Call for public stand against Human Rights violations in Romania
Addressed to all partner states with diplomatic missions in Romania, in the name of their commitment to Democracy and Human Rights
24 years ago, in the month of December, more than a thousand people died in Romania for democracy and human rights and liberties. Their deaths and the struggle of many others was not in vain but their memory is dishonored by what is now happening in the village of Pungesti, in Vaslui county. In the days of the revolution, former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu declared the city of Timisoara an area of public and national safety to justify repressive and violent action against the protesters. Pungesti has been declared a special area of public safety after the villagers took down the fence around the ground rented by USA gas and oil giant, Chevron. The villagers amounted to such desperate actions as a last resort, after using up all democratic ways to make their opinion count.
The people of Pungesti are against the exploration and exploitation of shale gas through hydraulic fracturing in their community. Chevron has entered the country in a most secretive way and people first found out about its intentions from international sources. Nationwide protests have followed since 2012 but the authorities have yet to initiate an open debate on the issue. In Pungesti, Chevron and local authorities have gone through with all the procedures to set up the first derrick in complete defiance of the people’s will.
The villagers raised all necessary signatures to dismiss the mayor, they protested peacefully, they adopted a Local Council decision banning hydraulic fracturing and requested a local referendum on the matter, denied to them by the county authorities.
All this was disregarded and the mayor himself rented his land to Chevron. The company decided to enter the land on December 2nd, one day after Romania’s national day. Before 6 AM, more than 500 riot police officers, accompanying the heavy machinery, clashed with the villagers and activists who had been keeping guard on the land for two months. Life in the community was completely disrupted. Journalists on site reported that the area resembled a war a zone and the feeling was that the village in under martial law. The people continued to protest but no authority took it upon itself to address the people’s concerns.
After the fence was put down, on the 7th of December, though nobody was injured but for an activist, the police decided to trample over the rights and liberties of the people in Pungesti and to impose a regime of constant intimidation and harassment, enforced by Riot Police troops. Ever since that day, the area is restricted and the officers are patrolling the villages day and night, following the villagers around and even trespassing on their property.
No information has been made public about the reasons, conditions and legal aspects of this situation, as well as when it’s going to end. Children are suffering from emotional stress and parents confessed that their children are waking up during the night because of the riot police cars driving around and wetting their bed from fear. Cases of direct intimidation and threatening against children have also been reported, as you can easily verify by sending a representative in the village.
The people of Pungesti did not celebrate Christmas this year. Due to the rough restrictions, people couldn’t go on with their celebration, cannot gather in groups larger than two people, cannot move around freely and, worst of all, all rights and liberties are suspended. People of foreign citizenship are also restricted and are not allowed to move around the area freely. A German citizen was taken to the police station and a French citizen pressed charges against the authorities for not being able to exert her rights to move freely in a EU country. Even children cannot walk by Chevron’s property without a Riot police escort! On Christmas Eve, 20 villagers went on hunger strike, desperate to be respected as human beings and citizens of the country. The strike is ongoing and New Years’ Eve will find the villagers in the field, hungry, at temperatures well below 0.
Pungesti is a village in the poorest county of Romania but the people have bountiful lives, with their livelihoods depending completely on the environment and the community. Shale gas exploitation through hydraulic fracturing has been proven to have an inherent impact over the environment and human health. The European Parliament has voted in favor of an amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive so that it would impose an impact study on all exploitations using hydraulic fracturing and that it would be preceded by a consultation of the community. In Romania, authorities have avoided an open debate on the subject and have hurried the process for authorizing such projects with a total lack of transparency.
Considering this alarming situation, please take a stand, drawing attention to the fact that the violation of Human Rights by the police and authorities is unacceptable in any country, especially a European one. Please help us remind our government that its mission is to protect the fundamental Human Rights and Constitutional Rights of the citizens and to follow the will of the citizens. Please help us remind the Romanian authorities what Democracy means and that their mission is to take decisions according to the democratic principles.
In virtue of human rights and liberties and the rule of democratic law, we expect representatives of all countries wishing to uphold such essential values to ask the Romanian Government to cease all interventions in the community of Pungesti, after declaring the villages a “special area of public safety” and to hold the Police accountable for the safety plan implemented in Pungesti, as regulated by the Order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs 60/2010. No violence has ever taken place inside the villages, as Chevron’s land is outside the villages, yet troops patrol the villages day and night. There is no precedent for such measures in Romania, with the exception of measures taken by Ceausescu to suppress the dawn of revolution. We will be grateful if you will also find the time to think of any other way you can help bring back Christmas and a normal life for the children of Pungesti.
Please visit Pungesti and see for yourselves how a military dictatorship can exist inside the European Union.
Thank you for your support in protecting Human Rights in Romania,
“Romania Without Them” Association
The Resistance Camp in Pungeşti
And the citizens supporting our endeavor to uphold human rights and liberties in Romania