CIVICUS

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Last updated on 02.11.2018 at 09:07

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Police charged for unjustified use of violence, as Romanian politicians blame protestors

Police charged for unjustified use of violence, as Romanian politicians blame protestors

In late September, Romanian prosecutors charged a number of senior police officers over the use of violence during a protest in Bucharest on 10th August.

Peaceful Assembly

As the CIVICUS Monitor previously reported, on 10th August 2018 a mass protest against corruption in Bucharest turned violent when riot police moved against protesters using force and tear gas. According to news outlet Romania Insider, over 650 people filed complaints against the police after the incidents.

Leading figures in the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) defended the police’s actions saying that the presence of a number of violent protesters justified the forceful intervention. PSD officials also accused the organisers of the protest of trying to remove the elected government in a coup d'etat.

In mid-September 2018 the party called for an investigation into alleged external funding of the protest and called on authorities to investigate whether protesters planned violence before the rally. Later in the month, the head of Romania's riot police and three senior officials were charged by prosecutors over the unjustified use of violence against protesters.

The conclusion PSD politicians appear to have drawn from the events is that both freedom of expression and freedom of assembly need to be "better regulated" in Romania. Reports indicate that authorities plan to regulate and control social networks and amend the law on public assembly - so that in the future it will not suffice to simply notify the local authorities about a planned gathering.

Concerns are growing within the EU over Romanian politicians' attempts to undermine the rule of law and democracy. European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans has warned the Romanian government that it might end up in court if it continues with reforms aimed at limiting the independence of judges and prosecutors and curtailing the nation’s fight against corruption.

Association

People in Romania are able to form associations to advance their interests, generally without interference from the state.

People in Romania are able to form associations to advance their interests, generally without interference from the state. The constitution guarantees freedom of association, and the principal regulation governing CSOs is the Governmental Ordinance 26/2000, which was substantially amended by Law 246/2005. The law states that any organisation must register in a court and the procedure is fairly simple. There are no limitations on CSOs’ sources of income. Most human rights defenders can operate without interference, however on occasion organisations critical of the government face hostile treatment and can become the targets of smear campaigns. As a consequence, some NGOs have refrained from performing advocacy, fearing retribution from politicians.

Peaceful Assembly

People in Romania are generally able to assemble peacefully in public places and they do so frequently and across the country.

People in Romania are generally able to assemble peacefully in public places and they do so frequently and across the country. In November 2015 for example tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against public sector corruption, highlight the deaths of 32 people in a nightclub fire and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta. In 2014, thousands gathered in the city of Cluj demanding the resignation of Minister Corlăţean, while many environmental protests in opposition to the Roșia Montană project. Law no. 60/1991 regulates public gatherings and requires prior notice for demonstrations. The law prohibits ‘hindering the regular use of public roads and public transportation’ and imposes fines on protestors who breach the law.

Expression

Freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, while defamation and insult were removed as criminal offences in Romania with the adoption of the new Romanian Criminal Code in 2014.

Freedom of expression is protected by the constitution, while defamation and insult were removed as criminal offences in Romania with the adoption of the new Romanian Criminal Code in 2014. Private media is dominated by business people with links to political parties. Such ownership structures influence editorial lines and causes news coverage to be politically biased. While journalists in Romania are able to work without major interference, they are subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation. An economic crisis has negatively impacted the sustainability of private media outlets, and there are now very few investigative journalists working in Romania.