After five years of dithering, the Romanian Government wants to “urgently” implement a State-controlled National Preventive Mechanism against Torture

Tuesday - 24 June 2014
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Romania is the only country in the world who asked the United Nations for an additional period of 5 years for the implementation of a truly independent National Preventive Mechanism against Torture. In spite of the extended deadline undertaken by the Romanian authorities, the signatories below fear that this will be just another example of a goal failed. Still, if the Government decides to draw up last-minute and non-transparent regulations in this field, then there is the risk of having a National Preventive Mechanism controlled by the State, which will develop into an exponential increase in the number of the already numerous violations of the human rights in detention facilities and in the number of case files before the ECtHR.

 

According to the UN Committee against Torture based in Geneva, Romania is the only country in the world having requested two extensions for setting up an independent National Preventive Mechanism. The last deadline granted to Romania is August 2014, i.e. five years after Romania’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). During these last five years, the Romanian Government has delayed the adoption of a normative act that would effectively implement the commitments undertaken in terms of torture combating, it has refused to take into account the civil society’s requests and has become fixated on the idea of mandating the Ombudsman with the duties enshrined in the OPCAT.

 

Meanwhile, the Senate has received a draft law that is fully compliant with the principles of both the OPCAT and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This draft law, on the civil society’s initiative, was submitted to Parliament in September 2013 and it stipulates the setting up of the “National Council to Prevent and Combat Torture” (Plx.423/2013, L118/2014) as an independent national mechanism under parliamentary control.

 

Less than two months before the deadline set by the UN expires, the Romanian Government has decided, in its meeting of 18 June 2014, to postpone the adoption of an opinion on the setting up of the independent mechanism (Opinion no. 7, http://gov.ro/ro/guvernul/sedinte-guvern/18-06-informatie-de-presa-ref-acte-normative-incluse-pe-agenda-sedintei-de-guvern-din-18-iunie-2014). What is even more serious is the fact that the draft law pending Government assessment is not public and, from the information provided by the Government, it results that this is an amended version of the document undergoing the legislative procedure, version that has not been published on the Senate’s webpage together with the draft’s file.

Therefore, we are, once again, faced with non-transparent governmental practices and we are fully entitled, given our previous experience, to fear that it will all get down to the adoption of an emergency ordinance, thus eluding a consultation of the civil society.

We hereby ask the Romanian Government to refrain itself from adopting an emergency ordinance on the implementation of the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture without previously consulting all the members of the civil society, including those of the groups of children and adults with disabilities locked up in social and medical facilities.

 

For more than ten years now, Romania has been counting a record number of situations of inhuman and degrading treatments in social welfare centers and health centers, but also in detention facilities. The CLR and APADOR-CH have been conducting unannounced visits to such institutions, have been documenting cases and referring them to the responsible public authorities for years, but the situation has not improved so far.

 

In April 2014, at the debate held by the CLR on the independent mechanism, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, stated that: “I would like to reiterate my conviction that Romania needs to introduce the National Prevention Mechanism, which must be initiated and funded by the government, but implemented as an independent body, which should lead to the observance of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against torture and monitor compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”.

If the Romanian Government chooses to appoint the Ombudsman, thus in violation of the obligations undertaken, we hereby address Mr. Victor Viorel Ponta, Prime Minister, the following requests:

  • To publish the emergency ordinance together with the motivation of the urgency of its adoption, as a draft law awaits an opinion since September 2013;
  • To present the costs for setting up the mechanism under the Ombudsman’s authority, the organization charts and the manner in which the head and members of this institution will meet the criteria of independence and specialization in unannounced monitoring;
  • To describe the manner in which the Ombudsman’s mechanism will conduct unannounced visits for preventive purposes, together with complaint settling, as it is a known fact that this institutions reacts to petitions, as it does not have a proactive, preventive component.

“The setting up, by the Romanian Government, of a National Prevention Mechanism must be the result of a transparent and inclusive process contributing to the establishment of an independent body, capable of conducting unannounced visits in all detention facilities for children, youth and adults with or without disabilities, thus convincing State authorities to fully observe the obligations undertaken by Romania in the field of human rights”, declare CLR and APADOR-CH representatives.

These last few years, the number of convictions for bad treatments applied to institutionalized persons in detention facilities in Romania has been continuously increasing. An independent mechanism for unannounced monitoring would force Romanian authorities to comply with the international standards undertaken through the ratification of international treaties in the field of human rights.

For more information:

Georgiana Pascu, Program Manager, Center for Legal Resources (CRJ), tel. 0729 88 11 59, e-mail: gpascu@crj.ro, http://www.crj.ro

Nicoleta Andreescu, Executive Director, Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH), tel 0733.078.721, E-mail: nandreescu@apador.org, http://www.apador.org/despre-apador-ch

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