WORLD REPORT 1997 - Romania

Human Rights Developments

The Romanian government made an effort to improve relations with its ethnic Hungarian community in 1996, but made little progress toward guaranteeing protection of its Roma minority. Although mob violence against Roma decreased during 1996, it was replaced by systematic police raids on Roma villages. These raids were usually conducted without warrants and were characterized by the excessive use of force by police.

The Colentina neighborhood of Bucharest was raided four times in 1996 by officers from the 7th District police. On one such occasion, on June 6, 1996, fifty policemen invaded homes and forced residents into cars. When one victim asked to see a warrant, an officer replied that no warrants were required because the Roma were not legal residents of the neighborhood. The Roma were taken to the station where they were severely beaten and humiliated and fined for Aillegal domicile@ for squatting on land they did not officially own. The Roma allege that the Ceausescu regime promised the land to them when they moved to Colentina in the 1970s to work on construction sites. Residents claim they have tried to buy the land from city authorities, but their offers were refused. The Roma village of Bontida was also the target of similar raids; victims there claim the police beat people and fined Roma families regardless of whether their address registrations were produced or not.

Random police violence targeting Roma was also commonplace and routinely tolerated by the authorities, leaving Roma victims without legal recourse. On May 9, 1996, Mircea-Muresul Mosor, a twenty-six-year-old Rom from Comani, was shot and killed by the chief of police, Plut. Adj. Tudor Stoian, in Valcele. An official police communique issued after the incident alleged that Mosor lifted a stick and was about to strike the police chief when Pl. Adj. Stoian shot him. Mosor was taken to the hospital where he died. Testimony from Mosor=s attending physician and the death certificate contradict the official police report. The death certificate states that Mosor was shot in the back, and Dr. Dan Jijau, the attending physician, confirmed that the bullet went through Mosor=s back. The official communique is thus highly suggestive of police misconduct at several levels.

Freedom of religion and association suffered setbacks in 1996 as Romania continued to prohibit particular religious gatherings. On June 25, 1996, the Romanian government denied permission for an international convention of Jehovah=s Witnesses in Bucharest in July. The government=s General Secretariat declared that it considered Athoroughly inopportune the attempt to improvise such a meeting in Bucharest in July or at any time in the future.@ The government=s denial came in response to concerns raised by the Romanian Orthodox Church in a communiqué dated June 21, 1996, accusing Jehovah=s Witnesses of Airresponsibly contributing to growing violence and hatred in the world.@ On July 1, Hillary Clinton reportedly canceled a visit to a Romanian Christian church in protest over the government=s decision to deny permission for the Jehovah=s Witnesses= convention.

A move toward decriminalizing homosexuality in Romania was undermined by the adoption of an amendment to article 200 of the penal code that makes sexual acts between persons of the same sex punishable with imprisonment for six months to three years. The amendment was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian parliament on September 10, 1996, and produced a storm of international protest, including passage of a European Parliament resolution condemning the decision. Romania=s parliamentary Mediation Commission overruled the Chamber of Deputies= decision on September 24, 1996. The commission opted for the text adopted earlier by the Romanian Senate which criminalized homosexual conduct only if such conduct resulted in Apublic scandal.@

On July 11, 1996, Radu Mazare and Constantin Cumpana from the Romanian daily Telegraf were sentenced to seven months in prison and fined for libel in connection with a 1992 article about corruption in the Constanta city council. The journalists were charged under articles of the penal code providing criminal penalties for journalists who offend public officials and began serving the jail sentences on August 30, 1996. The use of criminal libel laws against journalists will continue to silence dissent against government officials.

The Right to Monitor

There were no reported violations of the right to monitor.

The Role of the International Community

The European Union

On September 16, 1996, Romania and Hungary signed a treaty designed to permit the development of friendly relations between the two countries and to foster respect for minorities as contemplated by the European Stability Pact signed on March 20, 1995, in Paris at the initiative of the European Union. The treaty includes a recommendation guaranteeing the rights of the Hungarian minority in Romania.

The United States

In July 1996, the U.S. Congress approved a bill granting Romania permanent Most Favored Nation trade status (MFN). The House vote was delayed because some members expressed harsh criticism of President Ion Iliescu and the Romanian government. Former U.S. Ambassador to Romania David Funderburk, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina, opposed Romania=s MFN status upgrade charging the Romanian government with human rights abuses, including violations of freedom of expression and religion and discrimination against ethnic minorities. The U.S. State Department=s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995 catalogued serious human rights abuses by the Romanian government, including the frequent beating of detainees by police, rampant discrimination and police violence against the Roma minority, and restrictions on freedom of expression and religion. President Clinton signed the permanent MFN bill on August 3, 1996.