The Romanian Prosecutor’s Office (POHCCJ) combats police violence through secret strategy

Monday - 10 October 2016
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The Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (POHCCJ) claims to have elaborated and to currently implement a „Strategy for increasing the effectiveness of investigations conducted in cases of ill-treatment applied by the State agents in connection with the exercise of their professional duties” as an answer to the numerous complaints lodged in the last years regarding police abuse/violence. The Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș himself praised this strategy as a reply to Mr. Nils Muižnieks’s (Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe) concerns. Trying to also find out the content of this strategy APADOR-CH stumbled upon a bizarre refusal of POHCCJ to provide the information.

Thus, we wrote the two authors of the Romania-Council of Europe correspondence, to see if they had access to this strategy or if they were also told the document is meant for “internal use” only.

Open letter from APADOR-CH

Mr. Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe,

Mr. Dacian Cioloș, Prime Minister of Romania, 

The Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania-the Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) took notice of the interesting conversation you had on the issue of police violence in Romania, published on the Council of Europe website on 23 august 2016. APADOR-CH appreciates Mr. Nils Muižnieks’s concern for the problematic aspects acknowledged during his visit to Romania in 2014 as well as the fact that he follows up on the commitments made by the national authorities to improve the situation.

After reading the letter of Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș APADOR-CH tried to learn more about the „Strategy for increasing the effectiveness of investigations conducted in cases of ill-treatment applied by the State agents in connection with the exercise of their professional duties”. This strategy is mentioned in the letter as being a measure through which the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (POHCCJ) would reorganize its activity in the sense of designating special prosecutors to handle cases involving police violence.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts made to obtain this information from POHCCJ, APADOR-CH received an answer according to which the mentioned above strategy – identified as “Order no. 214 of 9 October 2015” issued by the Attorney General – is a “document intended for internal use only”, therefore not meant to be made public. However, the organization will continue to request this document in court considering that the phrase “document for internal use” is not listed among the exceptions mentioned in Law 544/2001 regarding the free access to information of public interest. A strategy contains general directions measures, there being no reason why it should be kept a secret.

At the same time, the association would like to know if Mr. Nils Muižnieks received the “Strategy for increasing the effectiveness of investigations conducted in cases of ill-treatment applied by the State agents in connection with the exercise of their professional duties” and if he considers that it would be useful for the Romanian civil society to be aware of the measures contained in it.

APADOR-CH has been monitoring police abuses in Romania for more than 20 years. A recent study realized by the association shows that only 14 of the 3034 complains made by citizens concerning police abuses have reached a court during 2012-2014. During the same period, the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police (IGPR) received 3301 complaints concerning the abusive/brutal policemen behaviour. Only 47 of them, meaning approximately 1 in 70 complaints ended in a disciplinary sanction. An update of this information, possible through the data received by APADOR-CH from all county prosecutor’s offices in Romania, shows that in 2015 there were 828 complaints lodged against police officers for abusive behaviour and only one (1) reached a court.

Under these circumstances, the public interest for the measures the authorities claim to have adopted through this strategy “of internal use” is very obvious.

Mr. Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Dacian Cioloș, Prime Minister of Romania, APADOR-CH would like to express its wish to learn what the Strategy for increasing the effectiveness of investigations conducted in cases of ill-treatment applied by the State agents in connection with the exercise of their professional duties” contains. Moreover, the association hopes you will make it public provided you have access to it.

Respectfully,

Maria Nicoleta Andreescu

Executive Director APADOR-H