The penalties for the defendants in the case involving the Colectiv nightclub fire may be lowered
More than 6 years after the fire that killed 65 people
and injured severely another 150, the penalties in the Colectiv case may be
Three judges from the Bucharest Court of Appeals have
changed in part the legal qualification of the offences, more specifically they
removed the aggravating circumstances from consideration with respect to the
offence of abuse in office for some of the defendants, including the former
mayor of Bucharest's sector where the nightclub was located, Cristian
Popescu-Piedone. Removing the word "aggravated" from the definition of the
offence leads to milder sentences.
This is an important decision, and is the last step
ahead of a final ruling in the trial. In December 2019, the Bucharest Court of
Justice had issued the first rulings on the case. At that time, Piedone was
sentenced to 8 years and 6 months in prison, for abuse of office related to the
issuing of the operation licenses for the Colectiv nightclub.
Prison sentences were also ordered for the three
owners of the club, two City Hall employees in charge with supervising fire
protection, the owners of the company that provided fireworks and the
The defendants were also ordered to pay, jointly with
the City Hall and the Bucharest-Ilfov Inspectorate for Emergency Situations a
combined 50 million euros to the victims of the fire.
Both the defendants, and the prosecutors appealed the
ruling, and the case was referred to the Bucharest Court of Appeals.
The survivors and the victims' families have released
an open letter challenging the decision to change the legal qualification of
the offences, arguing that it leads to milder penalties, which would thus
become "small and insignificant, out of proportion compared to the gravity
of the offences and their consequences, a fact that would cast shadow on the
entire judicial process in Romania."
On 30th October, 6 years after the tragedy for
which no one has been held liable so far, the survivors and victims' families
protested in silence against the postponement of a final ruling on the case. They
lit candles and placed photos of the victims, as well as photos of some
politicians deemed responsible for the tragedy, in front of the Court of Appeals
building. Some of the participants lied down next to the photos of the
deceased, covering themselves in white sheets.
Moreover, the survivors who needed specialised care
and who are still under treatment warn that even today in-hospital infections
are not properly reported and monitored. Romania still lacks centres for the
treatment and recovery of patients with severe burns. The families and friends
of those who died 6 years ago, as well as civil society representatives,
complain that little has changed in the Romanian healthcare system, and the
investigation and trial are going round in circles. The next court date is set
for 17th November, when the membership of the panel of judges for
the next stages of the trial is to be discussed. (tr. A.M. Popescu)