Editorial

Amnesty Int. on Romania´s Roma rights


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Several black marks for Romania appear in Amnesty International’s Annual Report, published today (May 23). Discrimination against the Roma community and the failure to hold a full and open inquiry into the detention and torture of prisoners in the country under the CIA’s rendition program are among Amnesty’s complaints.

The Amnesty report also reminds of allegations last year of excessive use of force by Romanian police in anti-austerity protests and questions a parliamentary proposal from September 2012 to introduce mandatory counselling for pregnant women, which could impact women’s freedom to choose abortion, according to Amnesty International.

“Roma children were still being placed in schools for children with disabilities, in separate schools or in separate classrooms,” according to Amnesty International, quoting an investigation by the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe. The segregation of Roma children and the effective denial of access to education are given as significant contributing factors to the lower levels of education found among the Roma community compared with the average among the general Romanian population.

Forced evictions of Roma families are also referred to in Amnesty’s Annual Report, with the Pata Rat community in Cluj-Napoca highlighted. Around 76 mainly Roma families continue to live in inadequate conditions next to a rubbish dump after forced evictions in 2010. “The local authorities made a commitment to start moving them from the area in 2013 as part of a project developed with the UN Development Programme. However, details of the planned relocation remained vague.”

Several other Roma relocation issues are highlighted; including the quashing by the Court of Appeal of a National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD) decision to fine the Baia Mare authorities for building a large concrete wall to segregate the Roma population. Amnesty also reports that in August last year the Piatra Neamț municipality relocated around 500 Roma people to “completely segregated accommodation 2km away from the closest bus stop. The housing units had no electricity and the area lacked infrastructure such as street lights or an adequate access road.”

On the presence of secret CIA prisons in Romania, Amnesty International refers to last year’s European Parliament report calling on Romania, and all countries where there was evidence that illegal detention of prisoners occurred, “to comply with their absolute legal obligation to conduct an independent, impartial, thorough and effective investigation into their involvement in the rendition and secret detention programmes.”

Romania appeared to be one of the worst offenders, with claims that not only was the country used as a staging post by the CIA when moving prisoners around the world en route to Guantanamo Bay, but also as the site of a secret prison in which inmates were detained illegally and subjected to “enhanced interrogation” techniques, generally considered as torture. The European Court of Human Rights also communicated the case of al-Nashiri vs. Romania to the Romanian authorities. It is claimed that the Saudi national was detained and tortured in Romania.

Finally, the proposal for mandatory counseling for pregnant women, put forward in the Romanian parliament last year, could result in additional costs and longer waiting periods for women who want an abortion, according to Amnesty International.

At a European level, the Amnesty Annual Report slams the EU for being “unable to guarantee basic shelter and security for refugees in all its member states, nor equal rights for its six million Roma citizens.” The report also expresses concern over attempt to weaken the European Court of Human Rights made by EU Member States. “The European Court of Human Rights, for so long the jewel in the crown of Europe’s human rights protection system continued to be undermined by the refusal of member states to implement judgments and by attempts to reduce the scope of its authority.”

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