Last edited: February 14, 2005

Amnesty Criticizes Romania

Newsplanet, April 21, 1998

SUMMARY: The international defender of human rights advises the Council of Europe to keep pressuring Romania for reforms, including relief for lesbians and gays.

Human rights advocate Amnesty International released a new report as the Council of Europe met in parliamentary session in Strasbourg, criticizing Romania's progress on human rights -- including the rights of gays and lesbians -- and calling for renewed monitoring of the country by the international community. Romanian prime minister Radu Vasile rejected the report, claiming it focused on isolated incidents that did not reflect his nation's continuing improvement.

A Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly a year ago determined to stop monitoring Romania, while giving the nation another year to comply with the human rights standards it agreed to meet as a condition of joining the Council in 1993. Amnesty said, "In the past 12 months the observance of certain basic human rights has not significantly improved. Amnesty International is greatly concerned about this lack of progress." Rather than relax monitoring, Amnesty said that, "In fact, it is time for the Council to take effective measures to ensure that there is real respect for commitments made by Romania upon its admission to the Council." Amnesty was also concerned at Romania's failure to investigate documented human rights violations in a timely and impartial fashion.

While Amnesty finds Romania to be plagued by widespread police abuse, including torture leading to deaths in custody, there is particular concern for the treatment of Romany and of gays and lesbians. One condition of Romania's entry into the Council was decriminalization of private non-commercial sex acts between consenting adults. Although Romania legislated some reform in its sodomy statute, Article 200, and has promised more, the sense of gay and lesbian activists there is that a loophole in the current law has actually made their situation worse. Consensual homosexual acts can still lead to arrest if they "cause a public scandal" (effectively, any complaint whatsoever) while any efforts to gather or organize gays and lesbians are still forbidden.

Romanian President Emil Constantinescu did promise two human rights organizations that he would grant pardons to any individuals imprisoned under Article 200 who applied, and has granted one such pardon to an Amnesty "prisoner of conscience," Mariana Cetiner. However, Amnesty's report also notes the group's inability to obtain accurate statistics of convictions under Article 200 from the Romanian Ministry of Justice.

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