Who is accountable?

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Commotion. Microphones, cameras, and phones tumultuously rise in the air, anxiously waiting to clear a path and be the first. Questions are asked pell-mell, while on television screens everything freezes and the customary ‘breaking news’ logo appears.

It is the sign that yet another representative member of the Romanian political or public life has been summoned at the DNA. A ‘breaking news’ that has lost its impact and significance in recent years. Such images have become commonplace too. They are part of the almost daily landscape of the news and of our lives, in which the extremes and the exceptional cases have seemingly become the normal.

We have grown accustomed to hearing and seeing how an incumbent Prime Minister is summoned and investigated at the DNA. How ministers, parliamentarians, party presidents, prosecutors, Constitutional Court judges also go through the same scenario that has become routine. However, apart from the numbing of our senses in relation to something that, in any other country, would represent a veritable media, institutional, political, and national earthquake, the effects remain and are making themselves felt. Because, even though theoretically any person is innocent until proven otherwise, in practice, especially when you hold a certain role within the framework of the state, the effects are devastating since the first step you take on the DNA’s steps. Under the barrage of media questions and scuffles in the search for sensationalism.

Usually, from the first ‘breaking news’ moments until the concerned person’s guilt is proven or not and the law is enforced, years pass. Impermissibly many years. Some spent in detention, others free. However, a freedom lacking honour, normality, and everything that your life meant before.

Lately, there have been a series of court of first instance acquittals and final acquittals, in dossiers that concerned a series of heavyweight names from the political and public life of the Romanian state.

More precisely that of Victor Ponta, former PSD president, former prime minister, and former presidential candidate, accused of money laundering, forgery in deeds and complicity to tax evasion.

Dan Sova, former parliamentarian and minister, accused of abuse of office, forgery in deeds under private signature, tax evasion and money laundering.

Toni Grebla, former Constitutional Court judge, accused of influence peddling, financial operations as acts of trade incompatible with the office held, the setting up of a crime ring, and false testimony.

At the same time, the dossier in which former Prosecutor General Tiberiu Nitu was accused of abuse of office regarding the use of official motorcades was dismissed.

Likewise, also during this period, judge Gabriela Victoria Birsan, former chief of the High Court of Cassation and Justice’s Section for Contentious Matters, and wife of former ECHR judge Corneliu Birsan, received a final acquittal.

She had been probed for abuse of office against the public interest.

As a result of this acquittal, Gabriela Birsan must be paid her indemnity as High Court judge for the last 4 years, the period in which she was suspended due to the criminal case. A sum that surpasses RON 1.1 million. And, also in this case, the ECHR has sanctioned our country for infringement of immunity, considering that a house search took place at the home of the Birsans without the prior lifting of the diplomatic immunity that Corneliu Birsan – and implicitly his wife – had.

These are the main cases in recent weeks that concerned persons of such standing in our country, cases that have take this turn. Meanwhile, these persons have fully “benefited” from the alteration and destruction of their reputation, the impacting of their careers, the giving up of offices and professional and social status, from the whole inherent problems of a moral nature, and from consequences on a personal and emotional level.

How?

Why?

These are the first questions that seem as natural as possible.

How did such situations of profound error come to be?

Why did these discrepancies come to be?

What must be done next so that the error does not become normality and people, regardless of their professional or social status, are not hurt by it?

And, especially, who is accountable for these errors with such profound consequences?

Obviously, like in any domain and profession, especially in those that irredeemably influence human life and status, often being the difference between life or death (literally or figuratively), the degree of accountability must be maximum.

Apart from the ethics necessary for each profession, just as in any aspect of our society, here too the law must have a say. More precisely, in this case, we are talking about the law on the accountability of magistrates.

A law that, after its modification and adoption in December last year, was sent to the CCR, which has decided that some of the modifications are out of line, demanding that they be redefined. The redefining of judicial error, of good faith and of grave negligence being some of the most important.

Leaving aside any strictly juridical aspect of speciality regarding this law that may still need improvements, I believe we do not have to be experts in law or other adjacent disciplines to consider it appropriate that, for any person who carries out a profession, there must be a mechanism of control, regulation, and accountability when errors are made. And this does not entail interfering in the said profession in order to alter it!

Just as it does not entail containing it in any way or despising it! On the contrary. It is known. People make mistakes. And the law, made by people too, is far from perfect. However, just like in the case of people, it is and must be continuously perfectible. The important thing is for the errors to be identified and to find the way for them to never repeat. And certainly not at the cost of the normality of some people’s lives. Regardless of what they do or what their names are.

I believe this is an aspect we should all meditate on. No matter what we do and who we are.

And I also believe that the best closing for this material – which does not seek to pose as anything but a small reflection on the way in which we must be careful of how we see fit to do our job and to generate consequences in the lives of other people – is the point of view of former CCR President Augustin Zegrean:

“Justice is based on evidence, not on words! It’s a shame because they destroyed his [Toni Grebla’s] career, they destroyed several years of his life, years in which things were not easy for him, and I’m happy that it is finally over. (…) If an error was done, somebody must be held accountable for this. There were difficult days not only for him and his family, but also for his colleagues and for everybody.”