The International Human Rights Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Romania is a State Party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Romania is also a party to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which allows individuals to petition the Human Rights Committee if they believe the State has violated their human rights as protected under the Covenant.
On 3 April 2020, the UN Secretary-General published a notification from Romania dated 20 March 2020 in which the Government of Romania informed the depository that it had decreed a state of emergency on the national territory in order to ensure the containment of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus. “Some of the measures taken or which will be taken in the context, on the basis of the Decree, may involve derogations from the obligations” under Article 21 ICCPR.
At regional level, Romania is a state party to the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 11 governs freedom of assembly and association:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This Article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the State.
Romania made a similar declaration of derogation with respect to Article 11 ECHR as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Domestic Legal Framework on the Right of Peaceful Assembly
Under Article 39 of the 1991 Constitution of Romania:
Public meetings, processions, demonstrations or any other assembly shall be free and may be organized and held only peacefully, without arms of any kind whatsoever.
Law No. 60/1991 regulates public gatherings and requires two days' notice for demonstrations. The law prohibits "hindering the regular use of public roads and public transportation" and imposes fines on protestors who violate the law.
The Legal Framework on Use of Force During Assemblies
The Use of Force
International Legal Rules
Under international law, the duty on the State and its law enforcement agencies is to facilitate the enjoyment of the right of peaceful assembly. According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials:
In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
All force used by police and other law enforcement agencies must be necessary for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and proportionate to that purpose.
The 2002 Law on the Romanian Police governs police use of force. Article 34(1) allows the police to use a range of less-lethal weapons.
The Use of Firearms
International Legal Rules
According to the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles, in the dispersal of violent assemblies, a law enforcement official may only use a firearm against a specific individual where this is necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life.
Article 35(1) of the 2002 Law allows police officers to use firearms where necessary but only after a verbal warning. Paragraph 2, however, allows use in cases of legitimate self-defence without prior warning.
State Compliance with its Legal Obligations
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding observations on Romania, the Human Rights Committee did not address the right of peaceful assembly.
Romania has not been found in violation of the right of peaceful assembly in relation to assemblies in recent years.
Csiszer and Csibi v. Romania (2020)
The Court did not find a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention in this case, which concerned the imposition of an administrative fine on the applicants for organising a gathering on 1 December 2010, the day of the Romanian national holiday, to commemorate the founding of the Székely battalion.
On 1 December 1918, in Cluj-Napoca, Hungarian military units had joined forces to form the Székely battalion to fight the Romanian army, which had entered Transylvania. In April 1919 the battalion surrendered to the Romanian army. The applicants had been penalised for organising a prohibited gathering under Article 26(1)(a) of Law No. 60/1991. The national courts had observed that the gathering also contravened Article 9 of the Law, which prohibited public gatherings aimed, among other things, at propagating fascist and/or chauvinist ideas, denigrating the country and the nation, and inciting others to national hatred. The Court considered that the applicants’ conduct in deliberately refusing to comply with the rules laid down by domestic law had rendered the planned gathering unlawful under the national legislation. It noted that the national authorities had given relevant and sufficient reasons capable of justifying the interference with the applicants’ exercise of their right to freedom of assembly. With regard to the allegation of discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, the Court noted that the second applicant had not demonstrated in the proceedings before it that persons in the same situation as him – that is, seeking to organise commemorative gatherings in breach of Article 5(2) of Law No. 60/1991 – had not been penalised by the authorities. As to the reasons given by the domestic courts for upholding the penalty, the Court noted that the courts had not based their decisions on the second applicant’s ethnic background.
Mocanu v. Romania (2014)
This case concerned the violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in Bucharest in June 1990. During the crackdown, Ms Mocanu’s husband was killed by gunfire and Mr Stoica was arrested and ill-treated by the police. The Court confirmed that when a state becomes party to the European Convention on Human Rights, that state must comply with the duty to investagate potentially unlawful death or inhumane treatment, even though the relevant facts occurred at an earlier time.
According to Freedom House's 2019 report on Romania:
Romania’s constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, and numerous peaceful public demonstrations were held during 2018. However, a large protest against government corruption in August was met with tear gas and police violence. Hundreds of people required medical attention in the wake of the clashes. In October, the High Court of Cassation and Justice banned spontaneous public gatherings under most circumstances, requiring assemblies to be declared in advance; the ruling contributed to further national protests that month.