Concerns over excessive use of force by police remained prevalent. The European Court of Human Rights ruled against disproportionate restrictions to spontaneous protests. Roma and LGBTI people continued to face systemic discrimination. Protesters demanded action to combat sexual and gender-based violence.
In June, the Senate approved proposals to set the age of consent to sexual relations at 15; more than 180 NGOs called for the proposed age to be raised to 16.
In its July Rule of Law report, the European Commission (EC) highlighted the need for Romania to reinforce judicial independence and address challenges around anti-corruption institutions. The report raised concerns over frequent changes in legislation, regular use of emergency orders and limited public consultation, as well as risks to media freedom. The EC also called for the establishment of a national human rights institution.
In October, the UN General Assembly elected Romania as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for 2023-2025.
Romania’s record on implementing judgments by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was among the poorest in the EU, according to the European Implementation Network and Democracy Reporting International.
Excessive use of force
A survey of 1,000 detainees in 28 prisons carried out by the NGO APADOR-Helsinki Committee highlighted concerns over excessive use of force by police, as well as failure to respect the right of inmates to effective legal defence and a low rate of complaints about alleged abuse, partly due to fear of repercussions.
In August, the ECtHR found there had been a violation of the right to life through unlawful use of deadly force by police in 2009 during a poorly planned operation to apprehend a suspect and lack of effective investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office. As similar findings emerged in another three cases, the ECtHR considered that “general measures” were required to ensure the enforcement of the judgment and to prevent such violations in future.
Freedom of expression and assembly
In May, the ECtHR ruled that Romania violated the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in relation to a fine given for a spontaneous protest against a mining project. It found that, by applying the three days’ notification requirement for assemblies to a small group protest lasting only a few minutes, authorities disproportionately restricted the protesters’ rights and created a potentially chilling effect on public discourse.
In December, a new Law “on the protection of whistleblowers in the public interest” was adopted. The law would replace the 2004 legislation and represented Romania’s transposition of the European Union’s 2019 Whistleblowing Directive.
In June, a survey of 10 countries published by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) showed a decrease in hate-motivated harassment and physical violence against Roma in most of the countries surveyed, including Romania, as compared to the FRA’s findings in 2016. However, Romanian Roma continued to face widespread poverty, social exclusion and discrimination, including in education, health, housing and employment.
LGBTI people’s rights
Same-sex marriage and partnership remained unrecognized. Romania continued to fail to comply with the 2018 European Court of Justice decision on the need to harmonize national legislation to guarantee freedom of movement and residence for same-sex couples.
NGOs expressed strong objections to three anti-LGBTI legislative proposals claiming to “promote and protect” children’s rights. The proposals were introduced for discussion in parliament but remained pending at the end of the year.
Sexual and gender-based violence
The number of reported incidents of violence against women, including femicides, remained high.
A 2022 to 2027 national strategy for the promotion of equal opportunities between women and men and the prevention and combating of domestic violence, which had been under public consultation since March 2021, was adopted in December.
In October, protests were held across the country demanding action to combat violence against women, including sexual and domestic violence, and denouncing state failure to ensure protection for victims.
In August, the ECtHR found that Romania violated the right to private life when authorities failed to adequately investigate and ensure justice in the case of a woman applicant who, in 2017, filed a criminal complaint of sexual harassment against her boss. This was the first case in the history of the ECtHR to conclude that an inadequate response to alleged sexual harassment constituted a violation of the right to private life. As such, it represented an important milestone.