Security Forces and the Romanian Intelligence Service



In his January 1992 report, the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Joseph Voyame, underscored a number of significant improvements in Romania's human rights record in 1991. Referring to legislative milestones, most notably the new Constitution, Voyame later testified before the Commission that those improvements were "more systematic" than those in 1990 (RFE/RL 13 Mar. 1992a, 76).

Like other international organizations and states, however, the Commission on Human Rights is, for the time being, keeping Romania on probation, as the following statement in the Special Rapporteur's report makes clear:

If the authorities can really ensure that actual practice reflects the promise held out by the new Constitution...and by the legislation that has been passed or put before Parliament, the Special Rapporteur is of the opinion that human rights in Romania will be generally satisfactory (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 33).

In this context, the laws regulating Romania's security forces -- especially the police and the Romanian Intelligence Service (RIS) -- and their application in practice, are a key concern in monitoring Romania's democratic development.


2.0             General

Like much of Romania's post-Ceausescu history, 1991 began on a contradictory note. Anxious to erase lingering international suspicions about the June 1990 miners' rampage in Bucharest, in which six people died, the parliamentary commission charged with investigating the event published its conclusions in mid-January. Opposition members of the Commission, however, issued a minority report highlighting key issues they believed were ignored by the members of the ruling National Salvation Front (NSF). Meanwhile, in a separate unrelated incident, there were clashes between protesters and police in which foreign journalists were injured. The scene was similar in April 1991, when demonstrators in University Square were reportedly attacked by police (RFE/RL 3 May 1991). In May 1991, reporters of the independent daily Romania Libera discovered a large cache of Securitate files which they reported had been buried just after the June 1990 violence in Bucharest. The RIS admitted responsibility but claimed the burial had taken place without the knowledge of its director, Virgil Magureanu (RFE/RL 31 May 1991).

From May to June, there was a wave of ethnic violence directed by Romanians against Roma (Gypsies) in a number of villages; the police were severely criticized for insufficient intervention (Helsinki Watch Sept. 1991, 63-9). In July, the Civic Alliance, a coalition of non-parliamentary groups, decided to form a political party (RFE/RL 19 July 1991). The Civic Alliance Party is currently a major partner in the Democratic Convention coalition of opposition parties.

On 25-26 September 1991, coal miners from the Jiu Valley stormed Bucharest for the fourth time since the fall of Ceausescu, demanding a number of economic and political concessions from the government. Other demonstrators joined in the protests and the ensuing violence led to the resignation of Prime Minister Petre Roman's government on 26 September 1991 (RFE/RL 4 Oct. 1991; Ibid. 11 Oct. 1991). A non-party prime minister, Teodor Stolojan, was named on 29 September and his government, containing a large number of non-NSF members, was confirmed by Romania's parliament, the Constituent Assembly, on 16-17 October (RFE/RL 11 Oct. 1991; Ibid. 25 Oct. 1991).

On 21 November 1991, the Constituent Assembly approved a new Romanian Constitution, subject to ratification by a national referendum. The referendum took place on 8 December, with preliminary results indicating that about 75 percent voted in favour. Two districts with a majority Hungarian population reportedly voted against the Constitution (RFE/RL 29 Nov. 1991; Ibid. 20 Dec. 1991).

Romania held its first post-Communist census on 7-16 January 1992. Preliminary results, to be available in May 1992, will be significant, since the censuses conducted under Ceausescu are generally considered to be unreliable with respect to ethnic minorities. Representatives of ethnic Hungarians and Roma complained of irregularities they believed were intended to understate the size of their groups (RFE/RL 13 Mar. 1992b, 57-61).

2.1          The Local Elections

Thus far in 1992, the major political event in Romania has been free, multi-party local elections, the first round of which was held on 9 February. A second round took place on 23 February but, due to a highly complex electoral system, the final results for all municipalities were not available for some weeks thereafter. By early March 1992, the NSF had won the most mayoralties but the opposition Democratic Convention (DC) took most of the largest cities including Bucharest and Timisoara (RFE/RL 13 Mar. 1992c, 24-31).

Results for the municipal councils, determined according to proportional representation, indicated that the NSF had the support of about 34 percent of the electorate while the Democratic Convention had 24.3 percent. The two major political parties are almost equal in strength, however, when the seven percent won by the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania, a member of the DC which ran separately in some districts, is added onto the DC's result (Ibid.).

In contrast to the May 1990 parliamentary elections, in which there were numerous instances of intimidation of the opposition and irregularities on the part of the ruling NSF, the local elections were generally judged to be fair and open (The New York Times 1 Apr. 1992; The Washington Post 22 Mar. 1992).

One development that does not augur well for relations between Romanians and ethnic Hungarians is the victory of the ultra-nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PRNU) in the municipality of Cluj, the largest city in the multi-ethnic region of Transylvania. The PRNU win came about partly because of the minority language issue; also, shortly after taking office, PRNU mayor Gheorghe Funar indicated that all Hungarian language schools in the city would be closed, explaining that they represented "separatism based on ethnic principles" (Romania Libera 6 Mar. 1992).


3.1 New Regulations for Pre-Trial Detention

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP - amended in November 1990) and the new Romanian Constitution (December 1991) both piece together a new set of detention regulations significantly different from those in effect before November 1990. The two documents differ on a few points; however, draft amendments to the CCP are reportedly before parliament, possibly to eliminate any contradictions with the Constitution (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 13).

The CCP stipulates that all defendants have a right to be represented by a lawyer throughout a criminal investigation and that the responsible authorities must inform the defendant of this right before any statement is taken. Article 172 of the CCP states that under "exceptional" conditions, a prosecutor can deny a suspect access to an attorney once for a maximum of five days; however, it remains unclear what situation would be deemed exceptional (Helsinki Watch May 1991, 20-1).

The CCP states that a suspect can be detained for 24 hours without an arrest warrant. Those arrested can be held for an additional five days without charge. Article 155 of the CCP states that once a person is charged, the prosecuting attorney can order the suspect detained for 30 days with one possible 30-day extension. After that period, additional 30-day periods of detention must be authorized by a court of law (Ibid., 20-1).

Under the amended CCP, suspects can challenge their detention in a court, which must hear the challenge within 24 hours and make a ruling within 24 hours of the hearing. Helsinki Watch states, however, that the law "does not appear to require that a detainee be informed of this right" (Ibid., 20-1). Detainees' families must be notified of the place of detention within 24 hours, the detainees have a right to release on bail, and they can receive compensation for wrongful detention (Ibid., 20-1).

Many of the provisions outlined in the CCP are also mentioned in the Constitution. However, Article 23 of the Constitution uses different terminology than the CCP and appears to differ in substance as well. For instance, it states simply that "detention may not exceed 24 hours" and that persons can be "arrested" for 30 days only after the provision "of a warrant issued by a magistrate" (Monitorul Oficial 21 Nov. 1991). There is no limit placed on the number of times additional 30-day periods of detention can be ordered, all of which must be authorized by a "court of law" (Ibid.; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 13).

The new detention regulations do not apply to Decree 153, a much-cited legal holdover from the Ceausescu era. Decree 153, not considered a criminal statute, provides for a maximum prison term of six months and involves "an expedited civil procedure" to imprison those who have committed offences against public order (Helsinki Watch Mar. 1991, 44-5; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights May 1992, 126; Country Reports 1991 1992, 1219). International observers are critical of Decree 153, stating that it "violates the basic concepts of a fair trial" (Helsinki Watch Mar. 1991, 44-5), and that its wording is "extremely vague" (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 15; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights May 1992, 126). In 1990, Decree 153 was used discriminatorily against Roma involved in ethnic violence in Tirgu Mures on 19-20 March, as well as to imprison anti-government demonstrators in the wake of the June disturbances in Bucharest. The imprisoned Roma received sentences ranging from three months of labour plus a prison term, to five months of imprisonment (Amnesty International 11 Oct. 1990, 4-5; Helsinki Watch May 1990, 7-8; Helsinki Watch July 1990, 20).

A report of January 1992 notes that Decree 153 has "hardly been applied in recent times," and a member of the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania-Helsinki Committee is not aware of its use in the past few months. The last documented case of the application of the decree was in Bacau in October 1991; however, the reasons for charging and imprisoning the accused in this case under Decree 153 are not provided (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights May 1992, 126; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 15; ADHRR-HC 12 June 1992).

3.2        Other Legal Provisions

In addition to new regulations for detention, the Constitution contains other provisions that constrain the activities of interior ministry officials and the police. Article 22 represents an unconditional prohibition against torture while Article 27 states that a magistrate's warrant is necessary in order to search someone's residence without their consent. The latter provision can be waived, however, where it is necessary to "defend national security or public order" (Monitorul Oficial 21 Nov. 1991; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 9; Country Reports 1991 1992, 1220). For further information on this latter point, see section 4.1 The Legal Context.

An Act of 15 October 1990 (No. 21) transfers the administration of prisons from the Interior Ministry to the Justice Ministry. The new structure of the Interior Ministry is set out in an Act of 18 December 1991 (No. 40). While information on the substance of this act was unavailable at the time of writing, a government "decision" of 11 November 1991 provides some information. According to the decision, the ministry is divided into four divisions headed by state secretaries, one of which is the General Inspectorate of the Police. The Ministry also controls certain military police troops, all firefighters and border police, has competency over the issuance of passports, and runs the national police academy (Monitorul Oficial 6 Dec. 1991; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 10-11).

The role of human rights within police training is reportedly increasing. According to the UN Special Rapporteur, a basic course on human rights is now part of the curriculum of the national police academy, and information committees on "humanitarian law and human rights" have been established within the Interior Ministry. Another recent report indicates that the government of Romania is seeking international assistance in democratizing its police force (RFE/RL 17 Jan. 1992, 70; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 10).

3.3               Police Activities in Practice

3.3.1 Police Brutality and Other Irregularities

By the end of 1991, numerous legislative safeguards against police abuses were in place; however, at least two disturbances during the year -- in mid-January and late April -- led to widespread reports of the use of excessive force and police brutality in countering anti-government demonstrations. The UN Special Rapporteur indicates that in 1991, "it was fairly commonplace for be mistreated at the time of arrest and during detention," while Amnesty International reported in November 1991 that it was still receiving allegations of physical abuse by police during detention (AFP 28 Sept. 1991; Rompres 17 Sept. 1991; BBC Summary 4 Oct. 1991).

It is important to note that, although police countered anti-government demonstrations with force on a few occasions in 1991, there were far more instances when opposition demonstrations ran their course without incident. A cursory survey of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty weekly reports indicates that from June to December 1991, twelve such protests took place.

The use of excessive force and instances of brutality are not the only concerns cited by reports since the beginning of 1991. The UN Special Rapporteur states that in 1991, Romanians continued to be subjected to arbitrary arrests and that those detained by police were often not informed of their right to legal representation. A human rights observer in Bucharest has recently added that the police usually do not inform defendants of their right to a lawyer and do not notify their families of their whereabouts. The observer, a member of the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania-Helsinki Committee, added that his organization works to contact those accused and/or detained and inform them of these and other rights (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 11,15-6; ADHRR-HC 12 June 1992).

An April 1992 report from Hungarian Radio states that six ethnic Hungarians had recently been forced to sign forms consenting to searches of their homes. Human Rights Watch has also recently cited complaints by many of those arrested in June 1990, that their families and friends were continuing to receive visits from uniformed police. After their release, they had reportedly been told to refrain from opposition activities (Human Rights Watch Dec. 1991, 514; BBC Summary 4 Apr. 1992).

3.3.2        Continuing Employment of Ceausescu-Era Police

In light of reports that the Romanian police still engage in some of the practices common during the Ceausescu era, the continuing employment of police officers active during those years is a significant issue. According to the UN Special Rapporteur, an "overwhelming majority" of the pre-1989 police force is still employed including "some of those who were notorious for their abuses in the past and who seem to enjoy impunity" (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 11). In late 1991, Amnesty International cited allegations of the same (Amnesty International Dec. 1991, 20; Ibid. Nov. 1991, 48-50).

3.3.3               The Treatment of Roma (Gypsies): A Case Study

In September 1991, Helsinki Watch published an extensive report on several instances of violence against Roma (also known as Gypsies) by ethnic Romanian mobs in several towns and villages throughout the country. In each case, ethnic Romanians responded to a violent incident or a dispute involving a Roma by indiscriminately attacking Roma and/or burning their homes. The report provides information which indicates that the attitude of and actions taken by the police during these incidents were wholly inappropriate, failing to protect Roma from their ethnic Romanian attackers. This conclusion has been echoed in three other recent reports, one of which cites allegations that police actually colluded in the attacks (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 48-50; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 29; Office fédéral des réfugiés 29 Jan. 1992, 2).

By the end of 1991, Human Rights Watch was highly critical of the government for having failed to bring to justice even one ethnic Romanian involved in the attacks. It warned that "Villagers' increasing confidence that they will not be held accountable for violence against Gypsies creates an atmosphere that only fosters further attacks" (Human Rights Watch Dec. 1991, 515).

Romania's National Chief of Police has vehemently denied charges of discrimination on the part of his officers; however, at the same time he stated that "when they [Roma] are criminals, they are more dangerous than any other group" (Helsinki Watch Sept. 1991, 93). During the various violent incidents against Roma throughout 1990 and continuing up until June 1991, an apparent pattern emerged, as described by Helsinki Watch: "the police remain almost completely passive...and sometimes even arrest and interrogate Gypsies who have been attacked" (Ibid. Sept. 1991, 92).

Reports of one attack in mid-May 1991 in the village of Bolintin Vale, just west of Bucharest, are indicative of the problem. On 17 May, eight police officers were reportedly injured when they intervened against a mob of ethnic Romanians attacking Roma homes. The next day, they stood by "idly" when the attack was renewed (Reuters 18 May 1991; Xinhua 17 May 1991; Helsinki Watch Sept. 1991, 65). While the police could claim that they had insufficient forces with which to counter the attackers, despite numerous previous such attacks, there are no indicators that the authorities made the necessary preparations for adequate numbers of police to be present, even after the initial set-backs of 17 May 1991. Police were similarly ill-prepared on 7 April in Bolintin Deal, despite indicators that the mayor of the town knew of an impending attack and could have taken measures to avert violence (Helsinki Watch Sept. 1991, 60).


4.0  General

Given the infamy of Ceausescu's Securitate police, it is not surprising that Romania's successor agency, the Romanian Intelligence Service (RIS) and other organizations involved in domestic intelligence gathering have come under considerable scrutiny. Observers have criticized recent legal provisions regulating intelligence activities in Romania and suspicions remain regarding the commitment of the RIS to the country's nascent democratic development. The RIS was created in late March 1990, just after ethnic violence flared in Tirgu Mures. Since then, numerous allegations have been made linking it to disbanded secret police active under Ceausescu, with one recent report calling it "the new, more user-friendly name for the old Securitate" (The Washington Post 17 Nov. 1991).

4.1              The Legal Context

On 29 July 1991, Romania's president signed the Law on National Security, which provides broad guidelines for intelligence gathering operations by certain Romanian agencies such as the RIS. Article 3 of the Law describes the activities that are deemed to be a threat to national security. Among them is:

the initiation, organization, execution, or support in any way of totalitarian or extremist actions of communist, fascist, or Iron Guard origin, or of any other nature as well as racist, anti-Semitic, revisionist, or separatist actions which can endanger, in any way, the territorial integrity and unity of Romania, and the incitement to commit acts which can endanger order in the law-governed state (U.S. Department of Commerce 29 July 1991).

Articles 8 and 9 name six ministries and agencies, including the RIS, which are authorized to carry out intelligence gathering. Article 13 states that when a threat to national security, as defined in Article 3, exists, the relevant authorities can apply for warrants to authorize activities such as "intercepting communications [and] seeking information, documents, or records which must be obtained by gaining access to a place or an item." According to Article 15, however, if an "imminent danger to national security" exists, intelligence personnel can proceed without a warrant but must apply for that warrant within 48 hours. Anyone affected can address official complaints about abuses or excesses committed by those gathering intelligence to a "public prosecutor" and Articles 19-22 set out penalties against officials who contravene the Law on National Security (U.S. Department of Commerce).

The Law on National Security has been sharply criticized for providing too broad a definition of "national security" as described in Article 3. According to Human Rights Watch, the Law "has obvious potential for abuse, particularly given Romania's history of suffering at the hands of an unrestrained security police" (Human Rights Watch Dec. 1991, 517-8; Country Reports 1991 1992, 1220).

A specific law to regulate the activities of the Romanian Intelligence Service was before parliament by early October 1991. While reports conflict on the law's status at this time, in early May a representative of the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Bucharest stated that the law had been passed and was in force (LDHR 1 May 1992; The New York Times 1 Apr. 1992; Magyar Hirlap 5 Mar. 1992). At the time of writing, however, the IRBDC had not been able to obtain a copy of the RIS law.

A key legal issue related to the RIS is that of parliamentary oversight, a condition set out in the Law on National Security and reportedly provided for within the RIS law. In late March 1992, the RIS was reportedly still accountable only to the President. On 15 April, a joint committee of the Constituent Assembly met to consider a bill to create a parliamentary commission for "Control and Guidance of the [RIS]"; however, the next day, RIS chief Magureanu indicated that such a commission already existed (Radio Romania Network 16 Apr. 1992; The Washington Post 22 Mar. 1992; The New York Times 1 Apr. 1992).

Controversy has surrounded the question of accessability to the files of the former Securitate and the archives of the RIS. By mid-November 1991, the RIS had placed all Securitate files in its possession "under seal" and had submitted a bill to parliament which would restrict access to them for 40 years. On 21 January 1992, parliament voted that the archives of the RIS would also be kept closed for 40 years; however, Magureanu added that a special protocol would be drafted to allow those victimized by the Securitate to have special access to relevant documents (RFE/RL 31 Jan. 1992, 75; BBC Summary 22 Nov. 1991). On 16 April, Magureanu asked parliament to take control of all Securitate files and suggested that those not involving national security be published. On the same day, the Assembly voted "in principle" to take control of the so-called list of informers for the Securitate as well as all files on current members of the Assembly (Radio Romania Network 16 Apr. 1992). The issue is an important one considering that the RIS employs a large number of former Securitate personnel and in light of allegations that some RIS operatives are continuing the intrusive activities of their Ceausescu-era counterparts.

4.2        Activities of the RIS

4.2.1 The Legacy of the Securitate

Continuing suspicions about the RIS have arisen in part out of the employment by the new agency of a large number of former Securitate personnel. In mid-April 1992, even the service's director was forced to counter accusations that he was a high-ranking Securitate official. Magureanu replied that he had only worked in the organization's international section for seven months as part of his military service in the early 1970s (Reuters 16 Apr. 1992).

The discovery in May 1991 of buried Securitate files created a sensation when an independent Romanian newspaper subsequently reported that the files indicated that ex-Securitate agents had continued their activities after December 1989, including during the May 1990 elections (Reuters 19 Sept. 1991; Libération 21 May 1991). On 16 April 1992, Magureanu reported to parliament that between December 1989 and May 1991, 50,000 files of the Securitate had been destroyed and "thousands" others stolen (Radio Romania Network 16 Apr. 1992). Recently, Securitate files have been leaked, some of which reportedly contain false information. President Iliescu even promoted the editor of one newspaper just after it published forged files pertaining to the family of former Prime Minister Roman. He became the editor of the pro-Iliescu newspaper Dimineata (Azi 14 Apr. 1992). Subsequent reports cite allegations and "circumstantial evidence" that ex-Securitate members are still carrying out surveillance and engaging in intimidation of the opposition, but they do not state that such rogue elements are currently working within the RIS (Magyar Hirlap 6 Jan. 1992; The Washington Post 17 Nov. 1991; Los Angeles Times 27 Sept. 1991). Statements by Magureanu indicate that 20 percent of the former Securitate are still employed by the RIS. The majority of those working for the notorious Directorates I and IV were fired before the RIS was set up and "compromised" staff have been dismissed from the service, according to the director. Magureanu, however, has never stated unequivocally that all of those responsible for abuses under the previous regime are no longer working for the RIS. In early February 1992, he essentially pleaded for more time: "The process of sifting our a genuine and long process" (Curierul National 5 Feb. 1992; Magyar Hirlap 5 Mar. 1992).

Romanians living abroad who have criticized the current government have also been attacked by unknown assailants. These incidents have included the fatal shooting of a Romanian professor at the University of Chicago and an attack on Dumitru Mazilu, Romania's vice-president immediately after the December 1989 revolution. In each case, the attacks were blamed on former Securitate agents with links to the RIS, although no concrete evidence has yet been uncovered to substantiate those allegations (The Washington Times 31 May 1991; The Washington Post 17 Nov. 1991).

One aspect of controversy over former Securitate employees involves the Jiu valley miners, whose intervention into politics in June 1990 and September 1991 led to violent riots in Bucharest. In 1977, the miners of the Jiu valley became the first group to oppose the Ceausescu government when they went on a strike which was quickly suppressed. Two recent reports point out that the Securitate subsequently infiltrated the miners' union to ensure that no such opposition occurred again. Both reports indicate that the miners are now controlled by the RIS; one states that some of the Securitate operatives who ran the miners' union under Ceausescu are now in the RIS (The Washington Post 17 Nov. 1991; Manchester Guardian Weekly 13 Oct. 1991).

4.2.2             The RIS: New Name, Old Product?

Magureanu has categorically denied suggestions that the Securitate or RIS employees were involved in any of the violent incidents in Romania since December 1989. On 8 October 1991, he stated that his service had no information about any role played by Securitate or RIS members in the recent September miners' rampage in Bucharest but also did not indicate that any investigation of this issue was forthcoming (Tineretul Liber 9 Oct. 1991; Rompres 8 Oct. 1991; Magyar Hirlap 5 Mar. 1992; Curierul National 7 Feb. 1992).

On 23 January 1992, the deputy director of the RIS responded to a question about telephone tapping by suggesting that employees of the telephone company in Transylvania were responsible and that they were linked to Hungarian spies. Later, Magureanu emphasized that such tapping was only being carried out in cases where "someone's act conspiciously threatens our national security" (Romania Libera 28 Jan. 1992; Curierul National 7 Feb. 1992; Magyar Hirlap 5 Mar. 1992).

Despite assurances from RIS officials, Romanians continue to report occasions on which they are allegedly the targets of political surveillance and intimidation. For instance on 21 January 1992, Senator Petre Negru told parliament that the RIS was tapping his telephone and opening his mail, and that he had recently sent an open letter to Magureanu putting these allegations on record (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 12; Reuters 21 Jan. 1992; RFE/RL 31 Jan. 1992). On the issue of telephone tapping, the UN Special Rapporteur comments that, "The numerous and specific individual instances brought to the attention of the Special Rapporteur have convinced him that the allegations were not unfounded," while a more recent report cites "quite credible complaints that [the RIS is] still involved in political surveillance" (The New York Times 1 Apr. 1992; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 12).

Public pressure has mounted on the RIS to conduct investigations of current allegations, as well as a thorough public inquiry into the activities of the Securitate under Ceausescu and its possible continuing role in Romanian society. On 18 September 1991, Magureanu promised parliament that he would open an investigation into the Securitate's activities before the December 1989 revolution. By the end of the year, no investigation had begun and there is currently no information to indicate that this situation has changed (Reuters 19 Sept. 1991; Human Rights Watch Dec. 1991, 513). In addition, by the end of 1991, none of the allegations of unauthorized telephone tapping or of reported evidence that ex-Securitate officials had played a role in the June 1990 and September 1991 miners' rampages in Bucharest, had been investigated (Country Reports 1991 1992, 1220; Human Rights Watch Dec. 1991, 513).


One way in which post-Ceausescu Romania is promising to break with the past and establish a genuine rule-of-law state is by developing adequate avenues through which those who feel they have suffered an injustice at the hands of government agencies can address complaints and seek redress. A major development in this process is to be the creation of a national ombudsman, described in Articles 55-7 of the new Constitution as the "People's Attorney." According to the Constitution, this office is to be established by "statutory law." The People's Attorney will "discharge his duties ex officio or at the request of persons whose rights and freedoms have been violated." She or he will submit reports to parliament at its request or annually, which "may contain recommendations concerning the legislation or measures of another nature designed to protect the rights and freedoms of the citizens." While there is no enforcement mechanism associated with the office, the People's Attorney will nonetheless serve as a powerful office for publicizing human rights violations and bring pressure to bear on the government (Monitorul Oficial 21 Nov. 1991; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 9, 14; Country Reports 1991 1992, 1220).

By May 1992, however, a law establishing the People's Attorney's office had yet to be passed. For the time being, the major governmental body responsible for investigating abuses remains the Committee for Human Rights of the Justice Ministry (Amnesty International 1 May 1992; LDHR 1 May 1992).

In the absence of a human rights ombudsman, there is at least one case where an individual received compensation for abuses committed by the police. In 1991, the leader of the Social Democratic Party received monetary damages for being unlawfully detained after the June 1990 unrest in Bucharest (Country Reports 1991 1992, 1219; United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 15).

A number of high-level promises of investigations of and sanctions against illegal police activities have also been made, which, in at least one instance, have led to dismissal. In April 1991, the Interior Minister announced that five policemen who had acted with unnecessary violence during demonstrations in January 1991 had been fired (Amnesty International June 1991, 42; Human Rights Watch Dec. 1991, 512). In late August, the national Chief of Police, Ioan Danescu admitted that there were still a number of working police officers who had committed criminal offences and he promised that they would be dismissed (Xinhua 24 Aug. 1991). Also in connection with police actions, the new Interior Minister, Victor Babiuc, stated in an interview published in November 1991, that he had "asked for several issues to be clarified by the investigation bodies in connection with certain actions that...[he believed] were infractions that...[could not] be left unpunished" (Tineretul Liber 15 Nov. 1991).


Soon after the December 1989 revolution, a group calling itself the Committee for Action to Democratize the Army (CADA) was formed within the Romanian armed forces. Among other things, its goals were to push for an "acknowledgement of the truth" regarding the army's role during the events that toppled the Ceausescu regime, the removal of military personnel who were "compromised" by their activities before or during the revolution, and the specific exclusion of the army from politics (Helsinki Watch Mar. 1991, 30). On 14 June 1990, the army high command banned CADA and, during the next five months, moved against a number of officers seen to be continuing their now illegal activities on behalf of the group. By November 1990, eight officers, all alleged members of CADA, had been transferred to the reserve forces (Ibid., 30).

Some changes have been made to military service regulations although a new law on conscription has yet to be presented to parliament. Article 52 of the new Constitution states that "Military service is compulsory for male Romanian citizens who have reached the age of 20, with the exceptions of cases defined by law." Article 39 adds that any form of alternative service shall not be considered forced labour (Monitorul Oficial 21 Nov. 1991). With these references to alternative service, the new Constitution differs significantly from its predecessor.

In January 1990, the length of military service was reduced from 18 to 12 months but increased again to 14 months in March 1990. While the current Law has no provisions for any type of alternative service, according to Amnesty International, members of certain religious denominations have, in practice, been able to carry out un-armed service within the military "but such exemptions appear to have been granted in an arbitrary fashion" (Amnesty International Jan. 1991).

According to a January 1991 report, Article 348 of the Romanian Criminal Code stipulates that those "evading military service" are subject to six months to five years of imprisonment and three to ten years of imprisonment during wartime (Ibid. Jan. 1991). Available reports do not indicate that these provisions have since changed.

In two interviews with Romanian newspapers in October and December 1991, Defence Minister Niculae Spiroiu spoke of an upcoming draft military service law. He felt that Romania should move toward a more professional army but that compulsory military service would remain. He also emphasized that the draft law would outline "forms of alternative military service for those who for various reasons will not serve in the armed forces" (Viata Armatei Dec. 1991; Tineretul Liber 24 Oct. 1991). His wording suggests that the law will provide for the opportunity to fulfil such service completely outside the structure of the Ministry of Defence.

Two reports of May 1992 indicate that no military service law has been adopted. The Bucharest-based League for the Defence of Human Rights states that such a law, by that time, had not even been presented to the Constituent Assembly for consideration (LDHR 1 May 1992; Amnesty International 1 May 1992).


A former Romanian diplomat, condemned to death under Ceausescu, recently stated, "The structure of Romania today is not totally different than before, only partially" (The Washington Post 22 Mar. 1992). That assessment certainly applies to the status of the country's police and intelligence services. A number of legal reforms represent significant improvements over the laws that governed police actions and the activities of intelligence officials under the old regime and, in some cases, even in the first year after the ouster of Ceausescu. But there appear to be difficulties involved with the implementation of at least some of those reforms in practice.

Commenting on developments in 1990, the UN Special Rapporteur was concerned about the general "climate of intolerance" within the country (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 33). This intolerance was certainly evident in the actions of members of the security forces, as well as in the vigilante activities of Romanian miners. Throughout 1991, the Special Rapporteur noted considerable improvements in this regard toward ethnic Romanian opponents of the government, but he could not say the same with respect to Romania's ethnic minorities, particularly Hungarians and Roma (United Nations 3 Jan. 1992, 33). Once again, the behaviour of the police during attacks on Roma individuals and property in several villages in 1991 highlights this view.

The international community has exercised effective economic pressure on Romania in bringing it forward in its reforms. One prize that remains elusive is the so-called "most-favoured-nation" (MFN) status granted by the United States in its trading relations with other countries. The United States has stipulated three conditions for the restoration of MFN status for Romania: 1) free and fair elections, 2) an independent media, and 3) civilian (parliamentary) control of the Romanian Intelligence Service. In the wake of the local elections, there are signs that the U.S. government is ready to drop the remaining two conditions and sign a trade agreement which would include most MFN provisions. Such an agreement would have to be ratified by Congress (The Washington Post 22 Mar. 1992).

The local elections of February 1992 may have marked an important juncture in Romania's road to democracy. Before those elections, in December 1991, a business journal remarked:

[t]wo years after Romania became the only Eastern European country to overthrow its government through a bloody revolution, it now lacks recognition as an emerging democracy and stands on the outside looking in as countries like Hungary and Poland sign treaties and clinch deals with Western partners (Daily Report For Executives 26 Dec. 1991).

The leader of the Civil Alliance Party also warned of the possibility of dictatorship by quoting Raymond Gastil of Freedom House, who warned that "in Italy, Japan and Germany, fascism reached its adulthood while these societies were in their course of democratization, thus providing the necessary means for free discussion and mobilization of small groups." (East European Reporter Mar.-Apr. 1992a, 62). Writing after the local elections, however, the editor of the Bucharest weekly 22 proclaimed that "Romania has re-entered Europe and the present" (Ibid. Mar.-Apr. 1992b, 60).

A final verdict may have to await the results of national parliamentary and presidential elections. An election date of 27 September 1992 has been approved by the Senate and is subject to ratification by the House of Deputies. In the meantime, while no one can credibly deny that progress has been made and that considerable human rights improvements have occurred, the hesitance of many countries to treat Romania on an equal footing with Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia or even most of the republics of the former Soviet Union, points to the fact that a few significant problems still remain, particularly with respect to the country's security and intelligence forces.


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