In the UK we take justice for granted, forgetting that in many parts of the world justice systems do not measure up to our own. When someone is accused of a crime, we trust that the British justice system will cautiously protect rights and carefully examine evidence and witnesses to established guilt or innocence.
Not so in Romania, a country dogged by scandals around human rights abuses and a politically motivated justice system. The Adamescu family is a victim of this regime, and Alexander Adamescu, who lives in London with his wife and three children, is currently fighting a politically motivated European Arrest Warrant issued by Romania.
This is why he doesn’t expect to get a fair trial if he is extradited.
1) Oppression, not justice, is the motivation
Romania Libera is the oldest newspaper in Romania. Owned by Alexander’s father, Dan Adamescu, the newspaper has been the thorn in the side of the Romanian authorities for years – exposing corruption scandals, campaigning for democracy and the rule of law, and rejecting authoritarian practices leftover from the communist era.
After the Romanian government unsuccessfully tried other ways to shut up its most vocal critic, it decided to launch clearly politically motivated criminal prosecutions against Dan Adamescu, and later against his son, Alexander.
Read more: Who was Dan Adamescu?
2) Dan Adamescu didn’t get a fair trial
Dan Adamescu’s trial has been quoted by human rights campaigners as an example of an unfair trial, including by Fair Trials International who said:
“Judicial statements made in the pre-trial detention proceedings failed to respect the presumption of innocence.
“A decision to detain Mr Adamescu, the judge referred to “the seriousness of the illegal actions committed by him”, describing them as established facts rather than as yet unproved allegations.”
Read more: Dan Adamescu’s trial.
3) Romania has been criticised by the ECtHR
The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly heard evidence of the principles of fair trials not being respected in Romania. In 2016 the ECtHR found Romania had breached the right to fair trial in 16 cases, in 2015 Romania was found to have breached this right in 13 cases, and 18 times in 2014. During the same period the only ECtHR countries with a worse record were Russia and Turkey.
4) Some Romanian judges aren’t happy either
Dana Girbovan, a Court of Appeal judge and president of the National Union of the Romanian Judges (UNJR), is campaigning against the covert influence of the SRI (Romania Intelligence Service) on the judiciary. She says that this influence has grown to a point where the independence of the judiciary and the primacy of the rule of law have become questionable – and Girbovan continues to campaign for transparency.
5) Other European judges are worried too
Paris-based Magistrates Association MEDEL (Magistrats européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés) said:
“In Romania, a general of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) has admitted that the courts became “tactical fields” for this secret service, that all the judges are profiled using behavioural patterns and that this secret intelligence agency is currently “maintaining its interest/attention until a final court decision is been reached in each case”. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of the judiciary system as a whole, as well as the independence of the judges.”
MEDEL went on:
“…this raises serious doubts about the respect for basic human rights and the guarantee of a fair and just trial of any person accused by the state.”
6) They’ve already decided Alexander is guilty
A Romanian judge who approved the arrest warrant against Alexander referred to the accusation against him as being “confirmed” and “proven”. These statements go against the presumption of innocence which is required for a fair trial, following the same unfair, unjust pattern of Dan Adamescu’s trial.
7) Due process was totally absent from the appeals procedure
On the same day the arrest warrant was first approved, an appeal judge took only between 30 and 90 minutes to examine thousands of pages of evidence, deliberate on it, write a judgement, and have the judgement transmitted to the police. The notice of the appeal hearing was published only 30 minutes before it was due to start, and the media was informed of the outcome before Alexander Adamescu himself.
There were just five hours between the end of the original hearing and the appeal hearing’s outcome being published on a news website. Despite this shocking lack of justice, further requests for appeals were dismissed.
8) It gets worse – the death of Dan Adamescu
Being denied a fair trial is not the only issue at play – Alexander also fears he would die in prison if extradited. And it’s not an unrealistic concern: the Romanian authorities’ vendetta against the Adamescu family meant that Dan Adamescu was repeatedly denied medical treatment whilst in prison, eventually leading to his death in January 2017. It is thought that Dan Adamescu died of septicaemia acquired in hospital, but the Romanian authorities continue to refuse to release his autopsy report.
Read more: Dan Adamescu’s death.