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It’s time to stop Romania from indulging in human rights abuse

Emily Barley
February 18, 2021

Romania is the worst abuser of human rights in the EU, on a par with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, and while the international community contents itself with wagging its finger and writing reports, people in the country continue to suffer. Emily Barley shed light on the issue. 

The US State Department, European Commission, Council of Europe, and countless NGOs, charities, and international experts have drawn attention to abuses within Romania which run the full gamut of violence towards LGBT people, racist segregation of Roma children in schools, locking disabled people in cages, and truly medieval prison conditions. 

Technically, this abuse and discrimination are illegal in Romania, but through both lack of will to act, obfuscation to avoid responsibility, and the use of state machinery to perpetrate abuses, human rights violations continue unabated. 

Since 2007, Romania has been subject to the EU's Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), which meant to ensure the country reformed following accession to the union, and since 2017 it has been subject to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) 'pilot judgment' process, which recognised the dire conditions in Romania's prisons and demanded action to address the systemic problems. 

These processes amount to mere gestures, with Romania's leaders facing no meaningful consequences for their refusals to reform. 

While hundreds of disabled people die each year in state facilities, Roma people face police brutality and are denied voting rights, prisoners convicted on fabricated charges live in rat-infested filth, and LGBT people are forced to hide their love, Romania continues as full member in the EU community. 

Every year, Romania receives 3 billion euros in EU funds, and enjoys the protection of the ECJ's requirement for 'mutual trust and recognition' which, among other things, means it is treated in legal affairs like extradition as though it has just a good a legal system as France and Germany. 

Romania's status means that it isn't just some basket case 'failing state', in some far-flung region that we can pity and then promptly forget – no, through the EU and Brexit deal, our affairs are intimately linked with theirs. 

And that matters, because when it comes to criminal justice – the key continuing area of cooperation between UK and EU – their affairs are a mess. Every stage is fraught with problems, from abusive, violent, corrupt police, to supposedly independent prosecutors operating on instructions of politicians and the secret intelligence services, to judges who deliver the verdict those same intelligence services demand. And then there are the prisons.

Romanian prisons are horrific. They are filthy, overcrowded, hell-holes. Prisoners are afforded less than two square metres each, with some even forced to share beds. Running water is scarce, leaving inmates, their clothes, and cells filthy. To add to this, prisons are infested with rats, bed bugs, and other kinds of insects, and many have old-style 'Greek' toilets which are effectively just holes in the ground without privacy. Prison medical facilities are chronically understaffed, leaving medical conditions neglected and mental health conditions handled not with specialist care, but by doling our tranquillizers.  

Even the most hard-hearted member of the 'flog 'em, hang 'em' brigade could not fail to be moved by the plight of the people detained in Romania – especially when you consider that failings elsewhere in the criminal justice system means many of them are innocent; targeted with fabricated charges as part of political rows, or falling foul of the practice of labelling any Roma person in the general location of a crime as the perpetrator. 

That is the situation in the case of Alexander Adamescu, the London resident wanted by Romania on fabricated charges of bribery. His father, Dan Adamescu, was convicted in short shrift, denied medical care in prison, and promptly died following a political row between him and former Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Adamescu had upset Ponta through his newspaper, Romania Libera, which has a proud history of exposing corruption and holding politicians accountable. 

London judges have now ordered Alexander Adamescu's extradition, and if the Home Secretary doesn't intervene and exercise her powers to protect Adamescu, Britain will become party to Romania's ongoing abuses.

For over a decade the EU and the rest of the international community has been making allowances for Romania – turning a blind eye to abuses, offering support, pouring in money, making demands for improvements and doing nothing when they aren't met, and even accepting bare-faced lies from Romanian government ministers. 

It is increasingly clear that as long as Romania is the indulged youngest child of the dysfunctional EU family it will not progress beyond its current status as a nominally democratic country with deeply troubling illiberal and abusive institutions. It's time now for those countries with an interest in good governance, individual liberty, and human rights to open their eyes and start taking action. 

Emily Barley is Chairman of Conservatives for Liberty
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