U.S. Department of State
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
Romania Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
February 26, 1998
Romania is a constitutional democracy with a multiparty, bicameral
parliamentary system, a head of government (Prime Minister Radu Vasile), a
directly elected head of state (President Emil Constantinescu), and a
separate judiciary. Although the judiciary is a separate branch of the
government, in practice the executive branch exercises influence over the
Several different security forces are responsible for preserving law and
order and protecting against external threats. The laws that established
these organizations are somewhat vague, and their security responsibilities
overlap. All security and intelligence organizations operate under the
authority of civilian leadership. The Ministry of Internal Affairs
supervises the national police, which have primary responsibility for
security, and the border guards. Some police officers committed serious
human rights abuses.
Romania is a middle-income developing country in transition from a
centrally planned to a market economy. The private sector accounted for
about 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 56.6 percent
of the work force in 1998, primarily in agriculture and services. Although
privatization is under way, government ownership remains dominant in heavy
industry. The economy grew slowly before a contraction of 6.6 percent in
1997. GDP in 1997 was $34.842 billion (or about $1,547 per capita), and
1998 GDP was expected to drop 5.5 percent. Exports rose 4.2 percent from
1996 to 1997 and increased 3.5 percent in 1998. Inflation reached 151
percent in 1997 as the marketplace rather than the Government began to
determine the price of goods. In 1998 inflation fell to 41 percent.
Official statistics significantly understated economic activity because of
the size of the informal economy.
The Government generally respected the rights of its citizens; however,
several serious problems remained. Some police officers continued to beat
detainees. The Government investigated police officers suspected of abuse
and in some cases indicted those accused of criminal activities in military
courts. However, investigations of police abuses are generally lengthy and
inconclusive and rarely result in prosecution or punishment. The
Government improved the poor living conditions in prisons and implemented
vocational training programs. The judiciary remains subject to executive
branch influence but is becoming increasingly independent. In September
key members in the general prosecutor's office were replaced, and an effort
was made to improve the professionalism of prosecutors. Violence and
discrimination against women remained serious problems. A large number of
impoverished and apparently homeless children are visible in large cities.
Societal harassment of religious minorities was a problem and religious
groups not officially recognized by the Government sometimes complain that
they receive discriminatory treatment from the authorities. Discrimination
and violence against Roma continued.
In May the Government established the Ombudsmanās Office provided for in
the 1991 Constitution, and it began to register complaints.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
In 1997 Amnesty International issued a report questioning the use of
firearms by police against unarmed petty criminal suspects in 11 incidents
between 1995 and 1997. Fatalities resulted in three cases, and only two
police officers were indicted.
In 1996 Gabriel Carabulea died after 3 days in police custody, during which
he reportedly was beaten severely. After initially ruling that there were
no grounds for an indictment of the police, the military prosecutor's
office reopened its investigation; however, in March the prosecutorās
office dropped the case based on allegedly insufficient evidence.
According to the Government, the chief of police in Valcele was indicted in
June for the illegal use of his weapon in the 1996 killing of Mircea-
Muresul Mosor, a Rom from Comani who was shot and killed while in police
custody. A lower court found the police not guilty, but the prosecutorās
office appealed the verdict in May; the superior courtās decision was
pending at yearās end. The military prosecutorās office during the year
reopened the investigation into the case of Istvan Kiss, an ethnic
Hungarian allegedly beaten to death by police in 1995. In June the
prosecutorās office found the death to be accidental and did not file
In several earlier cases of deaths in custody or deaths reportedly due to
police brutality, investigations and trials are still dragging on, years
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
The Constitution prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or
treatment, and these prohibitions were generally respected in practice.
Nevertheless, there were credible reports that police beat detainees and
improperly used firearms.
APADOR--Helsinki Watch/Romania, a nongovernmental organization (NGO)
affiliated with the Helsinki Committee, reported several cases of police
brutality and beatings. On April 13, a policeman with whom he had refused
to share a pool game beat Nicolae Iloaiei of Tandareni. Iloaiei was
hospitalized for 90 days. When he asked for a certified medical report for
the forensic laboratory, the physician in charge refused to issue it. The
case is under investigation. On August 24, Fitzeg Sebastian, a student at
the Catholic Theological College in Bucharest and his older friend were
arrested as burglars while inquiring in an unfamiliar neighborhood about a
distant relative. The boys were not informed of their rights nor allowed
to explain their presence in the neighborhood. They were taken to the
police precinct where they were beaten and forced to give a statement. The
case was closed after the police reached a financial settlement with the
family. On May 24, Marian Ciulei from Brasov was shot in the leg by a
policeman while he was running from a confrontation in a discotheque. The
case is under investigation.
In April the Government responded to the 1997 report of the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment. The Special Rapporteur received allegations of
torture and mistreatment of detainees by the police. The Government in its
response promised to make modifications to the Criminal Code and to
detention regulations, but no such modifications had been made by yearās
Judicial cases involving military personnel and the police are tried in
military courts. Local and international human rights groups criticize
this system, claiming that the military prosecutor's investigations are
unnecessarily lengthy and often purposefully inconclusive and that the
military courts sometimes block proper investigation of alleged police
abuses. The Government declined to provide updated information on cases of
alleged police abuse from 1997 and 1996.
The prison system is improving slowly as efforts increase to bring prisons
in line with minimum international standards. The 1998 prison budget
increased 25 percent over 1997. Living conditions reportedly improved. A
modern penitentiary opened in January in Bucuresti-Rahova that houses 1,400
inmates. Each 8-person cell is equipped with a shower, toilet, and two
basins. Medical facilities were modernized in some prisons, and inmates
were allowed to exercise outside their cells. By July 31, six civilian
magistrates were appointed as prison directors, replacing military
Human rights organizations continued to report the abuse of prisoners by
other prisoners and prison authorities. Prisons continued to use the "cell
boss" system, in which some prisoners are designated to be in semiofficial
charge of other prisoners. However, prison guards wore firearms only when
guarding prisoners working outside the prison, correspondence was no longer
opened routinely, and inmates had the right to telephone calls. Prison
authorities introduced some vocational training programs to assist inmates'
future integration into society. A probation pilot program financed by the
Open Society Foundation opened in Iasi at yearās end to provide such
assistance to minors and other young first offenders. Other training
programs were sponsored by the Netherlands Helsinki Committee.
The Government permitted visits by human rights monitors, and several NGO's
made such visits.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law forbids the detention of anyone for more than 24 hours without an
arrest order from a prosecutor, who may order detention for up to 30 days.
Authorities generally respect this provision in practice. Detainees have
the right to apply for bail and may ask for a hearing before a judge. Such
a request must be granted within 24 hours. However, in the absence of a
request, the authorities may hold a person for up to 65 days without a
Police often do not inform citizens of their rights. The law requires the
authorities to inform arrestees of the charges against them and of their
right to an attorney at all stages of the legal process. Police must
notify defendants of this right in a language they understand before
obtaining a statement. However, the prosecutor's office may delay action
on a request for a lawyer for up to 5 days from the date of arrest.
Under the law, minors detained by police and placed under guard in a center
for the protection of minors are not considered by judicial authorities to
be in detention or under arrest. Since the Penal Code does not apply to
minors in these centers until their cases are referred to a prosecutor,
police are permitted to question them without restriction and may hold
those suspected of criminal offenses for up to 30 days in such centers.
This law appears to be in conflict with the Constitution, and both Amnesty
International and local human rights groups have called on the Government
to change it.
There were no political detainees during 1998, although a number of
officials associated with the former government, who were investigated on
charges of corruption or treason, publicly complained that they had been
targeted on political grounds.
Exile was not used as a means of punishment.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Under the terms of a 1992 law, the judicial branch is independent of other
government branches; however, it is subject to influence by the executive
branch. A 1997 revision of the law provided that members of the Superior
Council of the Magistrature, which controls the selection, promotion,
transfer, and sanctioning of judges, be appointed by the justice minister.
However, the judiciary is becoming increasingly independent.
The 1992 law reestablished a four-tier legal system, including appellate
courts, which had ceased to exist under Communist rule. Defendants have
final recourse to the Supreme Court or, for constitutional matters, to the
Constitutional Court. The 1992 law that reorganized the judicial system
divided the Prosecutor General's Office into 16 local offices (paralleling
the appeals court structure) and established an office at the Supreme
Court; the law also curtailed certain powers of the Prosecutor General,
including the right to overturn court decisions and bypass appeals courts
by going directly to the Supreme Court.
The law provides for fair public trial and the presumption of innocence.
The Penal Code requires that an attorney be appointed for a defendant who
cannot afford legal representation or is otherwise unable to select
counsel. In practice the local bar association provides attorneys to the
indigent and is compensated by the Ministry of Justice. Either a plaintiff
or a defendant may appeal. These provisions of the law are respected in
practice. The law provides that confessions extracted as a result of
police brutality may be withdrawn by the accused when brought before the
A court in Isai sentenced two journalists to a year in prison each and a
large fine for reporting that a police inspector would lose his job. The
inspectorās wife, daughter, and son-in-law were employees of the court (see
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Constitution provides for protection against the search of a residence
without a warrant, but this protection is subordinate to "national security
or public order." The 1992 National Security Law defines national security
very broadly and lists as threats not only crimes such as terrorism,
treason, espionage, assassination, and armed insurrection but also
totalitarian, racist, and anti-Semitic actions or attempts to change the
existing national borders. Security officials may enter residences without
proper authorization from a prosecutor if they deem a threat to national
The Constitution states that the privacy of legal means of communication is
inviolable; thus, the Romanian intelligence Service (SRI) is prohibited
legally from engaging in political acts (for example, wiretapping on behalf
of the government for political reasons). However, the law allows the
security services to monitor communications on national security grounds
after obtaining authorization. The law requires the SRI to obtain a
warrant from the "public prosecutor specially appointed by the General
Public Prosecutor" in order to carry out intelligence activities involving
"threats to national security." It may engage legally in a wide variety of
operations to determine if a situation meets the legal definition of a
threat to national security.
During the year there were no reported instances of interference with
individual citizens' right to privacy.
Legislation that would permit access to secret police files kept by the
Communist Government was passed by the Senate in June and at yearās end
awaited action in the Chamber of Deputies.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of expression and prohibits
censorship, it limits the bounds of free expression by prohibiting
"defamation of the country." The Government respected the constitutional
provisions in practice. An amended Penal Code passed by Parliament in 1996
rectified many of the shortcomings of the former, Communist-era code.
However, the new version is criticized by human rights organizations and
professional journalists for retaining jail terms for those convicted of
libel or slander, including journalists. In the spring, an attempt by
Parliament to amend the Penal Code and remove jail terms from among
penalties for libel failed because of disputes over an unrelated matter.
Consequently, Articles 205 and 206 concerning libel and Articles 237 and
238, concerning offense to authority and defamation of the country are
still in force.
Many libel suits were brought against journalists during the year under
these provisions. In August the lower courts in the northeast found four
journalists of the Monitorul press group guilty of libel and sentenced them
to fines and jail terms. A court in the city of Iasi in August sentenced
two journalists from the independent daily Monitorul de Iasi to a year in
prison and $165,000 "moral damages" to be paid to the plaintiffs. The case
prompted criticism due to the fact that the plaintiff's wife, daughter, and
son-in-law were employees of the Iasi court that indicted the journalists.
The Supreme Court refused to move the trial to another jurisdiction. The
case is being appealed. In April a journalist from the Cluj-based daily
Ziua de Nord-Est was the first person convicted under Article 206
The independent media continued to grow. Several hundred daily and weekly
newspapers are published. Several private television stations broadcast
nationwide, with the largest reaching approximately 20 percent of the rural
and 80 percent of the urban market. As of September, 72 private television
stations and 162 private radio stations were broadcasting. Approximately
2.8 million households were wired for cable, giving significant portions of
the population access to both private and foreign broadcasts. While
Romanian State Television (RTV) and Radio Romania remained the only
national broadcasters capable of reaching the bulk of the rural population,
independent stations continued to enlarge their coverage throughout the
country by over-the-air, cable, and satellite transmissions.
The 1994 law establishing a parliamentary appointed board of directors for
RTV was implemented in June. The new chairman of the board, Christian Hagi-
Culea, was elected by Parliament in October.
Foreign news publications may be imported and distributed freely, but high
costs limit their circulation.
Academic freedom is respected.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government
respected that right in practice. The law on public assembly provides for
the right of citizens to assemble peacefully while unarmed but states that
meetings must not interfere with other economic or social activities and
may not be held near locations such as hospitals, airports, or military
installations. Organizers of demonstrations must inform local authorities
and police before the event. Authorities may forbid a public gathering by
notifying the organizers in writing within 48 hours of receipt of the
request. The law prohibits the organization of, or participation in, a
counterdemonstration held at the same time as a scheduled public
The law forbids public gatherings to espouse Communist, racist, or Fascist
ideologies or to commit actions contrary to public order or national
security. Unauthorized demonstrations or other violations are punished by
imprisonment and fines.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and the Government
respects this right in practice. Political parties gain legal status if
they have at least 10,000 members. (The minimum membership required was
increased in 1996 in order to reduce the number of small parties.)
Associations may be granted legal status with proof of only 251
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government
generally does not impede the observance of religious belief. However,
several denominations continued to make credible allegations that low-level
government officials and Romanian Orthodox clergy impeded their efforts at
proselytizing. Members of religious communities not officially recognized
by the Government during the year again accused government officials of
harassment--allegations denied by the Government. Proselytizing that
involves denigrating established churches is perceived as provocative.
Under the provisions of a 1948 decree, the Government recognizes 15
religions; only the clergy of these recognized religions are eligible to
receive state financial support. The State Secretariat for Religious
Affairs has licensed 385 other faiths, organizations, and foundations as
religious associations under 2 1924 laws on juridical entities, thereby
entitling them to juridical status as well as to exemptions from income and
customs taxes. However, religious associations may not build churches or
other buildings designated as houses of worship and are not permitted to
perform rites of baptism, marriage, or burial. The Romanian Orthodox
Church, to which approximately 86 percent of the population nominally
adheres, predominates. The official registration of religious associations
is extremely slow because of bureaucratic delays; in this regard, smaller
religious groups have criticized the State Secretariat for Religious
Affairs for its obstructionist tactics in favor of the Romanian Orthodox
Church. Members of some religious minorities complain that the revised law
on cults, if enacted, would not recognize their status as religious groups.
The Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite, or Greek Catholic Church, which
suffered discrimination in years past from the Romanian Orthodox Church and
the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs, made progress in 1998 in
recovering some of its former properties. The Greek Catholic Church was
disbanded by the Communists in 1948 and forced to merge with the Romanian
Orthodox Church. The latter received most of its properties, including
over 2,000 churches and other facilities. Since 1990 Greek Catholics have
recovered a number of their churches. In the Banat region some of the
churches were returned to the Uniate Church by the Orthodox Archbishop of
Timisoara. In several counties in Transylvania local Orthodox leaders
voluntarily have given up smaller country churches. The Episcopal seat in
Cluj was returned to the Greek Catholic Church by a court order on March
13. In August the Government adopted an ordinance on returning buildings
belonging to ethnic minorities, such as Jewish schools in Bacau and Cluj,
and the Presbyterian Theology Institute in Cluj.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel,
Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government places no restrictions on travel within the country, except
for certain small areas reserved for military purposes. Citizens who wish
to change their place of work or residence do not face any official
barriers. The law stipulates that citizens have the right to travel abroad
freely, to emigrate, and to return. In practice citizens freely exercise
In 1996 a refugee law was passed, implementing the provisions of the 1951
United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967
Protocol. This legislation established a refugee office in the Interior
Ministry to receive, process, and house asylum seekers.
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations. Beginning in mid-1998 the
Interior Ministry and the Labor Ministry began funding programs to assist
asylum seekers and refugees. The Government provides temporary
accommodation in only a few locations; more facilities are to open as funds
are made available. Programs for integrating refugees into society are
developing slowly. The issue of first asylum did not arise in 1998. An
increasing number of transiting illegal migrants regard the country as a
springboard to the West.
Between January 1 and August 31, a total of 1,247 refugees were registered
in the country. Of these, 724 depended on the UNHCR for their subsistence,
including food, accommodation, clothing, medical assistance, and language
or vocational training.
There were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where
they feared persecution.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their
government through periodic and free elections held on the basis of
In the wake of the 1996 democratic general elections, the government
coalition formed by the Romanian Democratic Convention (CDR) and the Union
of Social Democrats (USD) joined forces with the Hungarian Democratic Union
of Romania (UDMR). These parties, along with a number of smaller
constituent parties, make up the governing coalition.
The Government respects legislation passed in 1996 that prohibits
government-appointed prefects from dismissing elected mayors and local
council members for alleged abuses of authority prior to a binding legal
ruling on the charges.
No legal restrictions hinder the participation of women in government or
politics, but societal attitudes are a significant impediment. Women hold
only 5.9 percent of the seats in Parliament and one ministerial
The Constitution and electoral legislation grant each recognized ethnic
minority one representative in the Chamber of Deputies, provided that the
minority's political organization obtains at least 5 percent of the average
number of valid votes needed to elect a deputy outright (1,784 votes in the
1996 elections). Organizations representing 15 minority groups elected
deputies under this provision in 1996. Ethnic Hungarians, represented by
the UDMR, obtained parliamentary representation through the normal
electoral process. Roma are underrepresented in Parliament because of low
Roma voter turnout and internal divisions that worked against the
consolidation of votes for one candidate, organization, or party. They
have not increased their parliamentary representation beyond the one seat
provided through the Constitution and electoral legislation.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
Domestic human rights monitoring groups include the Romanian Helsinki
Committee (APADOR-CH), the independent Romanian Society for Human Rights
(SIRDO), the League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADO), the Romanian
Institute for Human Rights, and several issue-specific groups such as the
Young Generation of Roma and the Center for Crisis Intervention and Study,
also a Romani NGO. Other groups, such as political parties and trade
unions, continued to maintain sections monitoring the observance of human
rights. These groups, as well as international human rights organizations,
functioned freely without government interference.
The Government cooperates with local and international monitoring groups,
although some offices are slow to respond to inquiries. Local human rights
monitoring agencies have found it difficult to obtain statistics concerning
police abuses. The General Inspectorate of Police, which is responsible
for investigating such abuses, responds unevenly to inquiries from
monitors. Often victims are reluctant to come forward, and the Government
does not promote transparency in this regard.
With the aim of protecting citizens against abuses or capricious acts of
public officers, the Ombudsman's office envisioned under the 1991
Constitution was instituted by law in March 1997, and its first appointee,
Paul Mitroi, took office in June 1997. However, due to a lack of office
space, the office began working at normal capacity only at the beginning of
1998: by the end of August, it had received 2,700 complaints. The Office
is registering these complaints and is obliged by law to provide an initial
response within a year of the date they were recorded. It deals not just
with human rights but with all facets of citizensā interaction with the
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
The Constitution forbids discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnic
origin, language, religion, sex, opinion and political allegiance, wealth,
or social background. However, in practice the Government does not enforce
these provisions effectively, and women, Roma, and other minorities are
subject to various forms of extralegal discrimination. Homosexuals are
reportedly the victims of widespread police brutality.
Violence against women, including rape, continued to be a serious problem.
Both human and women's rights groups credibly reported that domestic
violence is common. Under a government pilot project begun in 1997, a
shelter for victims of domestic violence opened in Bucharest in 1997. The
shelter can accommodate only four persons. It received 490 calls for help
during the year on a hot line, and registered 230 walk-in victims.
According to government statistics, 967 rapes were reported during the
first half of the year. Prosecution of rape is difficult because it
requires both a medical certificate and a witness, and a rapist can avoid
punishment if he marries the victim. There is no specific legislation
dealing with spousal abuse or rape, and successful prosecution of spousal
rape is almost impossible. Police are often reluctant to intervene in
instances of domestic violence.
Trafficking in women appears to be an underreported but growing problem.
Several domestic prostitution rings are active.
The Constitution grants women and men equal rights. However, in practice
the Government does not enforce these provisions, nor do the authorities
focus attention or resources on women's issues.
Few resources are available for women who experience economic
discrimination. Despite existing laws and educational equality, women have
a higher rate of unemployment than men, occupy few influential positions in
the private sector, and earn lower than average wages. In 1996 the
Government created a department in the Ministry of Labor and Social
Protection to advance women's concerns and family policies. This
department organizes programs for women, proposes new laws, monitors
legislation for sexual bias, targets resources to train women for skilled
professions, and addresses the problems of single mothers, especially in
rural areas. In 1998 this department organized with the United Nations
Development Program a series of conferences on "promoting gender
The Government administers health care and public education programs for
children, despite scarce domestic resources. International agencies and
NGO's supplement government programs in these areas.
There was no perceptible societal pattern of abuse against children.
Nevertheless, large numbers of impoverished and apparently homeless, but
not necessarily orphaned, children were seen on the streets of the larger
cities. The Government does not have statistics defining the scope of the
problem. NGO's working with children remained particularly concerned about
the number of minors detained in jail and prison. These NGO's continued to
seek alternative solutions, such as parole for juveniles. Because time
served while awaiting trial counts as part of the prison sentence but does
not count towards time to be served in a juvenile detention center, some
minors actually requested prison sentences.
The sexual exploitation of children continued to attract press attention,
and the police staged a few high-publicity arrests of foreign pedophiles.
Other issues, such as adequate legislation to protect children, received
less attention. The law does not expressly outlaw pedophilia; instead,
pedophiles are charged with rape, corporal harm, and sexual corruption.
People with Disabilities
Difficult economic conditions and serious budgetary constraints contributed
to very difficult living conditions for those with physical or mental
disabilities. Many disabled people cannot make use of government-provided
transportation discounts because public transport does not have facilitated
access. The law does not mandate accessibility for the disabled to
buildings and public transportation.
Most mainstream politicians publicly have condemned anti-Semitism, racism,
and xenophobia. However, the fringe press continued to publish anti-
Semitic harangues. The Romanian Orthodox Church has attacked the
"aggressive proselytism" of Protestant and neo-Protestant groups. In April
a group of Baptist missionaries was attacked by a mob in Cornereva until
their van was rescued by the police and escorted out of the area.
The Government created a Consultative Council for National Minorities in
1993 to monitor the specific problems of persons belonging to ethnic
minorities, to establish contacts with minority groups, to submit proposals
for draft legislation and administrative measures, to maintain permanent
links with local authorities, and to investigate complaints. This council
was upgraded to a government department with ministerial status after the
November 1996 general elections and renamed the Department for the
Protection of National Minorities (DPNM).
Ethnic Hungarians, numbering more than 1.6 million, constitute the largest
and most vocal minority, and their UDMR Party holds 36 seats in the
Parliament. Many of the issues addressed in the Romanian-Hungarian treaty
of 1996 were implemented. Progress was made on economic issues, high-level
visits, and infrastructure improvements such as border crossings. A
government decree on Hungarian-language minority education was ruled
unconstitutional in December, after which each house of Parliament passed a
different version of a new minority education law, leaving the issue
unresolved at yearās end.
The Romani population, estimated at approximately 2 million persons,
continues to be subject to societal discrimination. The Minister of
Education announced in April a series of initiatives designed to improve
Roma education. New programs will provide caravan classrooms to follow the
migrant Romani population and will open additional classrooms at the
request of Roma in several high schools throughout the country. Credible
reports of anti-Roma violence continued, as did the harassment of Roma. In
July a court in Mures sentenced 11 persons who in 1993 burned 13 Romani
houses--resulting in the deaths of 3 Roma--to 3 to 7ø yearsā imprisonment.
Other cases dating to 1993 involving Romani deaths and property destruction
still are under investigation by prosecutors or under review by the
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
All workers except public employees have the right to associate freely,
engage in collective bargaining, and form and join labor unions without
previous authorization. Limitations on the right to strike apply only to
industries that the Government considers critical to the public interest
and to other public employees. No workers may be forced to join or
withdraw from a union, and union officials who resign from elected
positions and return to the regular work force are protected against
employer retaliation. The majority of workers are members of about 18
nationwide trade union confederations and smaller independent trade
Union members complain that unions must submit their grievances to
government-sponsored conciliation before initiating a strike, and they are
frustrated with the courts' propensity to declare illegal the majority of
strikes on which they have been asked to rule. Past studies indicated that
the labor legislation adopted in 1991 falls short of International Labor
Organization (ILO) standards in several areas, including the free election
of union representatives, binding arbitration, and the financial liability
of strike organizers. Although the 1991 legislation supports collective
bargaining as an institution, the contracts that result are not always
enforceable in a consistent manner.
Unions representing divergent sectors of the economy carried out strikes in
1998, often protesting wage indexation levels that did not match the rate
of inflation. A strike by health care workers suspended services at state-
run hospitals for all but emergency cases, but the result was a much
smaller pay hike than the workers demanded. Miners struck several times
for short periods over delays in paying back wages.
The Government has not followed up on a 1995 ILO recommendation to the
previous government to rescind all measures taken against suspended union
leaders involved in a 1993 strike by railway locomotive engineers. Only 2
of the 10 engineers fired in 1993 were offered their old jobs back; most of
the others were offered retirement pensions. The union leaders, who defied
a Supreme Court ruling to suspend the strike for 170 days, were fired by
the national railway company when the strike ended.
The law stipulates that labor unions should be free from government or
political party control, a provision that the Government has honored in
practice. Unions are free to engage in political activity and have done
Labor unions may form or join federations and affiliate with international
bodies. The National Confederation of Trade Unions-Fratia and the National
Union Bloc are affiliated with the International Confederation of Free
Trade Unions and the European Trade Union Confederation. The Confederation
of Democratic Trade Unions of Romania is affiliated with the World Labor
Confederation. Representatives of foreign and international organizations
freely visit and advise Romanian trade unionists.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Workers have the legal right to bargain collectively, but collective
bargaining efforts are complicated by continued state control of most
industrial enterprises and the absence of independent management
representatives. Basic wage scales for employees of state-owned
enterprises are established through collective bargaining with the
government (see Section 6.e.).
Antiunion discrimination is prohibited by law.
Labor legislation is applied uniformly throughout the country, including in
the four free trade zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including that
performed by children. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection
generally enforces this prohibition.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for
The minimum age for employment is 16 years, but children as young as the
ages of 14 or 15 may work with the consent of their parents or guardians,
although only "according to their physical development, aptitude, and
knowledge." Working children under the age of 16 have the right to
continue their education, and the law obliges employers to assist in this
regard. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has the authority to
impose fines and close sections of factories to ensure compliance with the
law, which it enforces effectively. The Constitution prohibits forced and
bonded child labor, and the Government generally enforces this provision
(see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Most wage rates are established through collective bargaining at the
enterprise level. However, they are based on minimum wages for specific
economic sectors and categories of workers that the Government sets after
negotiations with industry representatives and the labor confederations.
Minimum wage rates are generally observed and enforced. In 1998 the
minimum monthly wage of $40.00 (Lei 360,000) did not keep pace with
inflation and did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and
family. Prices for utility services such as water and heating have risen
dramatically. However, basic foodstuffs and pharmaceutical products are
still subject to price ceilings. Housing is no longer subsidized.
The Labor Code provides for a standard workweek of 40 hours or 5 days,
with overtime to be paid for weekend or holiday work or work in excess of
40 hours. It also includes a requirement for a 24-hour rest period in
the workweek, although most workers receive 2 days off. Paid holidays
range from 18 to 24 days annually, depending on the employee's length of
service. The law requires employers to pay additional benefits and
allowances to workers engaged in particularly dangerous or difficult
Some labor organizations lobby for healthier, safer working conditions on
behalf of their members. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has
established safety standards for most industries and is responsible for
enforcing them. However, it lacks sufficient trained personnel for
inspection and enforcement, and employers often ignore its recommendations.
Although they have the right to refuse dangerous work assignments, workers
seldom invoke it in practice, appearing to value increased pay over a safe
work environment. Neither the Government nor industry, which is still
mostly state owned, has the resources necessary to improve significantly
health and safety conditions in the workplace.