Romania’s Minister of Justice admits to lying to the European Court of Human Rights

Romania’s Minister of Justice admits to lying to the European Court of Human Rights

Romania’s Minister of Justice, Raluca Pruna has revealed she lied to the European Court for Human Rights about the allocation of almost a billion euros for prison reforms.

Romanian Minister of Justice, Raluca Pruna, admitted in this month’s meeting with the Romanian Superior Magistrates Council, to have lied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the budgeting of almost a billion euros for the construction of seven new penitentiaries. She stated that she felt compelled to lie on behalf of the government, fully knowing that while there were a lot of good intentions, nothing was allocated from the state budget for this specific purpose. Consequently, NGOs, political figures, political parties and public opinion in general have asked for the resignation of Minister Pruna from the office.

The signal that the Romanian government is sending is that it is not willing or able to solve the acute problem of the detention conditions in penitentiaries.

Romania’s prisons a litany of woes

Reports from the Romanian Ombudsman’s office, the Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH), and The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) have identified serious issues in the Romanian detention system: overcapacity and faulty communication of capacity, lack of access to personal hygiene products, lack of direct light, of electricity, water and storage for personal effects as well as an absence of areas for walking and exercising.

The penitentiaries are often old buildings which present a health hazard for inmates (from water infiltration and lack of ventilation, to lack of facilities, as well as insects and parasites infestations). The oldest such building still in use dates back to the 1850s. In the absence of cafeterias, meals are served in the cells where inmates are forced to place the trays on their knees or on the floor. Moreover, the medical assistance available to inmates is hindered by a lack of personnel as well as medications. In several cases, medical services were available only two days a week, stomatology services, twice a month.

Furthermore, no special attention whatsoever is given to HIV/AIDS positive inmates and in several instances inmates with mental health issues were locked up with regular inmates. The reports also found a high rate of hunger strikes, self-inflicted wounds as well as a high rate of suicide.


In conclusion the reports recommended immediate legislative measures on the status of the inmates, the creation of detention facilities exclusively for preventive arrest, a reform of the penitentiary system as a whole, financing reforms, and budgetary concessions for refurbishment and construction of new detaining facilities.

In many cases, the ECHR found infringements of the Art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights regarding inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment. It also found that 18 penitentiaries and three detention centers for preventive detentions are not respecting the standards set by CPT. Between 1998 (year of accession) and 2015, ECHR found in Romania 178 violations against art.3. In 2015 alone, with 27 violations, Romania accounted for 17% of all ECHR cases in this matter. Only Russia registered a higher number in 2015, with a staggering 44 violations.

Needless to say that given the reports’ horrific findings, the Romanian Government should have made it a priority to tackle them, which, it did, but only on paper. In terms of the economic cost however, considering that the cumulative reparations offered by the court in 2014, were under a quarter of a million euro, the Romanian Government could have, in theory, postponed the matter, making it a problem for the next government.

Romania’s government losing credibility

This option could not be taken as Pruna was informed earlier this year that Romania is risking sanction ( a.k.a. “the pilot action”)  that could amount to 80 million euro  per year (four euro per day for each of the 28,000 total inmates). Hence the lie.

The immediate consequence of this lie is a further loss of credibility for the Romanian government and its justice system at the national and international level. In fact, a Eurobarometer survey showed that the trust of Romanians in their judicial system has fallen by 13% compared to 2015. It also raises the question of where the information came from and whether a minister should verify data before presenting it; the origin of the document remains an unsolved mystery.

At the international level the scandal comes at a bad time, as the anti-corruption battle led by the Romanian Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) is already raising eyebrows. As a result the European Commission is starting to question all self-reported data from Romanian representatives.

Categories: Europe, Politics

About Author

Alina Harastasanu

Alina Harastasanu works as a business analyst and has over 7 years experience in consulting and international business. She holds a B.A. in Political Sciences from the University of Bucharest, a M.A. in Geopolitics and Global Security from University of Rome “La Sapienza” and an MBA degree focused on International Business and Strategy from The Ohio State University.