ROMANIA: police indiscriminate violence against anti-government protests

Protests against corruption turned violent on 10 August in Bucharest as the Gendarmerie evicted the peaceful demonstrators with the use of force. 440 people, out of whom 24 gendarmes, received medical attention on site. 65 people, out of which 9 gendarmes, had to be taken to the hospital. According to Andrei Pop from the Civil Society Development Foundation, “at least one person was severely injured by a tear gas grenade in his leg. Water cannons, tear gas in huge quantities and varied shapes, as well as the traditional sticks, were the weapons used by the gendarmes. Pepper spray was used directly into people’s faces, from a distance of a few centimetres.

The violence was unprecedented and indiscriminately used on innocuous people or even “people holding their hands up” as emerges on footage made public. Andrei added that “Multiple accounts point to how gendarmes targeted media representatives who were taking video recordings of their actions, including a camera operator from the Austrian public broadcast, ORF”.

As reported by the civil society organisations Apador and ActiveWatch, the violence was unmotivated and targeting all the people taking part in the rally. In a press release, they “urge the Romanian Gendarmerie to proceed immediately and:

1.       Give public access to all the documents related to its reaction to 10 August events

2.        Give public access to all the orders received during the events

3.       Set up an effective investigation in order to identify and sanction all the individuals who are guilty of violent acts and other crimes under the law.

We also urge the Romanian Gendarmerie to take all the necessary measures so as the scenes we have witnessed will not be repeated and Romanian Gendarmerie will continue to ensure public order and safety during future similar protests.”

While the General Attorney opened a criminal investigation on the violence on August 10th, political leaders close to the government refused to condemn the violence by the police. Andrei Pop commented:

“The political statements made by prominent governmental leaders, including Liviu Dragnea, president of the Social Democratic Party, and Carmen Dan, the Minister for the Interior, are very concerning since they take no blame for any of the Gendarmerie’s violence, they consider it justified. Liviu Dragnea even announced that the legal investigation demanded by Romania’s President Iohannis to be an unfair pressure on the Gendarmerie.”

(UPDATE 12/9: Romania’s ruling party asks for investigation on the possible external financing of August 10 protest. Andrei Pop from the Civil Society Development Foundation writes: “All of this info falls into a strategy of drawing attention away from the Government’s abuses on August 10th. Even more, it throws very dark clouds of popular doubt and discontent with anything related to civic activism.”)