Horizontal Rule

Roma Rights 1, 2010: Implementation of Judgments

26th, July, 2010


The Mendacious Government: Implementation of the Romanian Pogrom Judgments

István Haller1

Introduction

Following the collapse of communism in Romania and until the middle of the 1990s, about 30 incidents of mob violence were committed against the Romani community.2 Hundreds of houses were burnt and several people were lynched: a total of 11 people died. In some instances authorities were present but did not effectively intervene to prevent the significant or fatal results.3 Even later, the authorities refused to address the complaints of the victims which were filed several times with the support of human rights NGOs.

The present article analyses three of the four cases which were resolved before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR or the Court) through friendly settlements.4 These cases were investigated and promoted by the author while working for Pro Europa League in Tîrgu-Mureş and taken up by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) after 1997.

The friendly settlements

The first judgment of the ECtHR in a case of mob violence against Roma was handed down on 5 July 2005 in the case of Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1.5 The Romanian Government, to avoid a substantive judgment establishing the violation of human rights on a discriminatory basis against Roma, and to avoid the establishment of a precedent, made a generous offer by way of settlement. Some of the Romani applicants (18 persons) accepted the friendly settlement but some of them refused (7 persons). The case was resolved in two separate judgments: one by way of friendly settlement and one establishing a violation of human rights and discrimination against Roma by State authorities.6

The friendly settlement awarded a total of 262,000 EUR to the 18 victims; the Government expressed its regret7 and promised to adopt measures to combat discrimination:

In particular, the Government will undertake to adopt the following general measures:

  • enhancing the educational programs for preventing and fighting discrimination against Roma within the school curricula in the Hădăreni community, Mureş county;
  • drawing up programs for public information and for removing the stereotypes, prejudices and practices towards the Roma community in the Mureş public institutions competent for the Hădăreni community;
  • initiating programs of legal education together with the members of the Roma communities;
  • supporting positive changes in the public opinion of the Hădăreni community concerning Roma, on the basis of tolerance and the principle of social solidarity;
  • stimulating Roma participation in the economic, social, educational, cultural and political life of the local community in Mureş County, by promoting mutual assistance and community development projects;
  • implementing programs to rehabilitate housing and the environment in the community;
  • identifying, preventing and actively solving conflicts likely to generate family, community or inter-ethnic violence.

Furthermore, the Government will undertake to prevent similar problems arising in the future by carrying out adequate and effective investigations and by adopting social, economic, educational and political policies in the future to improve the conditions of the Roma community, in accordance with the existing strategy of the Government in this respect. In particular, it shall undertake general measures as required by the specific needs of the Hădăreni community in order to facilitate the general settlement of the case, also taking into account the steps which have already been taken with this aim, namely the rebuilding of some of the destroyed houses.8

In the two other cases - Kalanyos and Others v Romania9 and Gergely v Romania10 - the victims11 refused the friendly settlement. However, the Court considered that it was no longer justified in continuing the examination of the application and ruled in April 2007 that the applicants must accept the settlement.

In terms of practical impact, the friendly settlements in these two cases are identical to the friendly settlement in the case of Moldovan and Others v Romania, with the following differences:

  •  “initiating programs of legal education together with the members of the Roma communities” was changed to “ensure the eradication of racial discrimination within the Romanian judicial system”;
  • after the sentence “implement programs to rehabilitate housing and the environment in the community”, the following was added: “in particular by earmarking sufficient financial resources for the compensation”; and
  • the last paragraph (“Furthermore, the Government will undertake [...]”) is missing.12

Short analysis of the friendly settlements

Some of the measures are directed towards the majority population (combating discrimination); while other measures are aimed at the Romani population (stimulating Roma participation in economic, social, educational, cultural and political life, by promoting mutual assistance and community development projects; and implementing programmes to rehabilitate housing and the environment in the community).

Although this distinction is clear enough, the sphere of beneficiaries remains unclear. Could those victims who were forced to leave their villages by the majority population benefit from the programmes established by the friendly settlement in Hădăreni case? By the later interpretation of the Government,13 they could not.14 The Government’s programme would benefit only the present villagers. Ultimately, the perpetrators and residents who were not affected by the conflicts became beneficiaries according to this interpretation.

No action has been taken with regard to the promise to “enhance the educational programs for preventing and fighting discrimination against Roma within the school curricula” in the affected communities. In fact, this appears to be impossible because in Romania the administration of education is centralised; the school curriculum is decided by the Ministry of Education, for all schools, from which exceptions are not allowed.

Implementation of Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1 until 2008

After the judgment became public in July 2005, Pro Europa League informed the Romanian Government (through the National Agency for Roma)15 of its obligation to implement the settlement. In October of the same year, a large group of representatives from different ministries and other public authorities, together with NGO experts, visited Hădăreni to determine local needs from various aspects for the future programme to implement the judgment.

After one month, implementation began through a community development programme in Hădăreni, which was designed under the umbrella of the National Agency for Roma and sent to the Government for approval. Approval was delayed and in January 2006 (6 months after the ECtHR judgment was issued) Pro Europa League sent a letter to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and also informed the government about this.16

On 19 April 2006, Government Decision no. 523 approved the community development programme in Hădăreni, Mureş County, for 2006-2008, but the Government omitted to provide a budget for the programme’s implementation. In response, Pro Europa League sent a new letter informing the Committee of Ministers of this development one year after the judgment was issued.

Finally, in September 2006 the Government allocated a budget and the programme started. Various aspects of the programme, implemented during the last three months of 2006, were carried out mostly by NGOs: they offered short training programmes for police officers, prosecutors, judges, teachers and medical staff; organised intercultural activities in the village Hădăreni; and organised field visits to other multicultural regions in Romania. Although the ECtHR judgment required the implementation of “programmes to rehabilitate housing and the environment in the community” which was interpreted as introducing electricity, natural gas and drinking water; no infrastructural development was undertaken.

At the end of the year, the budget was not fully spent given the late start of the programme; the unspent budget was returned to the Government and all activity was stopped.

On 11 July 2007, the Romanian Government issued a new decree17 changing some aspects of the programme and transferring responsibility for implementation from the National Agency for Roma to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The funds required for implementation were provided only in October. Subsequently, the programme of preventing and combating discrimination carried out from September – December 2006 was abandoned in favour of infrastructural developments. The most important activities benefited the community at large but not specifically the Romani victims of the pogrom who compose a small portion of the community: the local community centre,18 kindergarten and school were renovated; eight kilometres of road were paved; water was provided to 50 houses; and electricity was connected to 15 houses (12 of the houses receiving water and electricity belonged to Romani families). Only seven Romani houses were renovated although 14 houses had been burnt and another four destroyed during the 20 September 1993 pogrom in Hădăreni. When bad weather hit the region in November and December of that year, even UNDP recognised that the renovations were of very poor quality.19

The most important elements of the programme - rebuilding Romani houses, creating job opportunities for Roma and connecting Romani houses to infrastructure - have not been implemented effectively or fully. The National Agency for Roma established the needs of the community using a focus group of 15 villagers: 5 Romanian, 5 Hungarian and 5 Roma. Thus, with the Roma as a minority in the consultation process, most of the resulting activities did not benefit Roma specifically. Concerning employment, for example, health mediator positions for Roma were planned: six mediators were appointed but only one (an ethnic Hungarian person) was later engaged because it was considered that this was sufficient according to local needs and because there were no funds to pay the salaries.

The government’s practice of making the budget available only in the last months of the year (October, November) in 2006 and 2007 made the realisation of the main objectives of the programme impossible.20

Hunger strike for the implementation of the judgments

In 2008, the Government tried to completely abandon the programme. The author of this article made several statements at different governmental meetings advocating for the implementation of the Government’s commitments but these were without effect. In July of that year, the author announced that he would start a hunger strike in September if by that time the Government did not provide the necessary budget to continue the implementation of the judgment Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1 and to start implementation of the April 2007 judgments in Kalanyos and Others v Romania and Gergely v Romania.

In late August a representative of the government informed the author during a telephone conversation that the situation was resolved. In mid-September a meeting was organised in Bucharest at the UNDP office in the presence of Romanian media, Hădăreni villagers and NGOs to reaffirm the implementation of the programme.

On 2 October 2008, a high-ranking representative of the National Agency for Roma informed the author that the meeting was only a show, that the Government had not approved the requisite budget and that it would not soon be made available. The author immediately started a hunger strike. After 8 days, the Government signed a protocol with NGOs, promising that the judgments would be implemented and that it would find a way for the funds remaining at the end of 2008 to be used in 2009 instead of being returned to the Government, as had happened previously.

Implementation of Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1 from late 2008

With the budget provided after the hunger strike, in October 2008 UNDP restarted implementation of the programme in the village of Hădăreni. However, the promised houses and jobs for Roma were not provided. Instead, the money was spent on a second renovation of the school and the community centre due to substandard work done during the first renovation. At the end of 2008, the unspent funds were returned to the State budget. After that, implementation of the programme was stopped. Although a Council of Europe delegation visited Romania in May 2009, their report has not been published to date. No Council of Europe sanctions have been applied to Romania and no other organisation has been able to apply sufficient pressure on the Romanian Government to resolve the situation.

Implementation of Kalanyos and Others v Romania and Gergely v Romania from late 2008 

On 8 October 2008, the Romanian Government issued Decision no. 128321 approving a community development programme in the villages of Plăieşii de Sus and Casinu Nou, Harghita county, where the pogroms addressed in these cases took place.

In the framework of this decision, the National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD), not the Government, allocated a budget of 100,000 EUR for its implementation. The NCCD used these funds to organise short training programmes for police officers, teachers, judges and prosecutors, and ordered a feasibility study regarding the local infrastructure and job creation opportunities. The results of the feasibility study were sent to the Government but implementation of the programme was stopped.

Conclusion

In short, it could be concluded that the Romanian Government has hardly implemented the ECtHR judgments in these anti-Roma pogrom cases at all. What it achieved, without significant impact,22 came long after the judgment and did not particularly benefit the Romani victims, who remain without houses to date, without important facilities and also without the promised jobs. Several victims, who could not recover their losses, have left Romania to start a new life in Western European countries. Instead, the Government spent important resources on a small level of community infrastructure developments in an effort to create the impression of genuinely complying with the judgment.

The Council of Europe, although informed of this situation through communications of the ERRC and others to the Committee of Ministers,23 has not taken any actions against the Romanian authorities. Meanwhile, the Court has imposed another “friendly settlement” on the Romani pogrom victims in Tănase and Others v Romania. These facts clearly indicate to the Romanian Government that it can abandon the implementation of these judgments with impunity.

Endnotes: 

  1. István Haller is a human rights activist from Romania. He analysed the mob violence against Roma as a journalist (1990-1993) and supported the victims as director of Pro Europa League’s Human Rights Office (1993-2007). He is now a member of Romania’s National Council for Combating Discrimination’s steering board. The National Council to Combat Discrimination is an independent State authority responsible for implementing European anti-discrimination directives.
  2. It is likely that several cases remain unknown. The cases documented by human rights organisations include the following: Vârghiş (24 December 1989), Reghin (29 January 1990), Turulung (11 January 1990), Lunga (5 February 1990), Casinul Nou (12 August 1990), Cuza Vodă (7 October 1990), Mihail Kogălniceanu (9 October 1990), Bolintin Deal (6-7 April 1991), Ogrezeni (16-18 May 1991), Bolintin Vale (18 May 1991), Găiseni (5 June 1991), Plăieşii de Sus (9 June 1991), Cărpiniş (17 March 1993), Hădăreni (20 September 1993), Racşa (29 May 1994) and Bâcu (7-8 January 1995). Other undocumented cases were reported later.
  3. European Roma Rights Centre, Sudden Rage at Dawn - Violence Against Roma in Romania (Budapest: European Roma Rights Centre, 1996).
  4. For the fourth judgment Tănase and Others v Romania (Application no. 62954/00), the Government did not made any steps toward implementation.
  5. European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1, Application nos. 41138/98 and 64320/01, 5 July 2005. The case is known also as the Hădăreni case, after the name of the village in Mureş county in which the incident took place.
  6. The friendly settlement refers to the Romani population in Hădăreni, not only to those who accepted the friendly settlement. Thus, the second group of victims are also entitled to the measures outlined in the friendly settlement.
  7. ECtHR, Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1, Application nos. 41138/98 and 64320/01, 5 July 2005. “The Government sincerely regrets the failure of the criminal investigation to clarify fully the circumstances which led to the destruction of the applicants’ homes and possessions, which left them living in improper conditions thus obliging a number of them to leave their village, and rendered difficult the applicants’ possibility of filing a civil action. It also regrets the length of the civil proceedings before the domestic courts and certain remarks made by some authorities as to the applicants’ Roma origin.” (Declaration of the Romanian Government made in letters dated 18 May and 19 October 2004, ECtHR, Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1, Application nos. 41138/98 and 64320/01, 5 July 2005).
  8. ECtHR, Moldovan and Others v Romania no. 1, Application nos. 41138/98 and 64320/01, 5 July 2005.
  9. ECtHR, Kalanyos and Others v Romania, Application no. 57884/00, 26 April 2007. The case is also known as the Plăieşii de Sus case, after the name of the village in which the incident occurred in Harghita county.
  10. ECtHR, Gergely v Romania, Application no. 57885/00, 26 April 2007. The case is known also as Casinu Nou case, after the name of the village in which the incident occurred in Harghita county.
  11. Four victims filed complaints with the ECtHR in the two cases; dozens of other victims were too afraid to submit complaints because of the possible negative consequences.
  12. ECtHR, Kalanyos and Others v Romania, Application no. 57884/00, 26 April 2007.
  13. Government Decision no. 523 from 19 April 2006 approving the Community Development Programme in Hădăreni, Mureş for 2006-2008 established that the programme is for the villagers of Hădăreni, not for the victims of the events in 20 September 1993 or for the parts of the village affected in the case Moldovan and Others v Romania.
  14. The friendly settlement in the judgment Tănase and Others v Romania therefore remains without effect because all of the victims were forced to leave Bolintin Deal. They moved to the edge of Bucharest.
  15. The National Agency for Roma is a governmental agency under the General Secretariat of the Government.
  16. In the friendly settlement, “the Government considers that the supervision by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of the execution of Court judgments concerning Romania in these cases is an appropriate mechanism for ensuring that improvements will continue to be made in this context.”
  17. Decree no. 734 of 11 July 2007 regarding the modification and completion of Decree no. 523/2006 to approve the community development programme in Hădăreni, Mureş county, for the period of 2006-2008.
  18. The goal was to create a space for specific intercultural activities but at present the community centre is used to organise weddings.
  19. UNDP, Implementation of the Hadareni Project, Analise and Recommendations Realised by the United Nations Development Program in 2009. On file with the author.
  20. According to Romanian legislation, unspent public funds are returned to the state budget at the end of the year.
  21. Official Journal of Romania no. 700, 15 October 2008.
  22. It is not possible to claim, for example, that a two-day training programme for a small group of police officers will remove the stereotypes, prejudices and discriminatory treatment directed at the Romani community.
  23. ERRC, “ERRC Communication to the Committee of Ministers on Implementation of the judgment”, 26 March 2009, available at: http://www.errc.org/cms/upload/file/implementation-moldovan-kalanyos-gergely.pdf.

 

Horizontal Rule

 

Horizontal Rule