Tech & Rights

Romania Struggles to Implement Independent National Preventive Mechanism against Torture

Romania is taking steps toward implementing a truly independent National Preventive Mechanism against Torture in a way that would circumvent transparency and civil society input.

by The Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee

Romania is the only country in the world that asked the United Nations for an additional period of five years for the implementation of a truly independent National Preventive Mechanism against Torture. In spite of the extended deadline, the signatories below fear that this will be just another example of a failed goal. Still, if the government decides to draw up a last-minute and non-transparent relevant regulation, there is the risk of having a National Preventive Mechanism controlled by the state, which will lead to an exponential increase in the already-numerous violations of human rights in detention facilities, and in the number of case filed before the ECtHR.

According to the UN Committee against Torture, Romania is the only country in the world to have requested two extensions for setting up an independent National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). The most recent deadline granted to Romania is in August 2014, i.e. five years after Romania’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). During these five years, the Romanian government has delayed the adoption of a normative act that would effectively implement the commitments undertaken in terms of combating torture. It has also refused to take into account civil society’s requests and has become focused on creating the NPM within the People’s Advocate (Romanian Ombudsman).

There are currently two proposals regarding the establishment of an NPM. One of these was initiated in the Senate, properly consulting civil society and significantly involving interested NGOs. This draft law 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.

However, less than two months before the expiry date of the deadline set by the UN, the Romanian government has decided, in its meeting on June 18, to postpone the adoption of an opinion on the setting up of the independent mechanism (Opinion 7).

Meanwhile, the government is preparing its own proposal regarding the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism. This process is not transparent and, given our previous experiences, we fear that it will again lead to the adoption of an emergency ordinance, thus eluding a consultation with the civil society.

We hereby ask the Romanian government to refrain from adopting an emergency ordinance on the implementation of the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture without first consulting all members of civil society, including the representatives of the children and adults with disabilities who are 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 treatment in social welfare centers, health centers and detention facilities. 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 yet improved.

In April 2014, at the debate held by CLR on the independent mechanism, the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, stated: “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 as the body functioning as an NPM, violating its international obligations, we address Prime Minister Victor Viorel Ponta with the following requests:

    ·To publish the emergency ordinance together with the motivation of its urgency of its adoption, taking into consideration that a relevant 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 and complaint settling, taking into consideration the fact that this institution is known for being reactionary and not having a proactive, preventive attitude.

The setting up of a National Prevention Mechanism by the Romanian government 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.

During 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 Defense 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

Signatories:

CLR

APADOR-CH

The Foundation for the Development of Civil Society (Fundaţia pentru Dezvoltarea Societăţii Civile)

The Estuar Foundation (Fundaţia Estuar)

Pro ACT Suport Association

Euroregional Center for Public Initiative (ECPI)

ACCEPT

The Institute for Public Policies

Ceva de Spus (Something to Tell)

The Center for Media Ivestigations (Centrul de Investigaţii Media)

Motivation România

Autism România

Prison Fellowship Romania

The National Organization of Disabled People from Romania (Organizaţia Naţională a Persoanelor cu Handicap din România)

Dizabnet – The network of service providers for people with disabilities

European Center for the Rights of Children with Disabilities

"One Voice for Disability" Coalition

”Napsugár az esőben” Association

Aripi (Wings)

The Humanitarian Association Carmen

The Association for the support of physically disabled children Romania, Argeș

Don Orione Association

Alba Iulia Orthodox Philanthropy Association

Alba Iulia Orthodox Philanthropy Association - Sf Meletie Center

The Association for People with Physical Disabilities Miercurea Ciuc

Hans Spalinger Simeria Association

The Association for Equal opportunities ”Condorul” Galați

The National Association of Sign Language Interpreters

The Association of the Blind Romania - Brasov

The Association of the Blind from Romania - Constanta-Tulcea

The Association for People with Disabilities "Sporting Club" Galati

The Association for People with Disabilities from Oltenia

Phoenix Carita Association and Phoenix Carita Bicaz Foundation

Phoenix Speranta Mediaş Association

Prader Willi România Association

RESTART Association

The Romanian Association for People with Mental Disabilities ARPEHAM" Mediaş

Szentkirályi Stephanie Egyesület Association

The Foundation for Youth Bistrița

Vincero Association

Associatione Universitaria per la Cooperzione Internationale (AUCI)

Speranța, the Foundation for Local Development

PARRO Romania Federation

Inginerii Speran'ei Foundation

The Christian Foundation Diakonia

Estuar Cluj Foundation

Împreună Foundation

Orban Odorheiu Secuiesc Foundation

Pentru Voi Timişoara Foundation

Ruhama Oradea Foundation

Sf. Dimitrie Foundation

Speranței Hospice Huse

Caritas Alba Iulia

CaritasOradea

Caritas Zalau

Caritas Bistrița

The Organization for Children and Adults with Special Needs "Trebuie" - Fetesti

The Swedish Organization for Individual Humanitarian Help

Romanian Society Speranta Timişoara

ASCOTID

Benone

ELI

HIFA România - Help for all

The Association of People with Physical Disabilities from the Mures County

The Association for a Successful Life

Rază de Soare (Ray of Light)

Alături de Voi (Close to You) Foundation

Alpha Transilvana Foundation

The Christian Foundation RHEMA

Mâini Dibace Foundation

Rheum Care Foundation