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Police Impunity in Romania: Military Jurisdiction Over Misconduct Cases

NCJ Number
Policing & Society Volume: 10 Issue: 1 Dated: April 2000 Pages: 107-120
Monica L. Macovei
Date Published
April 2000
14 pages
This article examines police misconduct and accountability in Romania.
Romania’s new democracy is attempting to build an effective and accountable police force. Yet misconduct persists at alarming levels. The government has failed to change the laws that foster misconduct or to demilitarize the police. Military courts, not civilian, have jurisdiction over police misconduct cases. Several elements of Romanian law lead police to use illegal or abusive tactics in investigating crimes, such as officers not having to testify in criminal trials, or allegations of police misconduct not given a hearing in trials. Evidence obtained through force or through other illegal means is admissible in court. Many incidents of police misconduct occur while officers interrogate suspects. The Romanian criminal justice system does not allow plea bargaining, which places pressure on officers to secure or coerce confessions. Romania has militarized police forces. A militarized police force is a centralized police force. The Romanian system of policing, heavily influenced by military doctrine, does not allow discretion. The police are required to obey orders even if they lead to unlawful acts. The issue of police demilitarization has been debated since 1990. The social (nongovernmental) controls on police behavior are conspicuously weak in Romania. There are no formal vehicles, such as review boards, for civilians to exert influence over the police. The media fail to report on policing or violations of individual rights. The military system of justice undermines the principle of equality before the law, ensures that trials involving police officers are confidential, precludes the independence of judges, threatens the impartiality of judges and prosecutors, and inhibits fair and thorough investigations into allegations of police misconduct. Victims of police misconduct cannot sue police officers or the police force. The Minister of the Interior and other members of government are not held criminally accountable for their actions. Romania has yet to establish effective mechanisms of police accountability. 34 footnotes, 15 references