sursa foto: www.un.org
Today, Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, made public his end-of-mission public statement. Below you can find his remarks on civil and political rights and poverty. The whole document can be downloaded here.
While many issues could be addressed under this heading, I will focus only on policing. I received many reports of abuses by the police of Roma citizens. In any society, the poorest are more likely to be the object of police violence and intimidation than the mainstream of the population. High unemployment figures among Roma mean that many are forced to take irregular and informal work. One example are Roma men in Bucharest who ‘assist’ drivers in parking their cars, an activity that is legally prohibited. Rather than being addressed as a social issue requiring economic and social solutions, the brunt falls upon the police to punish such behaviour. I spoke to several Roma men who engaged in this activity and they described being regularly apprehended by the police, and sometimes subjected to physical abuse. On various occasions, after showing their ID cards, they were nevertheless taken to a police station, detained for significant periods and sometimes subjected to physical violence in isolated parts of the building. One tragic incident involving such a ‘parking boy’ is the case of Gabriel-Daniel Dumitrache, who died in March 2014 in Bucharest after allegedly having been beaten up severely at Police Section 10, at 15 Stelea Spataru Street.
There is nothing peculiar about police violence, which is a global phenomenon. What is peculiar about the Romanian situation, is that the rules that currently apply could be seen as a charter for harassment. The system includes characteristics that make abuse easy and ensure that accountability will be the rare exception rather than the norm.
I have no reason to doubt the assurances provided to me by senior police and Interior Ministry officials of their determination to eliminate and punish abuses. But this will not happen until the police introduce stricter rules, vastly more transparent figures, regular reporting, and a meaningful complaints procedure.
The existing complaints system ensures that complaints are unlikely to be filed, let alone to lead to a successful prosecution or other sanctions. NGOs have reported that between 2012 and 2014, 3,034 complaints were submitted to the office of the Prosecutor for abusive behavior by the police. Only 14 of those complaints led to prosecution and in only 4 cases were police officers convicted for abusive behavior. It may well be, as senior police informed me, that the allegations are exaggerated, but the extent of the problem is clearly much more dramatic than they were prepared to acknowledge.
a) Every police station in Romania should have CCTV cameras throughout the building, including in, but not limited to, interrogation rooms. The Ministry of the Interior should publish clear and public guidelines on the installation of such cameras, how long video records will be kept, who has access to the records, and under what circumstances.
b) Currently, individuals alleging police abuse need to obtain a certificate from the office of National Forensic Medicine to prove that they are the victims of violence. This is a high and unwarranted barrier to filing a complaint. The rules should be changed to allow a victim of police abuse to obtain a statement from any qualified physician.
c) Victims of police abuse currently have two options: to file a complaint with the superior officer at the police station or to file a complaint with the office of the Prosecutor. The former option is unrealistic, because a victim of abuse is unlikely to complain at the police station at which he or she has been abused. The latter option places too high a burden on the alleged victim. Romania should set up a separate body that can receive complaints of police abuse and is fully independent from the police. I refer to the five principles for such a body mentioned in paragraph 205 of the 2014 report by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. This independent body should be able, with the consent of the victim, to file a complaint with the office of the Prosecutor. The independent body should publish yearly reports on the number of cases received, the nature of the complaints, the relevant characteristics of the victims (including, but not limited to: age, sex, ethnicity, race, color, language, nationality, and economic status).
The whole document can be downloaded here.