Annual report – 2010

Saturday - 6 March 2010
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In 2010, APADOR-CH’s activity was aimed at contributing to the organization’s overall objective, which is for the organization to successfully carry out its mission to raise the level of awareness on, and respect of human rights and the rule of law. In this respect, APADOR-CH followed to meet a number of seven specific objectives:

  1. Strengthening the constituency for human rights with political actors, in media and with the general public
  2. Improving the practices regarding the legal protection of vulnerable groups against discrimination
  3. Developing efficient mechanisms to ensure the rights of persons deprived of liberty
  4. Increasing transparency of administration
  5. Improving reasoning and transparency of judicial decisions;
  6. Eliminating unjustified state interference with the NGOs’ associational life
  1. Reacting to human rights threats

The activities and accomplishments of APADOR-CH are presented by reference to the APADOR-CH’s Activity and Monitoring Plan 2009-2011, taking into consideration those activities scheduled for 2010.

 

Objective #1: Strengthening the constituency for human rights with political actors, in media and with the general public

 

In the first half of 2010, APADOR-CH continued to monitor the debates on the new Criminal Code and the new Criminal Procedure Code in the Parliament. APADOR-CH was in constant dialogue with both the members of the parliamentary commission and the staff, and was weekly updated on the decisions of the commission. As a result, almost all amendments proposed by APADOR-CH were adopted.

 

APADOR-CH continued to issue newsletters regarding cases decided by the ECHR in which APADOR-CH was involved, explaining the way the judgements affect the legal order. One such newsletters was issued in June 2010, regarding the case Ciupercescu v. Romania on freedom of expression (15 June 2010). It was distributed to the media and posted on APADOR-CH’s web-page.

 

On 26 March 2010 APADOR-CH organized a public festivity to celebrate 20 years of activity. On this occasion a brochure with the major moments in the history of APADOR-CH was released and shall be further used for promotion.

 

In the first half of 2010, two volunteers were involved, on a regular basis, for more than three months, in APADOR-CH activity: Alexandra Savencu (student in European Studies), and Bogdan Carpan (lawyer). They were involved in ECHR cases, answering letters from individuals addressing APADOR-CH, organizing events and administrative matters.

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In the second half of 2010, APADOR-CH’s efforts to strengthen the constituency for human rights with political actors, in media and with the general public were part of the ongoing advocacy activities, as well as of its reactions to human rights threats, which included repeated contacts with politicians and media. These activities are detailed under the respective objectives.

In addition, APADOR-CH continued to issue newsletters regarding cases decided by the ECHR in which it was involved, explaining the way the judgements affect the legal order. The were … such newsletters during the reporting period, regarding the following cases:

–        Carabulea v. Romania (ECHR judgement of 13 July 2010). The Court found violations of the right to life, of the prohibition of torture and of the right to effective remedies in the case of Mr. Carabulea, who was killed while in police custody in April 1996.

–        Cucolas v. Romania (ECHR judgement of 26 October 2010). The Court found violations of the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment for the detention conditions in which Mr. Cucolas was held while arrested on remand in Suceava, as well as in Botosani, Bucuresti-Jilava and Poarta Alba penitentiaries.

The newsletters were distributed to the media and posted on APADOR-CH’s web-page.

 

Objective 2: Improving the practices regarding the legal protection of vulnerable groups against discrimination

 

In the first half of 2010, APADOR-CH continued to implement the project started on 1 May 2009 and aimed at strengthening the capacity of social service NGOs working with disadvantaged groups to defend the rights of their beneficiaries, including in the field of anti-discrimination. A conference was organized on 23 April 2010. Participants from NGOs and attorneys at law were invited as well as representatives of Bar associations. The aim of the conference was to disseminate the information regarding the legal network of attorneys trained during the project in the field of anti-discrimination and human rights as well as to encourage the victims of discrimination to take legal action, and seek remedy for the violation of their rights.

 

As regards the monitoring of access of drug users in detention (prisons, prison hospitals and police lockups) to HIV prevention and drug treatment services, during the reporting period APADOR-CH carried out an analysis by performing a review of legal regulatory framework and interviewed service providers for identifying the actual situation. APADOR-CH interviewed representatives of four service providers from Bucharest as it follows: one NGO, a facility of Ministry of Health, a center under the responsibility of General Inspectorate of Romanian Police (National Antidrug Agency) and a private clinic. APADOR-CH participated at the round-table organized on changing the Law no. 143/2000 on preventing and combating illicit drug use and traffic, among other representatives of NGO’s in the field of social services for IDU’s and representatives of authorities. It resulted in APADOR-Ch becoming part of a working group to develop three documents: a legislative proposal amending the Law no. 143/2000, proposals for changes that fall within the competence of central authorities and proposals to establish a coordination mechanism. The documents were finalized and posted on the website of online working group in March 2010.

 

In respect of the project aimed at transferring APADOR-CH’s experience on advocacy to ARAS, the lead Romanian NGO in providing assistance to individuals infected with HIV/AIDS, during the reporting period APADOR-CH organized a training on advocacy with leader of 9 ARAS branches. Following the training a general advocacy plan was developed and then adapted by the 9 branches. In the second half of 2010, the ARAS branches shall each implement a locally tailored advocacy campaign.

 

**

 

In respect of the project aimed at transferring APADOR-CH’s experience on advocacy to ARAS, the lead Romanian NGO in providing assistance to individuals infected with HIV/AIDS, during the reporting period APADOR-CH assisted 9 ARAS branches to implement locally tailored advocacy campaigns in order to convince local authorities to support (including financially) the services for HIV/AIDS individuals and risk groups. The budgetary crisis in Romania drastically affected the success of these efforts. Nevertheless, ARAS Timisoara managed to sign a protocol with the local council in Lugoj and ARAS Bucharest gain the financial support of the Sector 3 Local Council for one project. ARAS Bucharest also filled a request for funds to the City-Hall based on the advocacy campaign plan developed together with APADOR-CH. The lessons learned during the implementation of the advocacy plans were discussed with all ARAS branches during a meeting organized by APADOR-CH in Bucharest on 8 October 2010.

 

Another result of the above-mentioned project was the drafting of a report on the state of affairs as regards the involvement of public authorities in supporting services for vulnerable groups. It was one of the first efforts to document extensively this field, which completely lacks transparency. The report was launched during a press conference, organized on 8 November and which enjoyed large press coverage both in the general media and the medical one. The report was later distributed to all county councils (42), all municipal councils (102), to central authorities with responsibilities in this area (the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor and the National Agency for Persons with Disabilities). In addition the report was distributed locally to other NGOs, decision-makers and journalists and can be read on the APADOR-CH’s own web-site.

 

During the reporting period, APADOR-CH continued to represent Roma victims of forced evictions in Tulcea in a civil case against the local authorities. This case was initiated in cooperation with ERRC and complemented a discrimination case led by APADOR-CH on behalf of the victims which was lost in 2009. After several hearings, in October 2010 the courts dismissed the civil case. APADOR-CH’s lawyers declared an appeal and the information on the case shall be sent to the European Court of Human Rights to be added to the complaint already submitted at the end of 2009.

 

On 11-12 December 2010, one representative of APADOR-CH delivered a presentation on the discrimination of HIV infected individuals in Romania during a conference organized in Moldova by the Institute for Human Rights.

 

Objective 3: Developing efficient mechanisms to ensure the rights of persons deprived of liberty

 

In the first semester of 2010 APADOR-CH participated in the working group set up by the Ministry of Justice in order to identify the best solutions for implementing the OPCAT in Romania.

**

In the second semester of 2010 APADOR-CH continued to participate in the working group set up by the Ministry of Justice in order to identify the best solutions for implementing the OPCAT in Romania. The major success of the APADOR-CH representatives was to convince the international experts of the project that the Romanian Ombudsman is not the proper institution to take over the responsibilities of the national protective mechanism. Therefore their final report issued by the Ministry of Justice in the fall of 2010 does not clearly point out to this solution, although that was the initial intention.

 

In the fall of 2010, APADOR-CH drafted a project proposal on the inclusion of the OPCAT definition of deprivation of liberty in the internal legal order. The project proposal was short listed by the CEE Trust. If funded the project shall be implemented in 2011. If no funding is secured for the project, APADOR-CH shall implement those activities that do not require extensive additional funding.

 

Objective 4: Increasing transparency of administration

 

As regards project aimed at involving the youth organizations and the young people in using the transparency laws, in the first semester of 2010 APADOR-CH developed instruments for teaching young people (high-school students) about the transparency laws, in cooperation with school inspectorates and youth organizations.

**

 

As regards project aimed at involving the youth organizations and the young people in using the transparency laws, in September-October 2010 APADOR-CH held 13 classes on civil rights and transparency in 4 high-schools in Bucharest. A brochure contacting the main provisions of the laws on transparency was also drafted and distributed to high-school students as well as to teachers in 18 high-schools in Bucharest.

 

APADOR-CH experience in this project was transferred to 22 youth NGOs, during a fall school which took place on 14-16 October 2010. A guide for the NGOs was drafted and distributed as well. 8 of the trained NGOs further implemented the project locally, by holding their own classes on transparency to high-school students. Via the 22 NGOs trained more than 5000 brochures on transparency were distributed to high-school students and teachers all over the country.

 

 

Objective 5: Improving reasoning and transparency of judicial decisions

 

During the reporting period, APADOR-CH monitored the new portal of judicial decisions, set up by the Ministry of Justice. As the portal provides little information as compared to its aims (i.e. publishing all relevant decisions), APADOR-CH prepared a request for information to be sent to the Ministry of Justice and the Superior Council of Magistrates on the matter. It shall be revised and sent out as soon as APADOR-CH forms a documented opinion based on its monitoring of the portal.

**

 

During the reporting period, APADOR-CH continued to monitor the new portal of judicial decisions, set up by the Ministry of Justice. APADOR-CH also started discussions with the National Institute for Magistrates for implementing a joint project to increase the quality of the judgements, which was not yet finalized.

 

 

Objective 6: Eliminating unjustified state interference with the NGOs’ associational life

 

APADOR-CH started to implement a project on identifying and removing legal and practical obstacles in exercising the freedom of associations via NGOs in November 2009. In the first half of 2010, APADOR-CH collected data on such obstacles via legal analysis and requests for information. A guide for interviewing NGOs was also designed and shall be use in collecting further data on the exact problems NGOs are facing.

**

APADOR-CH continued to implement the project on identifying and removing legal and practical obstacles in exercising the freedom of associations via NGOs. In July-August 2010 50 NGOs were extensively interviewed on the legal problems and state interferences they encounter during their day-to-day activities. The obtained information regarded the setting up of associations and foundations, the allowed names for NGOs, the practices on receiving donations and sponsorships, the use of volunteers, the excessive and unevenly applied requirement of obtaining fiscal records for founding members and new members of associations, the excessive obligations for NGOs under the Law on Money Laundering and the Law on Personal Data etc. All the problems identified during the interviews as well of those identified in the first semester of the year via legal analysis and request for information to courts and central authorities were put together in a catalogue of NGOs problems.

 

The problems were further discussed with NGOs’ representatives and those of the authorities in a two-days conference/workshop (5-6 October 2010). A position paper on the solution identified was drafted and used in further advocacy efforts of APADOR-CH. The paper was also distributed to NGOs and authorities and published on the association’s web-site. Seven draft laws with amendments to existing legislation affecting NGOs were also drafted. They were sent to members of Parliament and further face-to-face meeting were held with MPs, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, General Secretariat of the Government, National Fiscal Administration. These meetings resulted in 6 MPs accepting APADOR-CH’s proposals. The draft laws were lodged with the Parliament on 14 December 2010 and on 15 December 2010 APADOR-CH held a press conference in this respect.

 

The amendments to be discussed by the Parliament regard: easing the requirements for NGOs under the Law on Money Laundering and the Law on Personal Data, eliminating the written form of the contract with volunteers, eliminating the Executive’s interference with the names that can be used by NGOs, clarifying the possibility to receive small amounts of money as donations under the new Civil Code, including/increasing fiscal deductions for those donating money/concluding sponsorship contracts with NGOs.

 

In addition, APADOR-CH drafted a practical guide for NGOs on their legal obligations. 3000 copies were distributed in November-December 2010. The guide can also be found on www.apador.org.

 

According to its decision to expand its activities (in line with its strategic objectives) in the neighboring countries, in June 2010 APADOR-CH started to implement a project in partnership with CREDO Moldova. The project is aimed at improving the exercise of the freedom of assembly in Moldova, by reforming the relevant structures of the Chisinau City-Hall, as well as the Police procedures regarding public assemblies in Moldova. As part of the project, in June-July 2010 APADOR-CH and CREDO drafted a plan for a comparative study on freedom of assembly in Bucharest and Chisinau. The comparative study will be finalized in December 2010. In September 2010, APADOR-CH organized a study visit for 4 representatives of  Moldovan public authorities to their counterparts in Bucharest. The visit took place between 20-23 September 2010. On 9 and 10 December 2010, APADOR-CH participated, together with two representatives of Romanian authorities, in a monitoring visit to Chisinau.

 

 

Objective 7: Reacting to human rights threats

 

During the reporting period, the main difficulty in reacting to human rights threats was the political instability, which amounted in some cases to “political wars” between the Government and the opposition. In this context, APADOR-CH had to carefully decide whether to react or not to some statements of the politician, in order to avoid accusations of political bias.

 

On 13 April 2010, APADOR-CH protested against the National Administration of Penitentiaries’ initiative to change the framework on medical assistance of detainees. In 2006, as a result of years of APADOR-CH pressure, the legal framework had been changed so that only detainees received medical assistance from the medical prison staff. In April, the NAP initiative was aimed at reversing this important achievement, meaning the already insufficient medical staff should provide assistance to both detainees and prison staff.

 

On 28 April 2010, APADOR-CH sent comments regarding the draft order of the Ministry of Justice on the Rules on the Safety of Detention Places. The main problems identified by APADOR-CH regarded the classification of detainees as dangerous and the breaches to confidentiality of phone talks and of the meetings with the judges in charge of supervising places of detention.

 

In April 2010, APADOR-CH issued a report on the death of Sorin Parvu (in September 2009) shot dead by the police in his car, in Braila. In April 2010, the APADOR-CH representatives had a meeting with the relatives of the deceased and, as no progress was made in respect of sending the culprit to justice, decided to release its report as a form of pressuring the authorities to act.

 

In May 2010, APADOR-CH visited the arrest of the 13 Police Precinct in Bucharest, following reports on the lack of medical assistance to individuals deprived of liberty. A report on the visit was issued and sent to the competent authorities.

 

In June 2010, APADOR-CH addressed the NAP with a requested for information on the death of detainee Constantin Sandu in Galati Prison on 4 June 2010. The answered received mentioned that 11 employees of the prison are under criminal investigation for the incident. APADOR-CH shall continue to monitor the case.

 

On 24 June 2010, APADOR-CH joined a protest initiated by Active Watch against the mentioning of the media in the National Strategy on Defence, as a threat to national security. APADOR-CH decided to join the protest of media organizations although it already prepared its own protest, in order to increase impact. Nevertheless APADOR-CH shall monitor the strategy once in the Parliament on its own and pressure the MPs to eliminate any reference to the media as a threat to national security.

 

During the reporting period, APADOR-CH continued the challenge the authorities’ lack of investigations into the accusations of Romania being a part of the CIA rendition program. One aim of APADOR-Ch was to obtain the declassification of the annexes to the Senatorial Commission of Enquiry into the allegations. In this respect, at first APADOR-CH had to identify the authority which classified them. This process proved difficult and resulted in addressing a new set of FOI requests on the matter to: the Ministry of Defence, the Baneasa Airport, the Mihail Kogalniceanu Airport, the National Company of Airports – Bucharest (the state company managing the two airports based in/around Bucharest: Henry Coanda – Otopeni and Baneasa).

The only authority to answer the request was Mihail Kogalniceanu Airport, but the answer did not match the one previously obtained one (from the Senate). Therefore a new request was sent to the Senate, but the answer received did not shed any light on the matter. On short, both the Senate and the Airport claimed the other institution hold the annexes and was the original source of their classification. Nobody seems to know where the documents on which the Senatorial enquiry report was based actually are. In respect of the rest of the requests, APADOR-CH shall initiate court proceedings in July 2010.

On another hand, APADOR-CH continued the enforcement proceedings against the Civil Aeronautical Authority who was forced by a court order to disclose information on the flights allegedly included in the rendition circuits in Romania, following a case initiated by APADOR-CH. As the first instance court found against APADOR-CH in December 2009, during the reporting period APADOR-CH filed the appeal.

**

During the reporting period, the main difficulty in reacting to human rights threats continued to be the political instability, which amounted in some cases to “political wars” between the Government and the opposition. In this context, APADOR-CH had to carefully decide whether to react or not to some statements of the politicians, in order to avoid accusations of political bias.

 

One of the APADOR-CH’s main concerns during the reporting period was related to the legislation on the identification cards and that on medical card, to include, in the future, biometric and other personal data. On one hand the authorities did not provide any guarantee in respect of safeguarding the right to private life once this system is in place. On the other hand various religious groups expressed objections to having such electronic identification cards due to their religious beliefs. Nevertheless, the authorities ignored such complaints and did not provide alternatives for such persons (as it was the case with biometric passports, where one can obtain a temporary passport without biometric data included).

 

In respect of the electronic identification card, on 16 August 2010 APADOR-CH requested the Ministry of Interior and Administration to organize a public debate on the draft Government Ordinance on these cards. It also publicly protested (on 20 August) against the initiative to pass such legislation via a Government Ordinance and issued its comments on the draft. The public debate was held on 20 August 2010 and led to the withdrawal of the draft Ordinance, which was transformed into a draft law to be discussed by the Parliament. The draft-law included the possibility of opting between an electronic card and a classic one, without biometric data. At this point, the new draft is about to be sent to the Parliament.

 

In respect of the electronic medical card, a draft Government Decision on starting public procurement proceedings was published on 3 September 2010. Without respected the dead-line for public debate, on 8 September 2010 the Government adopted the decision. On 9 September 2010 APADOR-CH publicly protested against this violation of the Law on transparency.

 

On 9 November 2010, APADOR-CH asked the Ministry of Health to organize a public debate over the draft Government Ordinance to modify the Law on Health, which included provisions on the electronic medical card. The debate was organized on 18 November 2010 and APADOR-CH both participated and sent its comments on the draft. It also protested against the plan to adopt provisions which limit the rights of the individual via a Government Ordinance. Until the present the draft was not adopted and there were promises from the officials of the Ministry that a right to opt between the electronic and the classic card shall be included.

 

On 17 August 2010, APADOR-CH addressed the members of the parliamentary commissions discussing the National Defence Strategy with the request to eliminate any reference to the media as a vulnerability to the national security.

 

At the end of September 2010 APADOR-CH received complaints from the families of several detainees from Targsor Penitentiary, that on 20 September 2010 around 10 detainees were aggressed and then transferred to other prisons. On 22 September 2010 APADOR-CH addressed the National Administration of Penitentiaries on the issue, receiving the official position on 6 October 2010. One of the detainees lodged a criminal complaint for aggression. APADOR-CH continues to monitor the case, being in contact with the respective families.

 

On 25 September 2010, APADOR-CH joined a protest initiated by four Romanian media NGOs against the draft European Directive on combating child pornography. This directive contained provisions on blocking access to web-sites (leading to a form of censorship of the Internet). The organizations propose that such web-sites should be deleted and gave examples of banking phishing sites, which are deleted on average in 4 hours. The child pornography sites are, at present deleted on average in 4 days. The inefficiency of the authorities’ response in case of child pornography should not lead to measures that can open the door to the increased censorship of the Internet.

 

On 30 September 2010 protested against the draft order of the Ministry of Health, limiting the access to public information. Until the present the order has not been adopted. On 11 November 2010 APADOR-CH issued a press release, protesting against the brutalities of the gendarmes against the football supporters during a match in Bucharest.

 

On 15 November APADOR-CH joined the initiative of Publish What You Fund (London) to push for aid transparency and mutual accountability at the European level, by signing a letter addressed to European commissioners Ashton, Piebalgs and Georgieva. On 30 November 2010, APADOR-CH joined Access-Info Europe and Regards Citoyens in a protest against the newly proposed amendment to the French national security law will severely damage the right of access to information and would also create more obstacles for the development of a French open government data movement. This included addressing a letter to the French MPs discussing the proposed amendment.

 

As regards, APADOR-CH’s efforts to the challenge the authorities’ lack of investigations into the accusations of Romania being a part of the CIA rendition program, in July 2010 APADOR-CH lodged court complaints on the refusals of several authorities (the Senate, Mihail Koglaniceanu and Baneasa Airport and the Ministry of Defence) to release information on the institution that classified the annexes to the Senatorial Commission of Enquiry into the allegations as well as on the whereabouts of these documents (for the moment every authority involved claims they do not hold them). The first hearings were scheduled for April 2011. Once APADOR-CH obtains such information it can start the declassification procedures. As regards the enforcement proceedings against the Civil Aeronautical Authority who was forced by a court order to disclose information on the flights allegedly included in the rendition circuits in Romania, APADOR-CH’s appeal was dismissed on 23 September 2010. During the reporting period APADOR-CH also had several discussions and meetings on future steps to be taken with representatives of Open Society Justice Initiative, Reprieve and Amnesty International.

 

In respect of people addressing APADOR-CH with problems related to human rights, between September and 15 December 2010, around 75 individuals received legal advice on submitting complaints to the European Court of Human Rights in direct meetings. The activity of providing advice via letters also continued.

 

APADOR-CH also continued to represent victims of human rights violations in previously initiated cases. In the case of Mr. Garcea subjected to repeated abuses, as well as lack of medical treatment while in detention, which led to his death, APADOR-CH continued the domestic procedures against the prosecutor’s decision not to start criminal investigations against the medical staff of the prison. The first instance court rejected APADOR-CH’s complaint on 11 November 2010. An appeal was consequently lodged. By the end of December 2010 APADOR-CH will also lodge a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. It shall be a test case as Mr. Garcea has no relatives and APADOR-CH shall lodge the complaint on his behalf. Normally such a case is considered inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights, but if the right of a human rights NGO to be an applicant is denied, it means violations of the right to life where there are no relatives of the victim remain unsanctioned.

 

APADOR-CH also continued to represent Mr. Marinescu in domestic procedures regarding his ill-treatment by the Police. In September 2010 the first instance court decided to resend the case to the prosecutor office for starting a criminal investigation. The policemen’s appeal was denied on 18 November 2010.