|Tuesday, 13 November 2018|
ROMANIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994
Romania is a constitutional republic with a multiparty parliamentary system. In the 1992 presidential election, Ion Iliescu was reelected President with 61 percent of the popular vote. In November 1992, President Iliescu's designee for Prime Minister, economist Nicolae Vacaroiu, won a vote of confidence with a government composed of technocrats and members of the Party of Social Democracy of Romania (PDSR), formerly the Democratic National Salvation Front.
Romania continued to struggle in 1993 with the political, economic, and social pressures produced by its transition from a totalitarian state with a centralized economy to a democratic system of government with a free market economy. These pressures contributed to ethnic tensions, social unrest resulting from rising unemployment and inflation, and an increase in crime.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs supervises the police, who are charged with maintaining law and order. There were credible reports of police abuse of detainees and prisoners in 1993 (see Sections 1.a and 1.c). The 1992 law governing the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) establishes oversight through a parliamentary joint committee, created in June 1993. The law allows the SRI to justify otherwise prohibited actions on broadly defined national security grounds. There were no substantiated reports of human rights abuses by the SRI in 1993, and allegations of surveillance or harassment of political activists decreased in 1993.
The transition to a market economy continued to be painful and slow. However, after 4 years of continuing economic decline, there were signs that the rate of decline had slowed. The process of privatizing small and medium-size state enterprises continued on a modest scale. According to government estimates, the private sector now contributes between 15 and 25 percent of the gross domestic product and more than 40 percent of retail sales. Some 80 percent of arable land is now in the hands of private farmers, although the plots average only 3.9 acres, and clear titles have been issued to less than a fifth of successful claimants. Unemployment hovers near 10 percent, with inflation in the range of 300 percent by year's end.
Romania continued efforts to move from its authoritarian past to a democratic system. In a significant move to deal with minority issues and problems, the Government established a consultative Council for National Minorities to serve as a forum for the discussion of minority issues and problems and to make recommendations to the Government. Headed by the Secretary General of the Government, the Council is composed of representatives from all 16 officially recognized minorities and 12 government ministries. It made several recommendations on the resolution of specific issues, which remain before the Government for final approval. However, on August 31, the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) withdrew its representatives from the Council on the grounds that it had yet to achieve concrete results.
Discrimination against Roma (Gypsies) continued, and there were complaints of discrimination against ethnic Hungarians. One instance of mob violence against Roma resulted in the deaths of three Roma. The Government quickly condemned the violence and took disciplinary actions against police for their passivity. Government money allocated to assist the victims had not yet been disbursed at year's end. Societal discrimination and violence against women remain a problem. Press and radio continued to operate free of political pressure, but there was concern about the independence of state-owned television, the primary broadcast medium.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial KillingThere were no reported political or other extrajudicial killings in 1993. There were credible accounts of police brutality contributing to the death of at least two detainees. A police officer was arrested for abusive treatment following the death of a beggar who had been beaten. The General Prosecutor was investigating the death of an arrestee in Dorohoi who died, ostensibly of heart failure, after a week in police custody.
b. DisappearanceNo instances of disappearance were reported in 1993.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or PunishmentThe Constitution prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. However, Helsinki Watch reported in January 1993 that the beating of detainees during arrest or when first taken to police stations was widespread. Romanian human rights organizations corroborated these reports. The office of the military prosecutor, responsible for legal oversight of the police, has investigated a number of these cases, usually without result. A human rights organization was told by the prosecutor's office that nearly 20 police officers are awaiting trial for violent treatment of detainees.
Several human rights organizations reported abuses in Romanian prisons, including overcrowding and reliance on a cell boss system, which one group termed "inherently abusive." The use of leg irons seems to have continued in some prisons, despite a 1992 government order banning their use on pretrial detainees.
There were credible reports that in several instances police beat detainees charged with committing homosexual acts, illegal under Article 200 of the Romanian Penal Code, to force them to confess to this crime. Allegedly fearful of retaliation, such detainees have not filed charges against police. The Foreign Ministry Office of Human Rights contends that allegations of abusive investigations have proved baseless.
The number of instances in which policemen were fined or imprisoned for misconduct was minimal in 1993, in part due to the failure of military prosecutors to conduct thorough investigations (see Section 1.d.).
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or ExileRomanian law forbids the detention of anyone by police for more than 24 hours without an arrest order from a prosecutor, who may order detention for 30 days. Detainees have the right to apply for bail and may ask for a hearing before a judge. The case must be heard within 24 hours of such a request. (In the absence of a request, however, a person may be held for up to 65 days without a court order, and it is clear that many citizens are not adequately informed of their rights in this regard.) The Government is liable for damages to persons held in violation of these provisions.
The authorities are required to inform an arrestee of the charges. He or she also has the right to have an attorney present at all stages of the legal process, and police must notify the defendant of this right, in a language the defendant understands, before obtaining any statement from the arrestee. However, the prosecutor's office may delay action on a request for a lawyer for up to 5 days from the date of arrest. The local bar association provides attorneys to indigents and is compensated by the Ministry of Justice. The Government acknowledges that the police sometimes failed to inform arrestees of their right to counsel in a timely manner.
Exile was not used as a means of punishment in 1993.
e. Denial of Fair Public TrialThe 1992 law on the reorganization of the judiciary, which officially took effect on July 1, 1993, provides for the establishment of a four-tiered legal system, including the reestablishment of appellate courts, which ceased to exist under Communist rule in 1952. The final recourse is to the Supreme Court or, for constitutional matters, to the Constitutional Court, established in 1992.
The provisions concerning the reestablishment of appellate courts were not implemented in 1993 because of insufficient personnel and material resources, according to government officials. The shortage of lawyers willing to work for the Justice Ministry and to fill positions in the new courts mandated by the law was exacerbated by the fact that private practice is much more lucrative.
Cases involving military personnel, criminal acts against the State (including treason and espionage cases), and acts committed by police (considered to be military personnel) are tried in a three-tiered military court system. This system draws criticism from local and international human rights groups, especially regarding investigations conducted by the military prosecutor's office against police personnel accused of abuses. They claim these investigations are unnecessarily lengthy and often purposefully inconclusive.
Under the Constitution, the Ministry of Justice controls the selection and promotion of judges. The Constitution and the 1992 law authorize life tenure for judges, who are appointed by the President upon recommendation from a panel of judges and prosecutors selected by Parliament. The panel, comprised of 10 judges and 5 prosecutors, together with the Justice Minister, has broad disciplinary authority over judges.
The Constitutional Court, six of whose members are chosen by Parliament and three by the President, has judicial responsibility for constitutional issues, but its decisions on the constitutionality of laws may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both chambers of Parliament.
Under the terms of the 1992 law, the courts are independent of the executive branch. On July 14, however, 2 weeks after the provisions on accountability went into effect, the Minister of Justice relieved the president of the Bucharest municipal court, Corneliu Turianu, of his duties, allegedly for "politicizing the judiciary." Although the terms of the law did not apply to Turianu, since he had not been appointed by the President, the media and human rights groups criticized this action as politically motivated. Some labor unions alleged that the courts tend to side with the Government when they rule on the legality of strikes and other labor actions.
The Prosecutor General is appointed by the President and is responsible for the administration of the law, as well as for criminal prosecutions. The Prosecutor General, who reports to the Minister of Justice, appoints local prosecutors throughout the country. A civilian was named to the post of Prosecutor General in May following a recommendation from the Council of Europe that members of the armed forces not hold this office.
Defendants benefit from a presumption of innocence. The Criminal Code requires that, if a defendant cannot afford legal representation or is otherwise unable to select counsel, an attorney will be appointed for him. Either plaintiff or defendant may appeal. In practice, these provisions of the law were respected.
There were no known political prisoners in 1993.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or CorrespondenceThe Constitution provides for legal protection against the search of a residence without a warrant, but this protection is subordinate to "national security or public order." The National Security Law of July 29, 1992, defines national security very broadly and lists as threats to national security 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. Entry into residences without prior authorization from a prosecutor is possible if a threat to national security is "imminent."
The Constitution states that the privacy of legal means of communication is inviolable. While the SRI is legally prohibited from engaging in political acts, e.g., monitoring the communications of a political party, the laws on national security allow it to engage in such monitoring on national security grounds. Similarly, although the SRI is required to obtain a warrant from a prosecutor to carry out intelligence activities involving "threats to national security," it may engage in a wide variety of operations, including "technical operations," in order to determine if a situation meets the legal definition of a "threat to national security."
In 1993 there appeared to be little arbitrary interference with individual citizens' rights to privacy; however, a few nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) claimed to have had their mail opened or their phones tapped. They attributed these alleged actions to current or former employees of Romanian intelligence services.
The Government took some measures to investigate reports of continuing abuses. In the summer of 1993, for example, the Prosecutor General's office began an investigation of the Hunedoara branch of the SRI for illegal wiretapping. In early 1993, the mass circulation, sensationalist daily Evenimentul Zilei, claimed it had detected the presence of bugging devices in its offices, as well as in the offices of several prominent organizations and political parties. Police examined the premises and found no such devices.
The legacy of abuses carried out by the Communist-era internal intelligence service, the Securitate, heightens sensitivity to potential misconduct by the security services . The 1992 law governing the SRI addresses some past abuses. It provides for the establishment of a parliamentary joint committee to oversee the SRI, which came into being through legislative action on June 17. The committee has the power to approve the appointment and tenure of the SRI director, as well as to dismiss him; however, it does not have full budgetary control over the SRI. In October the committee approved the formal appointment of current SRI director Virgil Magureanu. Parliament in joint session debated the annual SRI report. The SRI law prohibits the SRI from hiring most former Securitate officers. Parliament turned over the old Securitate files to the SRI to be kept within its own archives for 40 years, after which they will become public. The SRI director controls access to them.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and PressArticle 30 of the Constitution provides for freedom of expression and prohibits censorship. Romanians generally are free to express any opinions they wish. However, the same article qualifies freedom of expression by prohibiting "defamation of the country." While this provision could be construed to restrict criticism of the Government, in practice this did not occur in 1993.
In 1993 the press was free of state censorship or interference and published a wide variety of opinions, although some publishers accused the Government of manipulating the price and supply of newsprint to the detriment of opposition newspapers. Libel law is vague and potentially subject to abuse, particularly if the full Parliament should approve a Senate measure that would provide criminal penalties, including jail terms of from 3 months to 3 years, for published or broadcast "insult and calumny."
The League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADO), a Romanian human rights organization, reported that Lucia Hossu-Longin, director of a powerful television documentary series called "The Memorial of Pain," received death threats from unknown sources. Her work focuses on the abuses of communism, especially on political prisoners and forced collectivization. Critics have called for legal action against Hossu-Longin for "inciting national hatred." However, no such action was taken.
Doina Cornea, an internationally known Romanian human rights monitor, received a summons to report to the Prosecutor General's office in Bucharest on February 8 to answer allegations that she had attempted to undermine the State when she called on the people to take action against the Government during the September 1991 miners' incursion into Bucharest. The President and Government publicly deplored the issuance of the summons. The Prosecutor General's office represented the incident as a mistake, withdrew the summons, and sent a junior prosecutor to interview her at her home in Cluj. This visit ended the affair, and no charges were brought against her. However, Cornea and others described the original issuance of the summons as a warning to all dissidents and as an attempt to intimidate Cornea in particular.
Mihaela Germina Nicolae was accused of shouting obscene slogans at President Iliescu when he visited the city of Cluj in June 1992. Charged under Law 61 of 1991, which makes it an offense to use vulgar or insulting language when referring to public personalities, and also charged with holding an illegal counterdemonstration, she was acquitted on both counts.
Romanian State Television (RTV) remained the only domestic television broadcaster with nationwide facilities. Although the Government does not directly control RTV, its director, appointed by the President, has been accused of using the facility to support the Government and its program. The director resigned under pressure on January 10, 1994. The National Union of Theater Professionals protested the director's decision to prohibit a television production on the grounds that it cast unfavorable light on Romania's image abroad. RTV's first channel reaches the entire country, while its second extends to about 30 percent of the population. Unlike the press or radio, Channel 1 was subject to both subtle and overt political pressures, which at times resulted in unbalanced news programs and occasional instances of censorship and harassment of reporters. Channel 2 transmits in full each evening the nightly news broadcasts of Moldovan television and two Western European networks (in their original languages). Channel 2 also carries approximately 60 hours of programming weekly by the independent Romanian SOTI station.
Private broadcasting was in a state of flux, following passage of an audiovisual law in 1992. The law created an 11-person National Audiovisual Council (NAC), which began issuing licenses to private television and radio broadcasters in November of that year. The official criteria for allocating licenses include programming quality and diversity and political and cultural pluralism, as well as technical and financial standards. The Council was accused of ignoring its own criteria in several early decisions (for example, favoring a station that now broadcasts 20 hours of CNN daily over those with a more local focus). By September 1993, the NAC had issued more than 40 television licenses, and 14 stations were already broadcasting. However, the Ministry of Telecommunications limited private television stations to low power and a restricted broadcast range. Most of these use state-owned transmitters during the off-hours when the public network is not broadcasting. The NAC has also granted licenses to about 200 cable companies. An estimated 200,000 private satellite dishes capable of picking up foreign broadcasts had been installed by 1993.
State-owned radio operates three nationwide programs which are considered to be the country's most reputable information media. By September 1993, the NAC had issued 82 licenses to independent radio stations, of which 29 were already broadcasting. The new stations featured mostly popular music, but several also carried foreign news bulletins in Romanian.
Foreign publications are freely imported and distributed, although their high cost limits their circulation. Academic liberty, in terms of freedom of expression both within and outside the classroom, is respected.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and AssociationThe Constitution provides for freedom of assembly. In addition, the law on public assembly provides for the right of Romanians to assemble peacefully while unarmed and states that meetings must not interfere with other economic or social activities. Meetings also 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. The authorities may forbid a public gathering by notifying the organizers in writing within 48 hours of receipt of the request to hold it. The law prohibits the organization of or participation in a counterdemonstration held at the same time as a scheduled public gathering. Sorin Eduard Titei was sentenced to 333 days in jail by a local court for violating this prohibition, but due to legal irregularities Titei filed an extraordinary appeal, and all charges were subsequently dropped.
Public gatherings to espouse Communist, racist, or Fascist ideologies or to commit actions contrary to public order or national security are forbidden. Unauthorized demonstrations or other violations of this law are punishable by imprisonment and fines. Constitutional provisions and laws on free assembly were generally respected in 1993.
Romanians participated in numerous rallies in support of a broad spectrum of organizations, including trade unions, opposition parties, and minority groups, in 1993. Romanians may form associations, including political parties, and may obtain legal status for them by proving membership of at least 251 persons.
c. Freedom of ReligionThe Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government does not impede the observance of religious belief.
There are 15 religions, officially recognized under a 1948 decree, whose clergy may receive state financial support. Another 120 faiths and denominations have received licenses from the State Secretariat for Religious Affairs under a 1930's law on clubs and associations, entitling them to juridical status as well as to exemptions from income and customs taxes. The Romanian Orthodox Church, of which approximately 86 percent of the population are at least nominal members, is predominant. Approval of new applications for official registration is very slow due to bureaucratic problems. An application by the Mormon church was approved in 1993. At year's end, Parliament was still considering draft legislation on religion which was first introduced in 1990.
The dispute between the Byzantine-rite Catholic (or Uniate) Church, dissolved by the Government in 1948 and restored in 1990, and the Romanian Orthodox Church over restitution of the physical assets of the former remained unresolved in 1993. The Uniates claimed the State favored the Orthodox Church on the property issues in dispute.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and RepatriationThe Government places no restrictions on travel within Romania, except in the case of certain small areas used for military purposes, nor do Romanian citizens who wish to change their places of work or residence face any official barriers. Romanian law stipulates that Romanian citizens have the right to travel freely abroad, to emigrate, and to return to Romania. In practice, Romanian citizens travel freely both within and outside the country, and the right to emigrate and to return is respected.
In 1993 approximately 30,000 Romanian citizens whose requests for refugee status had been rejected were returned from Germany under the terms of a 1992 bilateral agreement. According to German government statistics, 40 percent of those returned are ethnic Roma. They received little or no resettlement assistance. Reintegration is complicated by various types of discrimination against Roma (see Section 5).
In 1991 Romania signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol but still does not have legislation or an effective program to implement the Convention. In 1993 the Government was extremely backlogged in its procedures for ensuring asylum applicants even temporary legal status until their cases could be processed. Approximately 10 percent of the 1,172 registered asylum applicants were housed in camps under inadequate conditions, while others were left to fend for themselves, as they all awaited decisions from the Romanian Commission for Migration. The wait has been over a year in many cases. It appears that Romanian officials are just beginning to establish a standard procedure for refugee processing.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their GovernmentCitizens have the right to change their government. Despite some allegations of fraud and various procedural irregularities, most international observer groups considered that the 1992 parliamentary and presidential elections met international standards of freedom and fairness. Opposition groups currently have 47 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The Constitution and electoral legislation grant each recognized ethnic minority political party one representative in Parliament's Chamber of Deputies, provided that the party obtain at least 5 percent of the average number of valid votes needed to elect a deputy outright (only some 1,100 votes in the September elections). Parties representing 13 minority groups elected deputies under this provision in 1992. The Hungarians, represented by the UDMR, obtained 27 seats in the Chamber through the normal electoral process. Roma (Gypsies) are underrepresented in Parliament, partly due to their low turnout and to divisions within the Roma community which work against the consolidation of votes for one candidate.
There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women in government or politics. However, there are only a few women in Parliament and none in the current Cabinet, a situation that reflects prevailing social attitudes.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsDomestic human rights monitoring groups that were formed after December 1989 include the League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADO), the Pro-Democracy Association, local chapters of Helsinki Watch and the Helsinki Committee, the Independent Romanian Society for Human Rights, the Romanian Institute for Human Rights, and the Association of Former Political Prisoners. Other groups, including political parties and trade unions, also have human rights sections that monitor human rights observance.
These groups and international human rights organizations were able to function freely without government interference. International groups were free to meet with Romanian human rights organizations and were able to meet with detained and arrested persons and to visit prisons.
The Constitution mandates an Office of the People's Advocate, an ombudsman with responsibility to "defend the rights and liberties" of Romanians. The People's Advocate has no legal authority to redress grievances but, in reports to Parliament, may provide recommendations regarding legislation or other measures for the protection of the rights and liberties of citizens. Legislation implementing this position was not completed by the end of 1993.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social StatusThe Constitution forbids any discrimination on account of race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, religion, sex, opinion and political allegiance, wealth, or social background. It also states that citizens are equal before the law and public authorities. The Government has frequently stated that its policy is to guarantee and protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of ethnic, cultural, or religious background. In practice, however, Roma and other minorities are subject to various forms of extralegal discrimination. There are approximately 22 ethnic minority groups in Romania, representing 10 to 12 percent of the population.
WomenLegally, women are accorded the same rights and privileges as men in all areas, including education, access to employment, and wages. However, in a difficult economic climate and in a society where traditionally the economic role of women has been considered less important than that of men, women are often the first to be dismissed from employment. There are few women in positions of importance in government or industry. Women's issues receive little attention or resources from the Government.
A few cases of on-the-job sexual harassment were reported in the press. In most of these cases, male superiors extorted sexual favors from women as a condition of continued employment or with the promise of career advancement. One renowned allegation led to the resignation of the Minister of Culture after a Senate committee concluded from its investigation that his "confused behavior" during the night in question harmed the interests of the Ministry, although the committee did not make a determination on the charge of sexual harassment. There is currently no specific law to cover sexual harassment, nor is there any organization that defends women's rights in this area.
There is little official initiative on issues affecting women, including family planning, crimes against women, and domestic violence. Violent crimes against women were reported with increasing frequency during the year. According to Ministry of Interior statistics, 1,065 rapes were committed in Romania in 1992, and 670 in the first 6 months of 1993. For the most part, women do not report rape. The rape victim receives little sympathy from the community. Bringing a case of rape to trial is very difficult. The woman's claim that she was raped is not sufficient evidence, even if she is able to identify the perpetrator. Witnesses are required.
There are no statistics available on the incidence of domestic violence, although the director of LADO reported that over 60 percent of their cases were brought by women who wanted to document beatings for their divorce hearing.
ChildrenThe Government has increased its attention to the problem of children, including by establishing a new program for street children and by improving conditions for children in institutions. The manpower and resources for these projects continue to flow mainly from international agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Domestic resources for these children remain few. Orphanage conditions, grossly neglected under the Ceausescu regime, have improved. A Council of Europe commission, assigned to evaluate the conditions in Romania's orphanages, found that conditions in the majority were in line with average Romanian living standards and that 15 percent were substandard. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) held several seminars during the year to sensitize Romanians to the issue of children's rights, using the United Nations charter on children's rights as a standard.
A new law on the abandonment of children, adopted on July 8, requires orphanage directors to notify child welfare authorities or the local court if an institutionalized child's parents demonstrate an "obvious lack of interest" (not precisely defined) in the child for a period of more than 6 months. The court then makes a determination as to whether or not the child has been abandoned. If the court finds that the child has indeed been abandoned, the child's name is given to the Romanian adoption committee as a candidate for adoption. Family members have the right to appeal the court's decision until the child is adopted.
There was no apparent pattern of societal abuse against children in 1993. Nevertheless, there were numbers of impoverished and apparently homeless street children in the larger cities. No statistics concerning this problem are currently available. A new department of the Ministry of Youth and Sports was set up to assist NGO's already working on this problem, but resources are limited. Romanian youth organizations remained concerned about the impact of deteriorating economic conditions, which contributed to the rise in juvenile delinquency and vandalism.
National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities:The Government created a consultative Council for National Minorities in April. Its purpose is to provide a forum for dialog between the Government and all official minorities and to make recommendations to the Government regarding minority issues. Headed by the Secretary General to the Government, the Council is comprised of 60 delegates: 48 representing the 16 officially recognized minorities and 12 representing various ministries. These 12 ministries together are entitled to only 1 vote, while each minority also has 1 vote. Decisions require a two-thirds majority and may be vetoed by the government representatives or by the representatives of any minority directly affected. If veto power is not exercised, Council decisions are referred to the Government for approval or disapproval.
In the area of Romanian-Hungarian ethnic relations, the Council on August 18 adopted a recommendation to require the use of bilingual or multilingual signs in localities where a minority represented more than 10 percent of the population. (The Government was given the option of altering the percentage in question to 20 or 30.) The Council also adopted a proposal to allow schoolchildren in grades one through four to receive instruction in history and geography, in addition to all other subjects, in their mother tongue, and agreed to provide 300 places for ethnic Hungarian-teaching students at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj. The Minister of Education had implemented the third proposal, but as of October the Government had not yet acted on the first two, due in part to vociferous public objections (including the threatened introduction of a no confidence motion in Parliament) by the nationalist parties. On August 31, the delegates of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) withdrew from the Council, claiming that it had failed to make any substantive progress and characterizing it as a "sterile club."
Roma (Gypsies), estimates of whose numbers in Romania range from 427,000 (according to the 1992 census) to 3 million (according to some Roma representatives), continued to suffer many forms of discrimination which the Government is often unable to prevent or unwilling to redress. The Ministry of Education has instituted a pilot program to train Roma teachers to provide mother-tongue instruction to Roma children in an effort to keep such children in school.
Since the revolution of December 1989, a number of incidents have sparked "vigilante-style" attacks against Roma communities. One such incident in 1993 occurred in the village of Hadareni, Mures county, on September 20. An argument broke out in the street between a Roma and an ethnic Romanian, culminating in the fatal stabbing of the Romanian. The Roma and his brother fled for refuge to a Roma home. An angry crowd of villagers forced the two men out of the house and beat them fatally. Other Roma houses were set afire, and one other Roma died in the flames. Police officers and the fire department intervened late and ineffectively.
In reaction to this incident, the Government for the first time issued a strong statement condemning all such "antisocial" acts and warning that vigilantism was intolerable. The Government pledged to punish the guilty, irrespective of ethnicity. It acknowledged that Roma faced special problems, promised to develop adequate social integration programs, and pledged to use government funds to rebuild the destroyed homes and care for the displaced children in the meantime. Investigations were begun immediately by the police and prosecutor's office. The commander of the county police was dismissed, and three noncommissioned officers were transferred and punished.
A government decision in November allocated 25 million lei (Romanian currency) were allocated toward rebuilding homes, and an emergency medical center was established in a nearby village. However, according to Gypsy and human rights organizations, no other relief measures have yet been taken, nor has rebuilding begun. Roma organizations have protested in a press conference and several demonstrations against the Government's lack of responsiveness.
Several pre-1993 incidents of vigilante violence against the Roma remained unresolved. Investigations by the Ministry of Defense and the military prosecutor's office of a July 1992 attack on Roma in a Bucharest city market, allegedly committed by a group of masked military policemen, have yet to be completed. The ethnic Federation of Roma reported that the military prosecutor's office is using the excuse that the Roma victims were unable to identify their assailants as a motive for not concluding the investigation. The rebuilding of approximately 20 Roma homes burned by Romanian villagers in a 1991 vigilante attack in Valeni Lapusului remains incomplete. Houses in the Roma community in Mihail Kogalniceanu near Constanta have now been rebuilt following 1990 mob violence.
Roma continued to face discrimination in workplaces and schools. For example, a 1991 International Labor Organization (ILO) commission found that Roma suffered both direct and indirect discrimination in the workplace and were relegated to low-paying, low-status jobs. It also reported that Roma were excluded from educational and work opportunities that might lead to higher paying or skilled jobs, and such discrimination perpetuated their low status in society. In 1993 the Government initiated some job training programs for Roma and began experimental classes in the Roma language for Roma children. A June 1993 ILO report concluded that the situation had improved somewhat and praised the Government's general responsiveness to the problem. Some Roma leaders charged that the government television station was unwilling to broadcast any Roma-oriented educational programs.
Hungarians, the largest ethnic minority, number 1.6 million, according to the 1992 census, or more than 2.2 million, according to Hungarian estimates. They are concentrated in Transylvania. Instruction in the Hungarian language is available in primary and secondary schools when there are at least 7 elementary students or 15 secondary students to form a Hungarian-language class. Some university courses are taught in Hungarian in Cluj and Tirgu Mures. Ethnic Hungarians, who were unhappy with the constitutional text declaring Romania a "unitary state," fear a gradual process of cultural assimilation and seek additional Hungarian-language postsecondary instruction and use of Hungarian (rather than Romanian with interpretation, as is currently provided by law) in the courts.
In the Transylvanian city of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar, elected mayor in February 1992 as candidate of the nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PUNR), continued his anti-Hungarian provocations. He took unsuccessful steps to evict a number of publications from their offices, including a Hungarian-language newspaper. The central Government, acting through the local prefect (district head), declared several of Funar's actions null and void, but the municipality continued to use local statutes and regulations to harass local Hungarians.
In July 1992, under pressure from Romanian nationalists, the Stolojan government had removed the ethnic Hungarian prefects of Covasna and Hargita counties, the two counties where ethnic Hungarians constitute a clear majority. Following antigovernment protests, Stolojan agreed to a compromise arrangement, appointing coequal prefects, one ethnic Hungarian and one ethnic Romanian, in each of the counties. This solution proved to be unsatisfactory to representatives of both ethnic groups. On March 24, 1993, the Vacaroiu Government, again due to pressure from Romanian nationalists, ended the multiethnic arrangement by appointing ethnic Romanian prefects in each county. The UDMR protested this change vehemently and refused the Government's offer to name ethnic Hungarians as deputy prefects.
The UDMR condemned the Supreme Court's June 7 rejection of an appeal in the case of Pal Cseresznyes, an ethnic Hungarian serving a 10-year sentence for attempted murder as a result of his involvement in the Tirgu Mures incidents of March 1990. Cseresznyes participated in the savage beating of an ethnic Romanian, which an international journalist captured on film. The UDMR's complaint centered on the length of his sentence and on the fact that he was the only one of those filmed who was brought to trial. The court maintained that, regardless of the fates of the others involved, Cseresznyes had received a fair trial and was guilty as charged. Thus it found no legal reason to grant an appeal.
Religious MinoritiesPhysical attacks directed against Jewish persons or institutions are not known to have occurred in 1993, nor are graves or synagogues known to have been desecrated. However, the extreme nationalist press continued its anti-Semitic harangues. Both the President and the Prime Minister have publicly condemned anti-Semitism, other types of racism, and xenophobia. The President attended a ceremony to commemorate Holocaust day at the Bucharest synagogue in April, the first time a Romanian Head of State has ever attended a Jewish religious service.
People with DisabilitiesPostrevolutionary Romania inherited a legacy of neglect of the severely handicapped population, both children and adults. To redress the situation, the Government set up special programs for the handicapped, including vocational training and special schools for handicapped children. In addition, handicapped children are now given precedence in foreign adoption placements. The law does not mandate accessibility for the disabled.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of AssociationLabor legislation, adopted in 1991, guarantees the right of workers, except government employees and military and police personnel, to associate freely, organize and join labor unions, and engage in collective bargaining. The right to strike is specifically guaranteed, and several major strikes or demonstrations occurred in 1993. The primary exceptions are employees in certain critical industries involving the public interest, such as defense, health care, transportation, and telecommunications, in which there are limitations on the right to strike.
Most unions took a critical view of labor legislation. They complained, in particular, about the legal requirement calling for submission of grievances to government-sponsored conciliation prior to initiating a strike as interference in their freedom of action. Moreover, trade unions voiced increasing frustration with the judiciary's propensity to declare illegal virtually every major strike on which the courts have been asked to rule. An ILO Committee of Experts (COE) report in 1992 also registered concern that the current laws fall short of ILO standards in several areas, including the free election of union representatives, binding arbitration, and financial liability of strike organizers. Government officials, especially in the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MOLSP), recognize these and other deficiencies in labor legislation, but the Government has not yet moved to amend the laws.
In May the country's largest trade union confederations threatened to launch a nationwide general strike to protest rapidly rising inflation and falling standards of living for their members. The unions sought steep wage hikes to compensate workers for continual economic dislocations accompanying Romania's transition to a free market economy. The strike was averted at the 11th hour when union and government negotiators agreed to a package of concessions. However, one confederation and several smaller labor organizations engaged in sporadic strike activity until they negotiated a separate agreement with the Government several days later.
In August railway locomotive engine drivers launched a week-long, economically damaging strike. Union leaders initially defied a Supreme Court ruling to suspend the strike for 80 days. At the conclusion of the strike, the National Railway Company (CFR) began to fire union leaders around the country and filed suit against other top leaders in an effort to recover economic damages. Romania's major trade union confederations, along with some political opposition parties and human rights groups, interpreted the CFR's harsh actions as union-busting tactics. Tension was reduced after the Government fired the CFR president and 10 members of the company's board of directors. The CFR then decided to reinstate the fired union leaders, although it has not yet done so, and to suspend the suit against others. Prime Minister Vacaroiu pledged in December that no members would be fired before the courts had ruled on their appeals. In an action, pending since 1992 and involving the CFR's dismissals of four union leaders accused of leading strikes against the company, a neutral commission established by the Government ruled in the unionists' favor.
The 1991 legislation stipulates that labor unions are independent bodies, free from government or political party control. The Government routinely consults with unions on labor issues, though it frequently disregards union recommendations. No worker 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 accorded protection against employer retaliation.
The majority of Romania's approximately 10.8-million working people are members of about 18 nationwide trade union confederations and smaller independent trade unions. In June two of the nation's largest labor confederations--the National Confederation of Free Trade Unions (CNSLR) and Fratia--formally merged into the CNSLR-Fratia. The new formation boasts a membership of 3.5 million members, representing over half of the unionized work force. Like most membership figures in Romania, however, this is probably exaggerated.
None of the trade union organizations engaged in direct political activity in 1993, but in November and December several of the larger confederations organized demonstrations calling for the resignation of the Vacaroiu Government.
Labor unions have the right to affiliate internationally, and representatives of foreign and international organizations freely visit and advise Romanian trade unionists. Alfa Cartel and Fratia are affiliated with the World Confederation of Labor (WCL) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), respectively. CNSLR was accepted as an ICFTU member in December as a result of its merger with Fratia.
In June the ILO conference noted the steps Romania had begun to take to implement the recommendations of an earlier Commission of Inquiry, particularly the establishment of a Council for National Minorities, and urged further measures in law and practice to eliminate discrimination based on political opinion, religion, race, sex, national extraction, and social origin. The workers' member representing Romania alleged at the ILO Conference that in some enterprises managed by technocrats of the old regime collective agreements were implemented in a discriminatory way by the directors, who favored house unions over independent ones and who dismissed members of independent trade unions and women before all others.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain CollectivelyThe 1991 legislation permits workers to bargain collectively. The lack of any procedure to define which unions are recognized by management as negotiating partners did not cause major problems in 1993, unions and management generally finding pragmatic accommodations. There were sporadic allegations that union leaders are often the first to be laid off. Workers who are illegally dismissed have recourse to the courts, which have ordered the reinstatement of such employees, including in the CFR case.
Continued state control over most industrial resources and the absence of independent management representatives complicated collective bargaining efforts. In addition to basic wage scales established through collective bargaining, most workers as well as pensioners receive thrice-yearly increases indexed to prospective price increases. In 1993 workers received additional compensation to cushion the economic blows caused by the lifting of official subsidies for basic consumer items in May and the introduction of a national value-added tax in July.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory LaborThe Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor. The MOLSP effectively enforces this prohibition, and no instances of such practices were recorded in 1993.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of ChildrenThe minimum age for employment is 16, although children as young as 14 or 15 may work with the consent of their parents or guardians but only "according to their physical development, aptitude, and knowledge." Working children under 16 have the right to continue their education, and employers are obliged to assist in this regard. The MOLSP has the authority to impose fines and close sections of factories to enforce compliance with the law. No violations of this policy were documented in 1993, and child labor does not appear to be a problem.
e. Acceptable Conditions of WorkMost wage rates are established through collective bargaining at the enterprise level but are based on minimum wages for given economic sectors and categories of workers set by the Government after negotiations with industry representatives and the labor confederations. Minimum wage rates are generally observed and enforced. In 1993 the minimum monthly wage (nominally about $45 in December) did not keep pace with inflation, and it was criticized for not providing a decent standard of living for a worker and family, although basic necessities like housing and medical care still are partly subsidized by the Government.
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. The Labor Code does not specifically include a requirement for a 24-hour rest period, although this is implied in the provision for a standard workweek of 5 days. Paid holidays range from 15 to 24 days annually, depending mainly on the employee's length of service. Employers are required by law to pay additional benefits and allowances to workers engaged in particularly dangerous or difficult occupations.
Some labor organizations pressed for healthier, safer working conditions on behalf of their members. The MOLSP established safety standards for most industries and is responsible for enforcing them. However, it lacks sufficient trained personnel for inspection and enforcement, and employers generally ignore its recommendations. Though they have the right to refuse dangerous work assignments, in practice workers seldom invoke it, appearing to value increased pay over a safe and healthful work environment. Neither the Government nor industry, still mostly state owned, has the resources necessary to improve significantly health and safety conditions in the workplace.