The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), Europe's largest annual human rights and democracy conference, is organized every year by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a platform for OSCE participating States, Partners for Co-operation, civil society, international organizations and OSCE structures to take stock of the implementation of the human dimension commitments, discuss associated challenges, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvements (www.osce.org/hdim_2013).
Soteria International decided to bring to the attention of the international community an interesting situation in international law, which surfaced during the observation conducted by Soteria International in the case of Gregorian Bivolaru, a Romanian social and spiritual activist, and founder of a large spiritual movement in Romania with affiliations worldwide. The movement was attacked by Romanian police in March 2004, in an unprecedented police operation, initially presented as an anti-terrorist operation. When the operation showed no signs of terrorism, nor any traces of illicit substances or activities (another motif invoked by Romanian authorities), police detained a minor (17 ½ years old) who lived in one of the 16 private houses raided by police. She was unlawfully detained by police for 12 hours and forced to sign a statement that she had sexual relations with Bivolaru, a statement which was used to incriminate him in the court. Because of the illegality of the operation, as well as because of an extremely widespread slandering media campaign, with numerous hate speeches against Bivolaru and yoga practitioners, in 2005 Bivolaru received political asylum in Sweden. In 2010 and 2011 he was acquitted by the Romanian Court of first instance and Court of Appeals, but in 2012 Romanian Supreme Court quashed previous decisions and after a hasted investigation ruled a condemnation verdict for 6 years in prison on the charge of sex with a minor – the very same minor who was forced by prosecutors to write an incriminating false statement and who since then appealed to no avail to all Romanian authorities complaining on the actions of prosecutors and requesting that she should no longer be used as a victim in the court trials against Bivolaru.
Consequently to the decision of the Supreme Court, Romanian authorities issued a European warrant of arrest on Bivolaru, thus creating an unprecedented situation in international legal proceedings. The legal decision of granting political asylum to Bivolaru is now challenged by the European warrant of arrest, which de jure has the same legal power, given the fact that Romania is a EU member state since 2007. What is important in the situation created, is that the matter not only raises a juridical question, but most importantly a serious matter of human rights. The decision of political asylum was taken after a thorough investigation of Romanian reality concerning protection of human rights. Also in respect to the independence and professionalism of the judiciary Romania has not reached acceptable and sustainable progress. Even after its accedence to the EU, Romania continued to be scrutinized by European institutions on matters pertaining to the judiciary. The conference organized by Soteria International gathered a panel of distinguished professionals in the field of human rights, who expressed their concern with regard to the situation created by Romanian judiciary and the legal and ethical challenge that Sweden is now facing.
The contributions from the panelists coming from Romania were depicting a gloomy situation of a country still troubled by totalitarian practises; a country where leaders of the communist nomenclature are still active in political and administrative decision making; a society affected by political chaos and regular attempts to break constitutional norms for the sake of private interests and power struggles; a country where intellectuals and social activists are slandered and ridiculed in mass media and where human rights still represent rather a remote concept for Romanian citizens, rather than a fundamental reality.
International human rights activists expressed their concern that imposing on the execution of the European warrant of arrest issued by Romania in such a situation, could potentially create a human rights violation. EU human rights legislation with respect to granting asylum within the Union, as well as the mechanisms of judiciary cooperation within EU, were drafted under the precondition that all member states are duly enforcing on national levels the provisions of the international human rights legislative acts. It appears that the mechanisms to verify whether the preconditions are fulfilled and consistently respected by member states are not yet in place within EU. Thus, when addressing such cases as Bivolaru’s, the recommendation is to consider the international legislative acts, such as the European Convention for Human Rights and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) over the provisions of the EU legislation.
Video reportages from the side event organized by Soteria International will be posted on the website, to broadcast the interesting and extremely important messages of the contributors to the event: international human rights lawyer – Gregory Thuan (France), historian and political scientist, founder of Romanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights – Gabriel Andreescu (Romania), journalist and social activist - Joakim Porslund (Denmark), writer and intellectual activist Mircea Cartarescu (Romania), professor of international law – Lucia Rossi (Italy), human rights defender, director of HRWF Int’l - Willy Fautre (Belgium), social activist and representative of Gregorian Bivolaru, Mihai Stoian (Denmark).