Geneva - 18 March 2003 -

Madam President,
Mr. High Commissioner,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please allow me to wish, on behalf of the Romanian Government, every success to the works of the 59th session of the Commission on Human Rights, expressing our hope that the principles on which it has founded its mandate, namely dignity, equality and security for all human beings in all geographical areas, will become a reality. The universality of human rights is a condition sine qua non, as long as it is true that human rights are either universal or they are not ... human rights.

Madam President,

It is a great honour for me to address you as the representative of a country that has made particular efforts in order to actually put in practice the rights included in the international instruments to which it is a party.

Further on, I wish to speak especially about one of the rights most frequently evoked in Romania, but also by the international human rights bodies, namely the right to a fair administration of justice.

Justice is a key factor for social balance and stability in a state governed by the rule of law. For the full accomplishment of this role, the reform of a fundamental system of the society, such as the judicial system, involves not only the actual institutional restructuring, but also the reform in the mentalities underlying the operation of the present system, as well as costs that society has to assume.

Although there has been undeniable progress in the modernisation of the judicial system, in the context of the acceleration of the process of European integration, the Romanian Government has deemed that there is an imperative need for an unitary, coherent approach of the whole judicial system reform strategy that, in its turn, be coordinated with the reforms in other social fields.

In this sense, the Reform Strategy of the Romanian Judicial System contains the objectives necessary to the modernisation of the judicial system, detailed in a Plan of Action containing concrete measures for its accomplishment, for which deadlines and financial resources have been envisaged. The objectives and the measures have been elaborated according to a general view of all components of the judicial system, taking into account to their importance and needs.

The major purpose of the Strategy is to consolidate the independence and statute of Justice and to provide the effective accomplishment of the act of justice, in order to respond to the citizens' needs and to ensure the compatibility of the Romanian judicial system with those of the Member States of the European Union.

This is why, in the realisation of the Reform Strategy, special consideration has been paid to the integration of Justice as a public service within the Society, through an active co-operation both with the public administration, as well as with various segments of the civil society, for the functional consolidation and improvement of the rule of law by regaining the citizens' confidence in Justice and their respect towards the primacy of the law.

The justice system reform will continue by the adoption of the Law on the statute of magistrates and judicial organisation, which will aim at improving the operation of the justice system, by consolidating the statute of magistrates, reorganising law courts from a geographical point of view, as well as by founding specialised courts (juvenile courts, litigations on matters of intellectual property, labour litigations etc.).

The draft new law defines the statute of irremovability for judges and of stability for prosecutors, built on the idea of guaranteeing the right to a career and on responsibility in the exercise of office. Judges irremovability is well known as a guarantee of the independence of justice and there is emphasis on the transfer of certain attributions, concerning magistrate selection and career, from the minister of justice, into the competence of the Superior Council of the Magistracy.

The draft takes over the provisions of the Council of Europe Recommendation No. (94)12 meaning that it increases the role and importance of the Council in the magistrates' selection, appointment, promotion and removal from office, based on objective criteria, safeguarding the independence of judges' career in relation to the political influences and pressure of any kind.

In this context, the consolidation of the National Institute for Magistrates is a priority for the judicial system reform, in order to ensure a high professional training for magistrates, by combining theoretical specialisation with the acquisition of skills, by a thorough study of the legislation and of the national and Community jurisprudence. Designed under three aspects: initial training, continuous training and training of the trainers, the activity of the National Institute for Magistrates is essentially involved in the justice system reform, and it is the base of a magistrate's career. In what concerns the initial training, we intend, in addition to the strictly legal training, to shape and develop professional motivations and attitudes. According to the training program, a network of 60 judges will be created, who shall be trainers in the following fields: human rights, EU law, civil law and criminal law.

We believe that judges need to be trained also in the field of relations with the civil society and the media. For this, we intend to consolidate the institution of the court's spokesperson.

The effective accomplishment of the act of justice presupposes the existence of a support staff well trained from a professional point of view. For this, a special Training Centre for court clerks has been created. Not least, we have focused on promoting a policy to increase the prestige of magistrates by improving the ethical component, according to European and international standards. Thus, in 2001, we have recorded a notable success by the adoption of the Deontological Code for Magistrates.

Madam President,

In recent years, the Romanian Government has granted a particular attention to the reform in the child protection system. Thus, we have elaborated a National Strategy for protecting children in difficulty, and in addition to this there is a legislative package in the matter of child protection, which contains: the Child Law, the Law on adoption and two laws for the operation of specialised institutions in this field, namely the National Child Protection and Adoption Authority and the Romanian Adoption Office.

These legislative measures have been correlated with a series of measures to strengthen the institutional capacity, from among its actual results I mention: the closing down of 60 large residential institutions, the development of services alternative to the "classical" residential care, the re-assessment of the situation of children going to special schools, followed by the integration of about one third of them into the regular education system, the establishment of a single decision-making authority at country level to deal with children issues etc.

Another direction in which Romania has made remarkable progress is the prevention and combating of trafficking in human beings. At the beginning of the 21st century, trafficking in human beings - a sad reality of the contemporary world - has had an alarming growth. The development of the freedom of movement, the process of economic globalisation, the technological progress have led to the creation of international markets for the sale and purchase of human beings.

Romania has entered the international circuit of trafficking in human beings, in particular that in women and children, which are used for labour or sexual exploitation. For this reason, our country has joined the international initiatives in this field, first of all by ratifying the UN Convention against transnational organised crime and its two additional protocols (the Protocol on the prevention, repression and sanction of trafficking in human beings, in particular that in women and children and the Protocol against trafficking in migrants by land, air and sea).

Also, on a national level a series of extremely important measures have been taken for effectively combating these modern forms of slavery. Thus, we have adopted a Special Law against trafficking in human beings, a concrete Plan of Action and we have designated a National Coordinator of all anti-trafficking activities.

Madam President,

The application of international standards in human rights is done mostly by founding or strengthening national human rights protection institutions. That is why a special place in the policy of the Romanian Government is given to the consolidation of institutions characteristic in a democratic state.

I will refer, in brief, to two of these.
The institution of the Ombudsman has been created in order to defend the rights and liberties of citizens in their relations with the public authorities. The institution is organised in order to contain a wide range of problems that occur in the relations between citizens and state authorities; they are grouped at present into four departments that we can say include the full range of human rights contained in the Romanian Constitution, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the other conventions and treaties to which Romania is a party.

Those departments handle matter related to:
1) public central and local administration, urbanism and environmental protection,
2) social protection of labour and property,
3) public order, military services and hospitals, penitentiaries, as well as the protection of minorities, cults and foreigners,
4) child, woman, family, education and culture protection, as well as the protection of re-education institutions for minors.

Beginning last year, the Ombudsman has become the manager of the national system for personal data protection. This institution does not reproduce the institutions and bodies that already exist and it is not their substitute; through specific implementation and persuasion measures, it contributes to the realisation of a normal social life and to the development of Romania as a state governed by the rule of law. According to the law, the Ombudsman is independent in relation to any public authority, this being the essential condition of its effectiveness and credibility. In the exercise of his attributions, the Ombudsman has the right to make his/her own inquiries, having access to all the information held by public authorities (including classified documents), and can issue recommendations to them, which cannot be subject to parliamentary control, nor to judicial control. The Ombudsman steps in when he/she is notified by a natural person or he/she can be notified ex officio when he/she learns by any other way that the rights or liberties of a person have been breached (information from the press, television, NGOs, other requests or data obtained during investigations) by the activity or inactivity of public authorities.

Romania has made important steps in the creation and consolidation of the legislative and institutional framework in the non-discrimination field, a priority problem for the international community. (I will use this occasion to inform you that we have made available the normative acts in this field). The National Council for Fighting Discrimination is the first institution specialised in this field in Central and Eastern Europe. The Council has launched the idea of creating an European Alliance against discrimination, the main purpose of which will be to facilitate best practices exchange in order to found similar institutions in all the European Union candidate countries.

Madam President,

I wish to conclude by expressing my satisfaction for the results of the expert seminar on "Interdependence between democracy and human rights" and I confirm the readiness of the Romanian Government to participate actively to the organisation of a future seminar on "Democracy and the rule of law".

The protection and promotion of human rights is a complex and obviously current matter of the contemporary society, whether we are looking at countries with a long democratic tradition or at those called generically the new democracies. We must fight permanently against apathy and indifference, for, as it has been shown on various occasions, democracy is an always-perfectible process.

Thank you, Madam President.

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