Changes to the Penal Code make victims more vulnerable
Amendments to the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code make victims more vulnerable and are in aggressors’ favour.
Most of the amendments proposed to Parliament by the majority coalition for the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code endanger access to justice for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, and victims of trafficking in human beings. These changes put the abuser, both as suspect or and as a defendant, in the forefront, and violate the rights of victims, while violating multiple provisions of other European laws, directives and treaties to which Romania is a signatory.
We need to understand that in cases of violence, it is not just a physical or sexual abuse, but also a continuous state of fear
More precisely, the amendment of Article 83 – The Rights of the Defendant in the Criminal Procedure Code (Law 135/2010) will result in the intimidation of witnesses and victims of the presence of the perpetrator. Independent MP Oana Bîzgan, a member of the Women’s Free of Violence Network, stresses that this change will have a detrimental effect, especially in cases of domestic violence: “We need to understand that in cases of violence, it is not just a physical or sexual abuse, and a continuous state of fear, of a psychological and emotional abuse, so an enormous influence that the abuser has on the victim and, most likely, on the witnesses: the children of the couple, for example.”
In Romania, every 5 days, a woman is beaten to death by her partner
Moreover, the MP points out that the amendment is contrary to the Istanbul Convention, which Romania has ratified since 2016, as well as Directive 2012/29 / EU / 2012, Law no. 211/2001, of the Law no. 682/2002 and Law no. 217/2003. “Let us not forget that in Romania every 5 days a woman is beaten to death by the partner; a minor – a girl or a boy – is sexually abused every four days by a family member; 1 out of 4 women in Romania are physically or sexually assaulted throughout their lives. I remind you that the draft law amending Law 217/2003 on the prevention and combating of domestic violence has been for more than a year in the Government, and meanwhile, Romania is being condemned to the ECHR for the authorities’ inaction regarding this scourge. “
Changes that may have very serious consequences
The amendment of art. 139 and art. 168 Code of Criminal Procedure will lead to the elimination, from presented evidence, of records made in compliance with the law, respectively the impossibility to use, in another case, the results of an IT search. Consequently, cases of pedophilia or sexual abuse discovered tangentially will no longer be punishable, nor can they produce or distribute records of victims of trafficking or rape. This disastrous effect would also lead to the modification of art. 267 par. 2 Code of Criminal Procedure, which deprives prosecutors of quick access to information for effective action in cases of trafficking in human beings, and cyber-violence. The provision contravenes art. 50 of the Istanbul Convention.
Article 34 of the Convention would oppose the amendment of Art. 307 par. 2 Criminal Procedure Code, whereby the suspect should be notified immediately after the filing of a complaint against him / her, which allows the abuser to erase evidence or intimidate the witnesses or even the victim. Modification of art. 364 Criminal Procedure Code makes it impossible to convict a person in absentia; that of art. 273 decriminalizes false testimony. Obviously, without the consequences of this issue, aggressors will be able to escape punishment with the help of false witnesses.
An initial dismissal solution could no longer be invalidated after 6 months
Extremely serious is also the amendment of art. 335 Criminal Procedure Code: an initial dismissal could no longer be denied after 6 months, even if new evidence arises, so aggressors will no longer pay for their deeds, including sexual abuse and incest – an obvious violation of Article 58 the limitation period of the Istanbul Convention, draws the attention of the MP. It is not possible that in 2017, in a European country, to modify legislation in favor of the aggressor, while victims of domestic violence and sexual violence are humiliated and made more vulnerable even by the authorities that should defend them, says Oana Bîzgan, who recently submitted a bill for the first sanctioning of street harassment in Romania.
The danger of these changes was also publicly reported by professional associations (Prosecutors from Romania, police officers, DIICOT, etc.) as well as by the civil society through the VIF and the Romanian Women’s Lobby Network for Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women.