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Case against #RomanianIntelligenceServices strengthens

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I recently wrote that while the Alexander Adamescu case fits the profile of something the SRI would interfere in, we could not be certain. Now we know for sure he was one of SRI’s targets, writes Emily Barley.

Alexandar Adamescu is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Romania. He is accused of bribing a judge in an insolvency case relating to a family business back in Romania. His father, Dan Adamescu, was convicted of the same charges in 2014, in what has been described by human rights campaigners as a ‘show trial’. Dan Adamescu later died in prison after being refused proper medical treatment.

I have been passed a series of legal documents and confidential evidence that starkly reveals the Romanian Intelligence Service’s (SRI) involvement in the Adamescu case The SRI is the dreaded successor to the communist era Securitate, and retains a number of links to the old regime – including many of the same operatives and methods.

The story starts in late 2013, where an investigation by intelligence experts Sir John Scarlett and Lord Carlile uncovered evidence that then Prime Minister Victor Ponta convened a meeting of the chief of the national police, the head of the DNA (anti-corruption prosecutor’s office), and the deputy general of the SRI.

At this meeting Ponta identified the Adamescu family as a threat, pointing to Romania Libera, the newspaper owned by the Adamescus, which was a committed campaigner for democracy and the rule of law. Romania Libera (translated as ‘Free Romania’) had launched a series of investigations against political corruption in Ponta’s government and into Ponta’s unconstitutional attack on President Basescu.

Ponta instigated the investigation of the Adamescus for political purposes, and his involvement continued. In May 2014 Ponta appeared on national television to accuse Dan Adamescu of corruption offences, declaring with confidence that the DNA would soon have something to say on the matter. Just two weeks later he was proved right, as the DNA took Dan Adamescu into custody and laid charges of corruption against him.

This kind of political involvement in criminal proceedings is unimaginable here in the UK, where our political leaders are careful to avoid making any comments that could prejudice criminal cases. The political involvement in the criminal justice system in Romania is more than reminiscent of communist era practice.

Partially declassified documents show that judges ordered wire taps against Dan and Alexander Adamescu, and various others connected to them. In the UK, wire tap evidence is carefully managed and we can generally trust judicial oversight. Not so in Romania, where interference by both the DNA and SRI means these shadowy organisations routinely apply pressure to judges in order to make them do their bidding.

These orders for wire taps are only partially declassified, with the names of the judges and bodies that executed the wire taps remaining classified. An expert legal opinion contained in the legal documents I have seen states that there is no good reason for these to remain classified. Hiding them raises important questions. First, which judges made these orders, and why are they hidden? It is possible that there are conflicts of interest in play. Second, knowledge of the bodies that executed the warrants is critical to establishing whether or not the evidence was gathered in accordance with the law.

This is not merely academic: wire tap evidence in Romania is coming under growing scrutiny, and since 2016 wire tapping has been ruled unconstitutional in a series of proceedings, leading to cases being thrown out. The same legal documents also show the level of cooperation between the DNA and SRI, with the DNA’s chief issuing orders for wire tapping data to be shared with the SRI at regular intervals.

However, perhaps even more interesting is the lack of wire tap evidence that prosecutors found to be useful. Despite extensive surveillance of the Adamescus and key figures around them, the entire case against Dan Adamescu, and now Alexander Adamescu, depends on the word of one witness – who was himself accused of embezzlement, and has changed his story many times. Not a single wire tap in evidence relates directly to Alexander Adamescu.

The SRI’s involvement in the Adamescu case doesn’t end there. A series of confidential witness statements from important political, intelligence service and other figures detail the collusion between the SRI and DNA to use illegal processes to pursue the Adamescu family. Target identified, these organisations set about finding – or, rather, fabricating – evidence against the Adamescus.

This was not merely on political instruction: the SRI had its own motives for targeting the Adamescus, according to these confidential witnesses. First, the ideological divide between the communistic SRI and centre-right, liberal democratic Adamescu family, and second, the scrutiny by Romania Libera which had uncovered, and continues to uncover, illegal practices in the Romanian intelligence services.

Perhaps one day these witnesses will feel able to speak out publicly, but for now they fear for their lives – and with good reason, considering the numbers of people targeted by the DNA and SRI who were convicted and later died; not least Dan Adamescu.

To the casual observer these claims may seem bold and outrageous, but consider the context. Romania is in the midst of a constitutional crisis where secret protocols between the SRI and practically every other branch of government have been uncovered, and more continue to come to light. There is now strong and specific evidence that the SRI was directly involved in the Adamescu case, and so the UK government must act.

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EU countries should ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health

EU Reporter Correspondent

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MEPs urge member states to protect and further enhance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in a report adopted today (11 May).

In the draft report approved by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality by 27 votes in favour, six against and one abstention, MEPs point out that the right to health, in particular sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), are fundamental women’s rights which should be enhanced and cannot in any way be watered down or withdrawn.

They add that violations of women’s SRHR are a form of violence against women and girls and hinder progress towards gender equality. They thus call on EU countries to ensure access to a full range of high-quality, comprehensive and accessible SRHR, and remove all barriers impeding full access to these services.

Access to abortion, contraception and sexuality education

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality MEPs stress that some member states still have highly restrictive laws prohibiting abortion except in strictly defined circumstances, leading to women having to seek clandestine abortions or carry their pregnancy to term against their will, which is a violation of their human rights. Thus, they urge all member states to ensure universal access to safe and legal abortion, and guarantee that abortion at request is legal in early pregnancy, and beyond if the pregnant person’s health is in danger. They also recall that a total ban on abortion care is a form a gender-based violence.

Furthermore, MEPs demand that EU countries ensure universal access to a range of high-quality contraceptive methods and supplies, family counselling and information on contraception.

They also urge member states to ensure access to comprehensive sexuality education for primary and secondary school children, as SRHR education can significantly contribute to reducing sexual violence and harassment.

The negative impact of the pandemic on women’s health

Regretting that access to abortion continues to be limited during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the effects the pandemic has had on the supply and access to contraceptives, MEPs urge EU countries to consider the health impact of this crisis through a gender lens and ensure the continuation of a full range of SRHR services through the health systems.

Rapporteur Pedrag Matić (S&D, HR) said: ‘‘In the text adopted today, we clearly call on member states to ensure universal access to SRHR for all, and demonstrate there is strength in the EP to counter those opposing basic human rights. Sexuality education, access to contraception and fertility treatments as well as abortion constitute some of the key components of SRHR services. This is an important step in ensuring that all EU citizens have access to SRHR and that no person is left behind in exercising their right to health.

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Civil protection: Council adopts new rules to strengthen disaster response

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The Council today (11 May) adopted a regulation to strengthen the EU civil protection mechanism. The new rules will allow the EU and the member states to better prepare for natural and man made disasters and to respond faster when they strike, including in cases which affect a majority of member states simultaneously, such as a pandemic. The text also sets out the funding of the civil protection mechanism in the context of the multiannual financial framework 2021-2027.

The proposed rules will allow the European Commission to address gaps in the area of transport and logistics, and, in cases of urgency, directly procure certain additional rescEU capacities. These rescEU capacities, as well as those hosted by member states, will be fully financed from the EU budget.

Prevention and preparedness will also be improved under the proposed regulation. The Commission, in co-operation with member states, will define and develop EU disaster resilience goals in the area of civil protection

The text sets out a total of  €1.263 billion in funds for the 2021-2027 period. It also includes an amount of up to €2.56bn to implement the civil protection related measures to address the impact of the COVID-19 crisis foreseen in the EU recovery instrument. This is an increase of over three times as compared to the 2014-2020 budget. It reflects the strengthening of the EU's collective response to disasters, including the recent establishment of a reserve of capacities (rescEU), the reinforcement of the European civil protection pool and the improvements in disaster prevention and preparedness.

Background

The EU civil protection mechanism was first established in 2001 and it coordinates the response to natural and man-made disasters at the EU level. Its objective is to foster cooperation among national civil protection authorities, increase public awareness and preparedness for disasters and enable quick, effective, coordinated assistance to affected populations.

The EU civil protection mechanism includes a European civil protection pool. This is a voluntary pool of capacities pre-committed by member states for immediate deployment inside or outside the EU. The civil protection mechanism was last amended in 2019, when an additional reserve of resources, called rescEU, was created to provide assistance in situations where overall existing capacities are insufficient.

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EU and Japan hold high-level policy dialogue on education, culture and sport

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On 10 May, Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel held a videoconference with the Japanese Minister for Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Koichi Hagiuda (pictured), to discuss EU-Japan co-operation in the fields of their portfolios. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to continued cooperation and support from their respective programmes, and agreed to join forces on researcher mobility. This ongoing cooperation has taken on new significance during the COVID-19 crisis, which has hit these sectors hard.

Commissioner Gabriel said: “Education, culture and sport bring people together – to learn, to teach, to create and to compete. International cooperation in these areas will always lead to a better understanding – like between Europe and Japan. In Brussels, as in Tokyo, we are looking at the future of education and the digital transition. I was delighted to exchange ideas and good practices in this field, as well as in culture and sport, with Mr Hagiuda and his team.”

Ahead of the Summer Olympic Games in Japan, Minister Haiuda shared updates during the meeting on the organisation of such a large-scale event in these unprecedented times. Commissioner Gabriel and Minister Hagiuda also welcomed the progress of the three special joint EU-Japan Erasmus Mundus Master programmes in robotics, extended reality, and history, which were launched as an outcome of the first policy dialogue of July 2018. Finally, they both emphasised the importance of people-to-people exchanges and agreed to maintain direct discussions on a regular basis. The forthcoming EU-Japan Summit will further highlight the scale and breadth of cooperation under the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement. A joint statement and more information following today's meeting are available online.

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