there nonetheless
are limitations on minority groups' freedom to express and
maintain their cultural heritage. Government efforts to
centralize and economize by combining education, social, and
cultural facilities frequently affect minority groups
disproportionately. For example, the mergers of schools,
theaters, or other such institutions often result in the loss
of the minority group's ethnic characteristics as the
institutions become predominantly Romanian. Moreover, strict
government control of private organizations, which might be
dedicated to the preservation of ethnic cultural practices,
are often viewed by members of minority groups as
discriminatory. Both Romanian and non-Romanian television and
radio broadcasting have been cut as an economy measure.
Despite government limitations, Hungarian- and German- language
daily papers still outstrip their Romanian- language
equivalents in circulation in heavily ethnic areas.