Romanian Equality Watchdog Rules Anti- Romani Speech by Romanian Politician is Discriminatory
3 April 2006
In a decision dated 17 January 2006, and communicated to the ERRC on 14 February 2006, the National Council for Combating Discrimination has ruled that an anti-Romani speech made by the leader of the extreme right Greater Romania Party was in breach of Romanian anti-discrimination law. The ruling was brought in response to an open letter sent by the European Roma Rights Centre to the Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and other high governmental officials on 26 August 2005. The letter had been forwarded by the Prime Minister's Office to the National Council for Combating Discrimination, the Romanian administrative body charged with implementing anti-discrimination law in Romania, which then decided to launch an investigation into the allegations.
The ERRC letter referred to the outbreak of hate speech in relation to Roma in a large segment of the Romanian media, as well as by prominent politicians, following the release by the European Court of Human Rights of the two judgments in the Moldovan and others v. Romania case in July 2005. That case concerned the 1993 pogrom in the village of Hadareni, during which three Romani men were killed and eighteen Romani houses were destroyed. The Strasbourg Court held on that occasion that the Romanian government was in breach of a number of articles of the European Convention.
The ERRC referred in particular to a speech made by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extreme right Greater Romania Party, the third largest party in Romania, which was aired on a public radio station and published in the party's newspaper and on its Internet website. In that speech, Mr. Vadim Tudor stated that during the 1993 pogrom the Romanians were just defending their "honor" against the "gypsy rapists and thieves" who wanted to "slaughter" them. Mr. Vadim Tudor accused the state authorities of failing to protect the "peaceful villagers" against the "bloody anger of a few brutes". He continued by calling on all Romanians to "protect [their] brothers in the wounded heart of Transylvania" against "the gypsy attacks and raids". The ERRC asked the Romanian Prime Minister to initiate legal action against Mr. Vadim Tudor for incitement to racial hatred in accordance with applicable domestic and international legislation.
In a very elaborate decision in which it made extensive use of arguments drawn from international human rights law, the National Council for Combating Discrimination held that Mr. Vadim Tudor's utterances constituted "discriminatory acts" in the sense of the Romanian anti-discrimination law. To reach this conclusion, the Council noted that "the right to free speech is not an absolute right and that its exercise must be in accordance with certain conditions, especially in view of the consideration and protection due to human dignity". The use by Mr. Vadim Tudor of derogatory terms in relation to persons of Roma ethnicity was in breach of their human dignity and it created a 'humiliating atmosphere towards a group of persons or a community, based on their appurtenance to the Romani ethnicity". Mr. Vadim Tudor has been however shielded from any sanction by his parliamentarian immunity.
While saluting the decision given by the National Council for Combating Discrimination, the ERRC wishes to draw attention to the fact that the Romanian authorities have thus far failed in their duty to implement the Moldovan judgments of the Strasbourg Court. The community development strategy initiated by the Government in accordance with its obligations arising from the friendly settlement in the case has reportedly been shelved. Furthermore, the legal suits regarding the damages due to the victims of the pogrom are still pending in domestic courts, and that issue therefore remains unresolved thirteen years after the incidents took place. Finally, a significant number of the perpetrators of the pogrom, including law enforcement officials, as well as those authorities who for over a decade obstructed justice, still remain unpunished despite the July 2005 ruling by the Strasbourg Court.