Statement of the ERRC to the Romanian Delegation at the OSCE Review Conference in Vienna

19 November 1996

The European Roma Rights Center is concerned about certain statements made and distributed by the Romanian delegation at the OSCE Review Conference in Vienna between November 12-15, 1996, with regard to the administration of justice following incidents of community violence in Romania.

According to "Aspects concrets de la situation des Roma/Sinti en Roumanie" (REF. RM/174/96, 12 November 1996), "...12 cases have been pursued. 176 persons guilty of having exercised violence against Romani families have been brought to justice and 105 of them have been sentenced to up to 3,5 years." The accuracy of this statement was questioned by the European Roma Rights Center in an intervention on November 15, 1996. Apart from pointing out that our information based on independent research into the legal status of cases of community violence contradicted this assertion, we also stated that "The European Roma Rights Center would welcome any documentation which would clarify this discrepancy."

In her reply of November 15, 1996, the Romanian delegate said that, "My delegation cannot afford to put to doubt the data provided by the Public Prosecutor's Office in Romania. It is first hand official information and should be taken as such." While we fully respect and agree that the Romanian prosecutor's office's data is first hand official information, we maintain our concern about our and other NGOs' research revealing another reality than the one described by the Romanian delegation in Vienna.

Moreover, another document distributed by the Romanian delegation during the conference, "Legal and Factual Data on the Situation of the Roma (Gypsy) Minority in Romania" (REF. RM/180/96, 12 November 1996), contains different and therefore contradictory data on the same issue: "... more than 100 persons were brought before the court and found responsible for various infringements of certain provisions of the Romanian law. Among them, 12 were sentenced to prison on the basis of the Romanian Penal Code."

The European Roma Rights Center is aware that various sources sometimes provide differing data on the same subject, but clearly contradictory statements distributed by the same delegation can hardly be explained by anything other than insufficient scrutiny of received information on the part of the delegation in question. The European Roma Rights Center wishes to point out that the above cited statements are clearly inconsistent and urges for a clarification on the part of the Romanian delegation.

In her reply to the European Roma Rights Center, the Romanian delegate also stated that, "It is the right of any NGO... to doubt the accuracy of informations provided, but, to my mind, this can hardly be a constructive approach, especially when discussing such complex issues like the situation of Roma and Sinti." Doubt may not be a "constructive approach", but what should we do when we have them? If we suppress our doubts and therefore probably the truth about violence against Roma, the victims of such "constructiveness" will be again Roma.

It is our assumption that the logic behind the OSCE participating states' wish to strenghten the role and participation of NGOs in OSCE human dimension activities was based on precisely the idea that certain NGOs can provide expertise on specific issues which fall under this rubric. The European Roma Rights Center is an autonomous international non-governmental organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defense in cases of human rights abuse.


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