Pungesti - villagers 'living in terror' of police violence

| 28th December 2013
Romania - A leading human rights group has charged the Government with serious violations of the human rights of inhabitants of Pungesti following protests against pre-fracking gas exploration by Chevron.
Villagers who have been victims of police violence are afraid to make a complaint. Those who were not directly attacked they fear becoming victims.

The Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Romania - Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) reports: "Fundamental rights provided in the Constitution have been violated at the village of Pungesti.

"Locals were denied freedom of movement (Article 25), the right to freedom of expression (Article 30), the right to information (Article 31), and freedom of assembly (Article 39). 

"Under the pretext of maintaining public order and without any official public information, the villagers live every day as if under siege. APADOR-CH considers that the authorities' decision establishing the 'area of public safety' is excessive and calls for its cancellation."

On December 17 the group interviewed 30 local people who said they were "living in terror" of the riot police that have occupied their village. "Several men said they had been assaulted by gendarmes and have with their own eyes have seen people (men and women, young and old) bloodied after attacks by the gendarmes.

Victims of violence too terrified to file complaints

"Villagers who have been victims of police violence are afraid to make a complaint. Those who were not directly attacked they fear becoming victims."

There are also reports of a campaign of routine harassment against the local people - obstructing them when they try to take their cattle to graze in the fields or to fetch water from the well, and levying punitive fines against people on trumped-up charges - for example for not wearing hi-vis vests or displaying a number plate on their bullock-carts. Carol singers were forbidden to go out singing in the run-up to Christmas.

In nearby Silistea similar police behaviour was identified, including the imposition of an unofficial curfew enforced by violence:

"Villagers complained that they no longer allowed to leave the house or in the yard after 6pm, some saying they were beaten by gendarmes if they violated this verbal prohibition. They also stated that they are not allowed to circulate through the village in groups of more than three people."

Village 'under siege'

In addition APADOR-CH says that the village "seems under siege" as anyone entering or leaving on the road between the two villages needs to go through five separate checkpoints, while also being followed by Interior Ministry patrol cars.

"The atmosphere is very tense. Checkpoints are located along the county road ... made up of police, traffic police agents and gendarmes. At the time of the visit there were at least five filters of this type, posted before and after the land on which the company is conducting Chevron's shale gas exploration."

However local people and activists from beyond the local area remaimed on good terms despite all the problems. "The atmosphere, though strained, is one of solidarity and understanding between local people and between them and the environmental activists present."


Further information

Report on recent events in common Pungesti.

Frack off Romania website.

Frack off Pungesti Facebook group.

No fracking Romania Facebook page.

Avaaz petition: STOP Chevron and the Police abuse in PUNGESTI, Romania.

The Ecologist story of 12 December by Alex Summerchild: Pungesti, Romania: people versus Chevron and riot police


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