Romanian Justice and Human Rights >>> Romanian Justice >>> SoJust - Independent Report on the Justice System in Romania - september 2006
Cap. V. HUMAN RIGHTS IN ROMANIA
III. The M.I.S.A. case
A. The actual case
One of the cases that arose publice suspicions regarding the procedural correctness and compliance with the fundamental rights is that of the Spiritual Movement for Integration into the Absolute (MISA). The M.I.S.A. leader, Gregorian Bivolaru and others of his disciples were prosecuted, put under arrest, beaten by the Securitate even from the 70’s. One does not rule out that the prosecution of the M.I.S.A. leader continued after 1989 as well. To these, one adds the public’s reticence towards the yoga techniques, especially in the 90’s, due to a lack of a reasonable education.
The biggest official action directed against MISA took place in March 2004: Operation “CHRIST”. On the 18th of March 2004, a few hundred policemen, gendarmes and prosecutors forcefully broke into several personal property buildings belonging to yoga students, locations where tens of yoga practitioners were living together, pursuing their spiritual practice by the model of the Indian ashrams. The immersion was broadcasted by several TV stations and an entire country could see the breaking of doors by law-enforcement officers and the forceful treatment of persons who were found in the buildings (of whom some were foreign citizens): while being held at gunpoint, they were summoned to lie down on the floor, face down and hands around their necks; they were not allowed to get dressed; they were not asked for their approval to be recorded on camera. In one of the cases, it seems that there was no search warrant. Several tens of persons were carried by police vans to the Prosecutor’s Office where they were questioned. One did not allow them to contact their lawyers, for the reason that they were questioned as witnesses, and the Romanian Law provides for the possibility of allowing defense only for parties, and not for witnesses.
According to the content of the search warrants, they were supposed to concern information data, regarding information users and traffic. The people who were searched claimed that huge quantities of personal goods were confiscated, some of them without being mentioned in the search protocols and most of them having no connection to the motives specified in the warrants whatsoever; two years later, the owners were only returned one third of all these. One of the evidence, the journal of a yoga practitioner witness, was released to the press and made public, although the authorities guaranteed confidentiality.
The prosecutor now investigates organized crime and human traffic cases concerning some of the MISA members. One has instituted the measure of “insuring arrestment” on 70 buildings for covering the damages that they claimed. Officially, one has noted that, under the cover of courses for initiation in the yoga practices, the investigated persons attracted, manipulated and exploited the participants (of whom many were minor) to their own personal interest, thus endangering their psychic development. Nevertheless, from the contradictory data published by the media, there are only 8 victims. Some of the investigated persons were sent to trial. A completely unusual thing for Romania, the entire indictment was made public by the penal prosecution body, which among violating the rights to an equitable trial and the protection of the investigated persons’ private life, may be yet another element for the manipulation of public opinion.
B. The MISA files
With all the internal investigations performed by the CSM or the judiciary ones performed as a consequence to the filed complaints, the presumptive negative aspects concerning the actual development of the investigation were not cleared up. From the 55 penal complaints that were filed in May 2004, only 9 were retained in view of solving at the Prosecutor’s Office, and those for a single offence. The rest got a non-prosecution resolution, without even questioning the victims; at present, this resolution is appealed at the Supreme Court.
At the same time, two arrest warrants were issued on the name of Gregorian Bivolaru (gone to Sweden), one for the offense of sexual act with a minor and the other for human traffic. These were the grounds for the Romanian State’s request of his extradition. But the Supreme Court of Stockholm got to the conclusion that, due to the violation of the presumption of innocence, of implicating the political scene and the media in this case (one even got a special mention that the authorities deliberately turned the public opinion against the defendant), the Romanian Justice cannot ensure an equitable trial to the citizen whose extradition was requested, a reason for which the Romanian State’s request was turned down. After two more months, the Swedish Government accepted to grant Mr. Bivolaru the statute of political refugee.
C. Possibly violated rights
On the way in which the searches, the hearings and the investigations were conducted one has questions as to the possible violation of several internal dispositions (illegal confinement; threatening; unjust repression; illegal entry; destruction; misfeasance against the person’s interests; misfeasance by restraining rights; attempt to determine false testimony; illegal arrest and abusive investigation; abusive behavior) and international ones (freedom from torture, the right to liberty, the right to a fair trial, freedom from arbitrary interference with one's privacy and family life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association; freedom from discrimination; the right to own property).
The inefficiency of the internal investigations concerning the claimed abuses is all the more serious as Bivolaru got the asylum and then the refugee status in a foreign country. From this viewpoint, the competence or the bona fide of the Romanian bodies is seriously questioned.