Police harassment in Romania

15 May 1998

The ERRC continues to receive regular reports of police abuse of Roma in Romania. Most recently, at 3:10 pm on March 16, 1998, police officers came to the home of a Romani man named Gheorghe Notar. Mr Notar is known in Tîrgu-Mureş for persisting in his efforts to achieve legal remedy in connection with the serious ill-treatment of his son by police inJuly 1996. Mr Notar was standing in front of his house when the officers arrived. The officers allegedly told Mr Notar that he should present himself as a witness in a case of theft which had occurred in the neighbourhood. They then pushed Mr Notar aside, forcibly entered his house, and demanded that the men inside, Cãlin Berar, Florin Cioc and Chirilã Morar, all of whom except the latter are Roma, present their identification papers. The officers offered no explanation for their request. Upon being shown the requested documents, the police officers reportedly kept the papers and ordered the three men to present themselves at the police station at 8 am on March 18, 1998.

At 8 am on March 18, Mr Berar, Mr Cioc and Mr Morar went to the police station as instructed. There, police officers asked them to sign a statement dictated to them about the way in which the two police officers had entered the house of Mr Notar. According to this statement, the police had come to the house in question because they had been called there. The men refused to sign this statement, as it was not true. After approximately one and a half hours of questioning, the police returned the IDs to the three men and they were released without being charged. The ERRC sent a letter of concern to Chief of the Mureş County Police Vasile Cotoarã on March 23, 1998, asking for comment on the incident. Thus far, we have not received a response. In response to a letter sent by the local human rights organisation Liga Pro Europa concerning the same incident, however, the Mureş County Police wrote on March 24, 1998, that criminal proceedings against the two police officers had been launched, and that the case would be forwarded to the military prosecutor as soon as the police had concluded its investigation. On April 15, 1998, the police informed Liga Pro Europa that they had forwarded the case (file 126/b/1993) to the Mureş County Military Prosecutor’s Office. The ERRC is following the case closely.

The ERRC is aware of several other instances of abuse of Roma by the Tîrgu-Mureş police. One series of incidents began on December 17, 1997, when a 27-year-old Romani man named Sebastian Muntean was reportedly ill-treated during detention. According to the testimony of the victim, he was caught by a crowd accusing him of theft at around noon that day, then arrested and brought to the police station where Officer C. and others beat him with wooden sticks on the back, stomach and legs. During the evening meal the same day, MrMuntean broke and swallowed a piece of a spoon in order to be brought to the hospital and to escape further beating by the police.

According to a letter dated February 10, 1998, from Police Chief of Tîrgu-Mureş Vasile Cotoarã to Liga Pro Europa, MrMuntean had not been subjected to any physical abuse during arrest. The police confirmed that Mr Muntean had swallowed the handle of a spoon, but explained the motive behind this act of self-mutilation as a simple wish of the detainee to be released. According to the ERRC’s inform-ation, a criminal investigation against Mr Muntean, who was released on December 22, 1997, is open.

Mr Muntean and his family again became the subject of police abuse on February 5, 1998, in Satul Nou near Braşov, approximately 150 kilometres south-east of Tîrgu-Mureş, when a group of police officers reportedly came to the house of Maria Muntean, Sebastian Muntean’s mother, asking her about her son’s whereabouts and claiming that he had been involved in a theft in Braşov that day. When told that Sebastian was not at home, the police allegedly beat MsMuntean and Sebastian’s wife Andra Albert.

Sebastian then reportedly returned from the forest where he had gone for wood at the time of the police visit at his mother’s house. Upon seeing the police as he approached the house, however, he ran into fields nearby and hid. He stayed in the fields until 6:00 the following morning, as a result of which his both legs became frostbitten and he had to be hospitalised from February 7 to 26, 1998. According to information received by the ERRC, the damage sustained by Mr Muntean to his legs may warrant that his both legs be amputated.

Another instance of abuse by the Tîrgu-Mureş police took place at around 8.30pm on August 11, 1997, when a Romani man named Liviu Cioc was seriously ill-treated by police officers A.H. and V.P. According to testimony provided by Mr Cioc’s wife Rodica Arman, they were visiting a family member in the village of Orsova Padure in Mureş County, when four police officers, A.H., P.C., D.F., I.R., and a civilian named V.P., all allegedly under the influence of alcohol, forcibly entered the house, saying that they were looking for Danuþ Cioc, another member of the family. When Liviu Cioc told the intruders that Danuþ had moved to another village, officers A.H. and V.P. reportedly grabbed him and started beating him with their fists. When Ms Arman attempted to intervene and aid her husband, the policemen beat her as well. The police officers also beat their daughter Liliana who was lying sick in bed. The officers then allegedly pulled Liviu Cioc out of the house, and while continuing to beat and kick him all over his body, forced him into their car and drove him to a remote place outside the village where they left him by the side of the road.

Mr Cioc managed to get back to his house the same night and went to the hospital the following day. He was admitted to Tîrgu-Mureş County Hospital and remained there from August 12 to 22, 1997. According to medical certificate No. 3043 dated August 12, 1997, issued by the Legal Forensic Institute of Tîrgu-Mureş, his injuries required 22-24 days of medical treatment.

Mr Cioc reportedly filed a complaint against the police during the time he was hospitalised on August 12. On September 13, 1997, however, Mr Cioc was visited by a group including police officers - among them the ones who had ill-treated Mr Cioc previously - the civilian V.P., and the mayors of Idiciu and Ibãneºti, the villages in which the Cioc family lives and the local police station is located, respectively. These put Mr Cioc under strong pressure to sign a declaration stating that Officer V.P. would pay him 4 million Romanian lei in exchange for him not pursuing the case.

Mr Cioc turned to the Liga Pro Europa for help in late March, 1998, providing the organisation with a copy of his original complaint against the police, filed with the Military Prosecutor’s Office in August 1997, along with a cassette containing half-an-hour of recorded evidence of the visit on September 13, 1997. The Liga Pro Europa sent the cassette to the Military Pro-secutor’s Office of Tîrgu-Mureş County on April 9, 1998, expressing concern about the police conduct and asking to be informed of the status of the case. On April 14, 1998, the Military Prosecutor’s Office informed the Liga Pro Europa that based on the new evidence submitted by them, the office had re-opened the previously closed investigation into the incident. The ERRC is following the case closely.

Police abuse in Romania, especially police abuse of Roma, is the subject of a report released by Amnesty International on April 21. The same day, both Prime Minister Radu Vasile and Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu rejected the report. Vasile and Dejeu acknowledged that there have been “isolated cases” of police violence against detainees but said they were “isolated instances” such as can also be found in western democracies. Dejeu added that “disciplinary measures” have been taken against the perpetrators. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assem-bly’s Special Rapporteur for Romania Gunnar Jansson said the Amnesty report was “well founded” and its conclusions “coincide in many points” with his own. The Assembly is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to place Romania once again on its special monitoring list, following a one-year conditional susp-ension which ended on April 26 this year.

(ERRC, Liga Pro Europa, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)

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