Official corruption and police violence against the Roma - issues in the US State Department's 2018 human rights report on Romania
The judiciary in Romania is the main concern of the US State Department. The lack of sufficient personnel, of physical space and of technology to enable the judiciary to act swiftly and efficiently continued, resulting in excessively long trials, the report reads. The document also mentions that the Superior Council of Magistracy, in charge of protecting judicial independence, acted to suspend judges and prosecutors suspected of legal violations.
There were reports, however, that the Judicial Inspection department, an autonomous disciplinary unit within the council, was subject to increasing political influence and was occasionally used to investigate magistrates who prosecuted or ruled against the governing coalition’s officials or allies, the State Department notes in its report.
Overall, the government respected judicial independence and impartiality, although the council determined that some politicians’ public statements infringed on judicial independence. Despite numerous high-profile prosecutions, corrupt practices remained widespread, the report goes on. Officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) continued to investigate and prosecute corruption cases involving political, judicial, and administrative officials, although verdicts in corruption cases were often inconsistent, with sentences varying widely for similar offenses.
Corruption was widespread in public procurement as well, the document also shows. Bribery was common in the public sector, especially in healthcare. According to the US State Department, discrimination against the Roma continued to be a major problem. Romani groups complained that police harassment and brutality, including beatings, were routine. Both domestic and international media and observers reported societal discrimination against the Roma. The Roma had a higher unemployment rate and a lower life expectancy than ethnic groups other than Roma.
As regards freedom of the press, the State Department writes that independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without overt restriction. Conversely, media outlets closely linked to or controlled by politicians and political groups presented news and editorial stances that frequently reflected their owners’ views and targeted criticism at political opponents and other media organizations.
The document also refers to the anti-government protest of August 10, when 15 journalists suffered physical, verbal, or tear gas assaults by gendarmes. On the other hand, there have been reports from NGOs and media that police and gendarmes abused and mistreated prisoners, pretrial detainees, Roma, and other vulnerable persons. The report also notes that prison conditions remained harsh and overcrowded in 2018, failing to meet international standards.