Romania races against the OPCAT clock

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Romania ratifies the OPCAT, but progress to put in place an NPM is slow. An NPM seminar scheduled for 30 September 2013 is set to address this pressing issue.

Romania took the very positive decision to join the ever-growing number of countries which have embraced the OPCAT by ratifying the instrument on 2 July 2009. However, since then progress in putting in place an NPM has been anything but swift. When Romania ratified the OPCAT in 2009, it requested a postponement under Article 24 (Part IV) of the instrument allowing the country an additional three years to institute its NPM. At the time, this request was not so exceptional, as several other countries had also made similar declarations under Article 24, including Germany, Kazakhstan and Montenegro.

Nonetheless, Romania broke new ground in 2012 when it became the very first country to request an additional two-year extension on top of this initial three-year postponement, again under Article 24 of the OPCAT. In a decision dated 17 April 2013 the UN Committee against Torture, the body with the mandate to grant additional postponements under Article 24, permitted Romania this additional extension, inviting it to attend its 50th session in Geneva in May 2013 to report on any progress made in this respect.

The APT attended the aforementioned session in Geneva in May 2013 and closely followed the exchange between representatives of the Romania government and members of the UN Committee against Torture. Several Romania NGOs were also present at the discussion, including the Romanian Helsinki Committee and the Centre for Legal Resources, both of which submitted a joint written submission to the UN Committee prior to the session. After some encouragement from the UN Committee, the Romania delegation offered its assurances to establish the NPM by September 2014.

Romania now has a deadline of around one year to put in place one or more NPMs. The question of how Romania might implement the OPCAT is certainly not a new item for discussion in the country, as it has been discussed on several occasions over the past six or so years, beginning in September 2007 when the very first national round-table was held on the topic in Bucharest. On 30 September the Romanian Helsinki Committee will host a one-day meeting of experts in Bucharest to address this important matter once again, which will be attended by various national and international representatives, including the SPT and APT. It can only be hoped that once Romania’s NPM is put in place, the five year wait will have been worth it.