CSM issues negative opinion on legislative proposals of modification of justice laws . DNA’s Kovesi: If law on magistrates clears Parliament, it will seriously affect judicial independence

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The plenary sitting of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) on Thursday issued a negative opinion the legislative proposals of modification of the justice laws, as received from the Deputies Chamber, CSM sources told Agerpres.

The same sources informed the decision was adopted by 11 votes to seven.

The CSM plenum on Thursday analyzed the legislative proposals on the modification of the Law no. 304/2004 regarding the judicial organization, of Law no. 303/2004 regarding the statutes of judges and prosecutors, as well as of Law no. 317 regarding the Supreme Council of Magistrates.

Last week, the PSD-ALDE ruling coalition presented three bills modifying the CSM Law, the law on judiciary organisation and the statute of judges and prosecutors.

According to the judiciary laws proposed by PSD-ALDE, the Romanian President should be involved in the procedure of appointing the chief prosecutors but not in the procedure of dismissing them from office. At the same time, a directorate for the investigation of magistrates would be set up and placed under the authority of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The Judicial Inspection would be subordinated to the National Council for the Integrity of Judges, Prosecutors, Judicial Inspection and the Statute of Judicial Inspectors, a new body that would be set up.

Compared to the form it had when it was sent there by the Justice Ministry, the bill amending the judiciary laws was modified in Parliament. The CSM report on the initial form of the bill forwarded by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader was also negative.

 

Lazar on bill amending judiciary laws modified in Parliament: We need impact studies

 

Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar stated on Thursday that the bill amending the judiciary laws, a bill modified in Parliament, seeks to place the judiciary under control and to politicise the judicial system, pointing out that the prosecutors’ proposal for the issuance of a negative report was known since Wednesday.

“We are dealing with the same intended bills that seek to elude the vote cast by the CSM, the corps of magistrates and civil society. The Lower House legislator is coming up with the same intended bills, making slight modifications, in order to make sure, via an emergency procedure, that he can place the judiciary under control and can politicise the judicial system. Unfortunately, this is the conclusion we reach, because one cannot explain otherwise why we should resort to an emergency procedure when we need impact studies to see what will result from such a legislative package. Or maybe we haven’t learnt anything from the law on the release of some convicts; with no impact studies made, we saw what its surprising result was. The voice of reason must always triumph,” Augustin Lazar stated on Thursday when arriving at the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM).

 

DNA’s Kovesi: If law on magistrates clears Parliament, it will seriously affect judicial independence

 

Chief Prosecutor of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi said on Thursday at an event in Vienna that the greatest challenge now is preserving the independence of magistrates in Romania, adding that if a law currently under consideration on their statutes passes through Parliament, it will “seriously affect” judicial independence while establishing “political control” over the activity of prosecutors.

According to a DNA press statement, Kovesi was invited to participate in a special event called “Revisiting the Jakarta principles: strengthening anti-corruption agencies’ independence and effectiveness,” organised at the 7th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

“Before the attending anti-corruption leaders, anti-corruption officials, practitioners and anti-corruption experts from around the world, the chief prosecutor of the DNA delivered a speech titled ‘Protecting DNA independence: Relevance of the Jakarta principles,’ in which she underscored the prerequisites for achieving credible and real results in the fight against corruption: judicial independence, a specialist anti-corruption organisation, as well as legislation providing investigative tools. Kovesi also highlighted two valences of independence – judicial independence in interactions with the Executive and the Legislature, as well as individual independence of the prosecutors within the internal hierarchy.”

Kovesi mentioned that since 2013, DNA has brought to court 68 dignitaries: a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, 11 ministers and former ministers, 39 MPs, 14 senators and one MEP.

Of these, 27 have been sentenced under final and binding sentences for corruption and related offences: five ministers, 17 MPs, four senators, and one MEP.

“The recovery of damage incurred by crimes is an important part of the DNA causes. Over the same period, DNA has ordered liens on assets worth more than two billion euros. These results would no longer be possible if prosecutors in Romania were no longer independent,” said Kovesi.

According to DNA, Kovesi proposed an “imaginative exercise”.

“If prosecutors were working under the authority of the Executive, how could they open their investigations of a member of the Government or a state secretary or other important person who is also a member of a political party? Is the investigation fair and unbiased? Would there be any guarantee that there would be no repercussions on the magistrate who opened or completed the investigation? If prosecutors were working under the authority of Parliament, would there be investigations of MPs or senators?”

According to her, “the greatest challenge now is preserving the magistrates’ independence.” “These days a law on the statutes of magistrates is being debated in the Romanian Parliament, which, if approved, will seriously affect judicial independence and establish political control over the activity of prosecutors. Therefore, the Jakarta recommendations are getting increasingly more relevant,” said Kovesi, according to Agerpres.

On November 26-27, 2012, current and former heads of anti-corruption agencies (ACAs), anti-corruption practitioners and experts from around the world gathered in Jakarta at the invitation of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Indonesia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to discuss a set of “Principles for Anti-Corruption Agencies” to promote and strengthen the independence and effectiveness of ACAs.

Among the Jakarta principles are the following: ACAs shall, in accordance with the basic legal principles of their countries to ensure continuity of the ACA; ACA heads shall be appointed through a process that ensures his or her apolitical stance, impartiality, neutrality, integrity and competence; ACA heads shall have security of tenure and shall be removed only through a legally established procedure equivalent to the procedure for the removal of a key independent authority specially protected by law (such as the Chief Justice).

 

Klemm: U.S. advises Parliament to consult civil society

 

U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm stated on Thursday, in an interview for Radio Timisoara, that the U.S. is advising Parliament to consult civil society “before it moves into action” on the topic of the judiciary laws.

Hans Klemm pointed out that the United States has already expressed its concern about the bills amending the judiciary laws, previously tabled by Tudorel Toader, and said that Parliament must initiate consultations on this topic.

“The United States has expressed its concern about the proposals forwarded by the Justice Minister. I’ve had ample discussions with the minister about the proposed amendments, there are numerous specialists in Romania, with experience in the field of law, who are expressing concern. Since Parliament is now considering this package of measures, the United States encourages, advises Parliament to hold detailed consultations with civil society once again, before it moves into action,” the U.S. ambassador said.

 

American Government’s “deep concerns” have not changed

 

On Wednesday, Hans Klemm had stated that the American Government’s “deep concerns” about the proposed amendments to the judiciary laws did not change.

While on a visit to Arad, when asked by journalists for his opinion on the amendments to the judiciary laws, Hans Klemm stated that the American Government’s “deep concerns” have not changed.

“My Government, and I’m stressing this, the U.S. Government has expressed – on August 29, I believe – deep concerns about this package, and those concerns haven’t changed so far,” the U.S. ambassador said.

Likewise, when asked by journalists about the fiscal amendments that the Government adopted on Wednesday, Klemm stated he always encouraged the Romanian Government “to take into account the principles of stability, predictability, transparency, and to consult all those involved, so as to reach the best decisions.”

 

Lazar about setting up Directorate for investigation of crimes committed by magistrates: This is something surreal

 

The proposal to set up a directorate to investigate into the crimes committed by magistrates is not realistic one, since this professional category did not commit such a significant number of crimes to require this, said general prosecutor Augustin Lazar on Thursday, after the meeting during which the Supreme Council of Magistrates issued a negative opinion on the draft on the modification of the justice laws received from the Deputies’ Chamber.

“There are several provisions (…) in this draft law that were severely criticized by our colleagues, such as the one regarding the directorate for investigations of alleged crimes committed by judges and prosecutors. Well, this is something absolutely surreal, since this professional category committed no more than an insignificant number of crimes,” said Lazar.

The general prosecutor specified that only eight magistrates were defendants this year, and no more than 16 last year.

“To set up a directorate for 20 prosecutors is not something that one would call realistic,” said Augustin Lazar.