MINELRES: ERRC: Recommendations for Reform of Romania's National Anti-Discrimination Body

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Nov 30 19:39:43 2005


Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>


European Roma Rights Centre Provides Detailed Recommendations for Reform
of Romania's National Anti-Discrimination Body

On 25 November 2005, the European Roma Rights Centre sent a letter to 
Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, urging him to consider
a series of recommendations related to the reform of the national
anti-discrimination body, the National Council for Combating
Discrimination.

The ERRC is aware of ongoing public debate in Romania around proposed 
changes Romania's antidiscrimination legislation, aiming in particular
to improve the institutional capacity of the Council. The ERRC letter -
and in particular the recommendations included in it - are based on ERRC
expertise in EU and international anti-discrimination law matters, as
well as on direct experience with the Council, as a result of supporting
a number of Romani victims of discrimination in filing complaints with
the Council in recent years. The letter provides details of the fate of
one such complaint, decided upon recently by the Council, which
illustrates a number of the shortcomings of the Council's present mode
of operations.

The full text of the ERRC letter, including detailed recommendations for
improving the effectiveness of the National Council for Combating
Discrimination, follows:

Honourable Prime Minister Popescu-Tariceanu,

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is a public interest law 
organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at combating 
anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma, in particular
strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy
development, and training of Romani activists.

The European Roma Rights Centre has extensive experience in providing 
advice to governments in Central and Eastern Europe concerning the
adoption and thorough implementation of comprehensive
anti-discrimination laws in conformity with EU and Council of Europe
standards. Our campaigns have played a decisive role in the adoption in
recent years of new legal instruments making justice for victims of the
serious harm of racial discrimination in countries such as Bulgaria,
Slovakia or Hungary.

We hereby address you with a series of recommendations for reform of the
National Council for Combating Discrimination (hereafter 'the NCCD') the
Romanian administrative body charged with implementing
anti-discrimination law in Romania. These recommendations are based on
our extensive expertise in matters related to the adoption and
implementation of comprehensive anti-discrimination laws and are brought
(i) in light of ongoing discussions in Romania concerning efforts to
amend Romania's anti-discrimination law; and (ii) in light of our direct
experience in attempting to secure justice for Romani victims of racial
and other discrimination in Romania.

In the matter at hand, the NCCD recently delivered a final judgment in
relation to a complaint filed more than two years ago on behalf of a
Romani family by their lawyer, Ms. Roxana Prisacariu with the support of
the European Roma Rights Centre.

The complainants were the Pandele family, a Romani family of four (a 
married couple and their two sons) living in Targu Frumos, a small town 
situated in northeastern Romania. Before the incident took place, the 
Pandeles held a lease for over ten years for a fruit and vegetable stand
in the central market place of Targu Frumos. Immediately after agreeing
to extend the lease for twenty-five years, the local town council
arbitrarily decided to cancel the lease. The reason given was that the
Pandeles had allegedly failed to meet the requirement of erecting a
kiosk on the space in the marketplace within the time limit provided to
them according to the renewed lease contract. As a result, the town
council ordered that the Pandeles' stand be removed from the
marketplace. Faced with the refusal of the Pandeles to leave, the town
council enlisted the help of the local police and a private security
firm in order to forcefully expel the Pandeles. On 19 August 2003,
police officials and the security agents physically and verbally
assaulted the four members of the Pandele family. The beating took place
in broad daylight in the marketplace of Targu
Frumos and continued at the police station, where the Pandeles were also
fined, and eventually released on the same day. A complaint in the
matter was filed with the NCCD on 10 September 2003.

The complaint had originally been filed twenty-two days after the
incident. After undertaking a minimal investigation and without
following the most elementary procedural rules, on 7 May 2004 the NCCD
rejected the Pandeles' complaint. An appeal was filed with the Iasi
Court of Appeal. The Court granted the appeal and ordered the NCCD to
undertake a new investigation.

After carrying out another investigation, the NCCD finally rendered a 
decision on 14 June 2005. On the basis of the complaint, after noting
that the beating was the object of a separate investigation, the NCCD
investigated whether the actions of the town council were
discriminatory. The NCCD noted that although other non-Roma individuals
failed to abide
by the requirements of the town council, they had not been expelled from
the marketplace and their contracts had not been terminated. The NCCD
concluded that the eviction of the Pandeles took place because of their
ethnicity.

Another four months passed before the final judgment was drafted and 
delivered to the Pandeles' representative on 20 October 2005, or more
than twenty-five months after the initial complaint had been lodged. As
a result, the town council was found in breach of the Romanian
anti-discrimination law and given an administrative warning. By this
time, the NCCD was barred by the applicable time limits from imposing a
more significant sanction on the Targu Frumos town council. Thus, the
judgment has done very little to repair the harm suffered by the
Pandeles, who in order to obtain significant redress, would now have to
take their complaint to the domestic courts, which would mean an
excessively lengthy road to justice, indeed longer than it would take to
resolve the cause absent the NCCD.

The way in which the NCCD handled the complaint filed by the Pandele
family highlights a number of weaknesses related to the Council's
current mandate, status and practice, such as:

* The excessive length of the investigation,
* The inability of the NCCD staff to recognize clear instances of 
discrimination,
* The lack of transparency of the investigations undertaken by the NCCD,
* The inability to provide meaningful redress to victims of
discrimination.

These issues are in turn related to more fundamental deficiencies that 
undermine the activity of the NCCD, such as the lack of independence
from the executive arm of the government and the lack of sufficient
resources and staff.

Although the issues detailed above provide a particularly graphic
example of an ineffective mechanism, we understand, on the basis of
consultations with partner organisations, that far from being
exceptional, this case is in fact exemplary of problems currently
burdening the NCCD. A number of other cases now being considered by the
NCCD or which have already been decided provide similar examples of
shortcomings in the way the NCCD is currently organised. For instance,
on 7 June 2004, the European Roma Rights Centre, together with partner
organisations Romani CRISS and Hochin Humanitarian Foundation, filed a
complaint regarding the segregation along racial lines in a school in a
town in northeastern Romania. To this date, a year and a half after the
initial complaint has been lodged, we are still to receive any notice
from the NCCD in relation to the investigation undertaken in the case,
if any at all.

The European Roma Rights Centre is aware of and supports the efforts to 
revise the Governmental Ordinance no. 137 of 31 August 2000 regarding
the prevention and sanctioning of all forms of discrimination that,
among others sets the framework for the functioning of the National
Council for Combating Discrimination. The ERRC urges the Romanian
authorities to expedite the process of adopting the draft law revising
Ordinance no. 137 pending consideration by the Romanian Government
before being sent to the Parliament. In this context, the ERRC urges
that the recommendations elaborated below be incorporated in that
process. These recommendations are derived from existing international
documents regarding national equality bodies, respectively the European
Council Directive 2000/43 ("Race Equality Directive"), the European
Commission against Racism and Intolerance General Policy Recommendation
No. 2 on Specialised Bodies to Combat Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism
and Intolerance at National Level, and the UN Principles relating to the
Status of National Institutions ("the Paris Principles").

1. The NCCD should be granted real independence from other state bodies, 
especially from the executive arm of the government, to which it is 
presently subordinated. In this context, the ERRC supports the proposal
put forward by members of civil society that the Council be placed under 
parliamentary supervision. The NCCD's mandate, powers, composition, and 
appointment procedures should be carefully anchored in an Act of
Parliament (and not in a Governmental ordinance/decision as it is done
presently) in order to ensure the overall independence of the Council.
Supervision of the NCCD by the Parliament might include scrutiny of its
annual report, and overseeing the body's budget and planning.

2. Appointment of members of the board should reflect the independent 
mandate of the NCCD. The selection process should involve
representatives of NGOs, trade unions, social workers and journalists.
The ERRC endorses the solution included in the current version of the
draft law available to us, according to which the Parliament appoints
members of the Council following recommendations made by the Senate, the
Chamber of Deputies and respectively by the civil society.

3. The NCCD should be given the power to apply a wider range of
sanctions aimed at achieving, to the largest extent possible,
'restitutio in integrum' for victims of discrimination. Sanctions may
include ordering the perpetrator to reinstate the complainant in his or
her rights, compensation, exclusion from public contracts etc. The NCCD
should also be given the power of withdrawing the licence of a company.
Presently the courts may apply this sanction upon request; however, they
have made little use of it so far. These measures would ensure that
sanctions available to the NCCD would be "effective, proportionate and
dissuasive" as specified in Article 15 of the Race Equality Directive.

4. Legal aid should be provided to victims of discrimination, in
conformity with Article 13(2) of the Race Equality Directive and Article
6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The practical modality in
which this is achieved should not, however, endanger the neutrality
and/or impartiality of the NCCD.

5. The six months time that the NCCD has at its disposal for
investigating and sanctioning the complaints brought to its attention
should be extended. According to the general legal framework on
administrative offences (contraventions) also applicable to the actions
of the NCCD, a sanction for an administrative offence shall be issued
within a period no greater than six months from the moment the deed was
committed. However, as was the situation in the Pandeles' case, this
time limit often proves to be too short for the sometimes complex
allegations that the NCCD is called upon to investigate. On the other
hand, in the segregation case, more than a year has passed with no word
whatsoever.

6. Sufficient staffing and adequate resources should be allocated to the
NCCD under parliamentary supervision so that it is able to fulfil its
mandate. Regionally based branches of the NCCD should be established, to
ensure greater efficacy in undertaking its work.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to working
constructively with you.

Sincerely,

Dimitrina Petrova
Executive Director


Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:

Mr. Calin Popescu-Tariceanu
Prime Minister of Romania
Piata Victoriei, nr. 1, sector 1
Bucuresti, Romania
Fax: +(40)-21-318 11 45

The ERRC letter was also copied to:

Mr. Gheorghe Barbu
Minister of Labor, Social Solidarity and Family
str. Dem I. Dobrescu nr. 2-4 sector 1,
Bucuresti, Romania

Ms. Anca Daniela Boagiu
Minister of European Integration
Str. Apolodor 17, latura Nord, sector 5,
Bucuresti, Romania
Fax: +(40) 21 336 85 09

Ms. Monica Macovei
Minister of Justice
Str. Apolodor, nr. 16, sector 5,
Bucuresti, Romania
Fax: +(40)-21-310 16 64

Mr. Vasile Blaga
Minister of Administration and Interior
Adresa str. Mihai Voda nr. 6-8, sect, 5,
Bucuresti, Romania
Fax: +(40)-21-310.30.72

Mr. Csaba Ferenc Astalos
President of the National Council for Combating Discrimnation
Piata Valter Maracineanu nr. 1-3, sector 1 (intrare prin strada
Victor Eftimiu)
Bucuresti, cod 010155
Fax: +40 21 312.65.78/+40 21 312.65.79

Mr. VladimĚr Spidla
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
200 Rue de la Loi
B-1049 Brussels
Belgium
Fax: +32 2 2988 642

Mr. Jonathan Scheele
Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Romania
18 Jules Michelet Street, 1st District,
010463 Bucharest, Romania
Fax: +40-21-230.24 53 / +40-21-212.88.08

_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law 
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at
http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201
_____________________________________________

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