Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 14:04 GMT

Romania: Steps taken by the Romanian authorities to address violence against women; statistics on complaints and prosecutions; sensitivity training for police; treatment of Roma women who have been abused by a police officer (April 2006)

Publisher Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 25 April 2006
Citation / Document Symbol ROU100796.E
Reference 2
Cite as Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Romania: Steps taken by the Romanian authorities to address violence against women; statistics on complaints and prosecutions; sensitivity training for police; treatment of Roma women who have been abused by a police officer (April 2006), 25 April 2006, ROU100796.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f1479a11.html [accessed 16 April 2014]
Comments Corrected version added 16 March 2009. Again corrected 17 Feb 2010.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A corrected version of this Response was published on the Refworld site at the request of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 17 Febrary 2010.

Situation of domestic violence

According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005, "[v]iolence against women, including spousal abuse, continued to be a serious problem [in Romania], and the government did not effectively address it" (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

A 24 April 2005 news article posted on the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph Website reported that Romanian national statistics on domestic violence published in 2005 showed that "many men regarded a marriage licence as permission to beat their wives" (Telegraph.co.uk 24 Apr. 2005). The article also noted that, according to Maria Muga, Romania's Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Family Planning, domestic violence is "a threat to social stability and an evil that need[s] to be eradicated" (ibid.). In the same article, Dr. Gabriela Kubinski, who operates a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Bucharest, noted that "[i]n Romania it is still generally accepted that once a couple are married, [the woman] becomes the property of her husband" (ibid.).

According to information published by the Website of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in their 2005 News & Needs newsletter, it is likely that close to one-third of married women in Romania have experienced physical or emotional abuse at some point in their lifetime. Country Reports 2005 indicated that according to police records, over 30 deaths resulted from domestic violence in 2005 (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). The same report stated that

[a]lthough there was no evidence that the police or the judicial system was reluctant to act on domestic abuse cases, very few cases were prosecuted in the courts. Many cases were resolved before or during trial when victims dropped their charges or reconciled with the aggressors. In cases with strong evidence of physical abuse, the court can ban the abusive spouse from returning home. The law also permits police to fine the abusive spouse for disturbing public order. During the year there were over 380 convictions for domestic violence (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

Government Actions

Country Reports 2005 also noted that although Romanian law "prohibits domestic violence and allows police intervention in such cases, ... no specific law addresses spousal abuse" (ibid.). The same report also indicated that the Romanian national agency for family protection, which falls under the Ministry of Labour, Social Solidarity, and Family, had worked with a private pharmacy chain to "conduc[t] an awareness campaign on domestic violence in November [2005]" (ibid.).

In the report of his 2002 visit to Romania, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the European Council's Commissioner for Human Rights recommended that the Romanian government

ensur[e] better protection and assistance for victims of domestic violence by adopting new legislation and increasing the awareness of police officers. He also invited the authorities to develop training and awareness programmes concerning the new provisions of the Criminal Code and emphasised the need to open Government-subsidised shelters not only in Bucharest but also in the rest of the country (COE 29 Mar. 2006, 12).

The Commissioner also noted that roughly 20 per cent of the patients of the Alexandru Obrejia psychiatric hospital "were in fact social cases – alcoholics, victims of domestic violence, persons with no fixed abode, etc. – not in need of psychiatric treatment. However, in the absence of places in more suitable structures, the hospital must admit them" (ibid., 11).

A news article published on the Daily Telegraph's Website reported on the Romanian government incentive in which the government agreed to pay 150 British pounds [CAN$303.93 (Bank of Canada 21 Apr. 2006)] to men for completing a three-day course on domestic violence law and on the sanctions imposed on men who abuse wives or children (Telegraph.co.uk 24 Apr. 2005). Additionally, in 2005, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) continued to collaborate with the Romanian Supreme Council of Magistrates and the United States Department of Justice to offer

training for [non-governmental organizations], prosecutors, judges, and local police about the role and responsibilities of multidisciplinary teams in domestic violence cases, and [to] develop ... public-private partnerships to better handle domestic violence cases (USAID 2005).

On 20 June 2005, Romania and the European Commission signed a Joint Inclusion Memorandum (JIM) (The World Bank Group 20 Mar. 2006, para. 1). The JIM identified victims of domestic violence, among others, as a vulnerable group needing assistance and outlined the government's strategies to address the issue (ibid.). The Victims of Domestic Violence Program aims

to support the development of specialized integrated social services, to which victims of domestic violence can have access for a limited period of time, until their family situation is solved and they can go back to a normal life. In order to achieve this goal the [Social Inclusion Project] SIP would finance: (i) rehabilitation and/or construction of housing infrastructure to shelter victims (and their dependents); (ii) endowment with furniture and household appliances; (iii) professional training for the staff that will provide counseling services; and (iv) development of specific MIS (unique national register) (ibid, Para. 4, 3.3).

No information on whether sensitivity training for police was available could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

According to Country Reports 2005, the National Domestic Violence Coalition, a coalition made up of more than 30 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ran several educational campaigns on domestic violence and 52 NGOs from different regions worked on various domestic violence initiatives (8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). Additionally, over the course of 2005, the government funded 26 public bodies providing services to victims of domestic abuse and funded NGOs operating shelters in Cluj, Timisoara, and Baia Mare (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

In 2005, however, many of the shelters specifically dedicated to working with victims of domestic violence were not able to remain open due to lack of funds (ibid.). In his report to the Council of Europe, the Commissioner for Human Rights noted that the shelter at the Polimed Apaca hospital in Bucharest, "like many others in Romania, owe[d] its existence to the devotion of the staff, most of whom work without pay" (COE 29 Mar. 2006, 13). He also reported that, according to the personnel who run the shelter,

there was good cooperation with the local police, who often acted to protect the shelter or to bring victims to it; however, [shelter personnel] also stated that the lack of knowledge about the matter was striking and that training was essential at [the] national level. That concern was also raised by the President of the Agency, who intend[ed] to improve training and the awareness of police officers and judges of domestic violence and how to deal with it (ibid.).

Legal procedures

In 19 April 2006 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of Romania's Center for Legal Resources informed the Research Directorate that legal aid for victims of domestic violence is rarely available, and that a person without legal education or without money to hire a lawyer, cannot effectively prosecute.

The following information was sent to the Research Directorate on 18 April 2006 by a representative of the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and applies specifically to Romani women.

In our opinion it is more likely that authorities will treat with indifference claims of police abuse if they were put forward by Romani women....

Although relevant Romanian law provides for safeguards aimed at ensuring that complaints regarding police abuse are investigated adequately, pervasive racial and gender discrimination, as well as the strong institutional ties between the various police departments and the Prosecution Service, mean that in practice in many cases law enforcement agents accused of having committed ill-treatment escape prosecution.

According to the law, upon receiving a criminal complaint, police are under an obligation to open a formal investigation. The investigation subsequently carried out is subject to supervision by the public prosecutor, who also reviews any decisions to terminate the investigation or respectively to press charges. The final decision of the prosecutor may be appealed with the head prosecutor of the Prosecution Service, and respectively with the competent court.

The investigations concerning offences allegedly perpetrated by police officers belonging to the criminal investigation departments of the police are supposed to be conducted by public prosecutors.... Investigations concerning abuses committed by other members of the police may be entrusted to the criminal investigation departments of the police, under the supervision of a public prosecutor. There is no special body as such in charge [of] investigating complaints of abuse brought against police officers.

Given the scarcity of details available we can only speculate on possible scenarios based on our experience working with victims of police abuse. The ERRC has come across a number of "strategies" employed by authorities for avoiding prosecution of police officers responsible for ill-treatment of Roma.

Upon receiving a complaint, the police may declassify the alleged offence into a minor offence for which the intervention of the prosecutor is not required; it may stall the investigation indefinitely or the complaint may not be recorded at all or even "get lost." Inactivity is often accompanied by harassment of the victim, and is made possible by the general lack of awareness among the Roma regarding their rights, especially, as is often the case, if they do not benefit from the assistance of a lawyer.

If the complaint reaches the Prosecution Office, the public prosecutor usually entrusts the actual responsibility for conducting the investigation to the criminal investigation departments of the police. This happens in practice even in cases where the Prosecution Office has the sole competence for the investigation. Such investigations usually result in "non-indictment decisions" given by the prosecutors, which usually rely heavily on the reports drafted by the police. In some cases of police abuse of Roma in which the ERRC was involved, "non-indictment decisions" delivered by the public prosecutor were based exclusively on short written reports given by the defendant police officers, who obviously denied all responsibility for the allegations of ill-treatment brought against them.

Although isolated investigations and rare convictions do on occasion take place, prosecutors discourage them from filing or simply refuse to investigate and later deny having any knowledge of the complaints. This type of prosecutorial malfeasance is especially common in cases where Roma victims attempt to report incidents of police wrongdoing.

[g]iven the combined effect of widespread police impunity, racial discrimination and gender discrimination, a Romani woman who single-handedly lodges a complaint with the police alleging that she had been subjected to abuse by the police has little chance ... of seeing the responsible parties brought to justice (ERRC 18 Apr. 2006)

A recent study conducted by the Open Society Institute (OSI) on the situation of Roma women in Romania concluded that

Romani women in Romania are facing a devastating mix of discrimination, exclusion, inequality, and destitution that is unique and specific to them. Due to their ethnicity and gender, Romani women simultaneously endure both the ethnic discrimination faced by Romani men and the gender inequality faced by [the] majority [of] women (Mar. 2006, 73).

In an overview of the same study, OSI noted that the results of the study established that:

– More than 63 percent of Romani women declared that women have fewer rights than men in Romani communities.

– Almost a quarter of the women had no formal education. Among Romani men, only 15 percent had no education. Meanwhile, less than 4 percent of the women in Romania's general population had no formal education.

– A majority of the women said that employers discriminate against Roma on ethnic grounds. More than 21 percent of respondents thought that workplace discrimination was based on gender.

– Thirty-nine percent of the women had not earned any income in the last year. Of those who were employed, 54 percent worked informally in jobs that provided no benefits or work agreements (2006).

Specific statistics on complaints and prosecutions related to violence against women could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraint of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Canada. 21 April 2006. Bank of Canada. "Daily Currency Converter" [Accessed 21 Apr. 2006]

Center for Legal Resources. 19 April 2006. Correspondence from a representative.

Council of Europe (COE). 29 March 2006. Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights. Follow Up Report on Romania (2002 – 2005). Assessment of the Progress Made in Implementing the Recommendations of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. (CommDH (2006) 7) [Accessed 20 Apr. 2006]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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