Constitutional Court judges in Romania invalidate an emergency decree passed by the former Government
Unlike dictatorships, democracies sometimes find it difficult to guarantee public safety without affecting citizens' rights or to strike the right balance between freedom and safety. In Romania, the emergency decree regulating the selling of prepaid phone cards based on IDs only was declared unconstitutional on Tuesday. The judges of the Constitutional Court of Romania unanimously ruled that the decree issued by the Government, headed back then by the Social Democrat Viorica Dancila, came in violation of the Constitution, because the Government did not motivate the emergency and only argued in favor of the opportunity and need for such a regulation.
Therefore, the Court responded to a complaint filed last autumn by the Ombudsman, who claimed, among other things, that the new provisions affected citizen rights, freedoms and duties. The decree, which stipulated the obligation to provide an ID when purchasing a prepaid card, was issued by the Government last summer, after the tragedy known as the Caracal case. Back then, one of the victims of a rapist and serial killer called 112 to ask for help, using a prepaid phone, and that would have been the reason why she could not be located in due time. The girl was killed and the drama in the small town in southern Romania terrified and angered the public. Police officers, prosecutors, 112 operators, law-makers and government members, they all turned into targets of virulent criticism from the media and the citizens.
The first reaction on the politicians' part was to issue the Decree 62/2019. APADOR-CH, a human rights organization, has hailed the decision of the Constitutional Court. "A fundamental right cannot be restrained by means of an emergency decree and this should be understood by both politicians and citizens who do not see the implications of this attempt. The decision to buy prepaid cards only upon presenting an ID has nothing to do with locating those who call 112 and we hope we will not get again in the situation in which authorities fail to do their job in a case like the one in Caracal", reads the Facebook page of APADOR-CH.
In 2014, a law on identifying the users of prepaid phone cards and users of Wi-Fi networks was declared unconstituonal too. Back then, the Constitutional Court ruled that users' personal data were not protected enough. The ball is now again in the politicians' court, who will have to issue laws that do not break the provisions of the Constitution. Pundits say that the issue of prepaid cards must be settled though, because, everywhere in the world, they are used by terrorists and traffickers. (Translated by Mihaela Ignatescu)