In a blow to Parliament, Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) rejected on Monday the changes that the MPs want to bring to the Penal Codes. The members of CSM analyzed on Monday the 22 proposals to modify the Codes and issued their disapproval. Their opinion is consultative.
Among other things, CSM disagrees with decriminalizing conflict of interest and with the introduction of “solid clues” that would replace “reasonable suspicions” when preventive arrest is ruled.
The modification proposals included the decriminalizing of the conflict of interest, eliminating preventive arrest and the use of handcuffs in the case of those accused of corruption (leaving solely house arrest or conditional bail) but also the replacement of the “arrest based on reasonable suspicions” syntagm with “arrest based on solid clues.”
Parliament’s Judicial Commission will express a point of view next and the final vote on the modification proposals will take place within the Lower Chamber.
Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc explained on Monday that any proposal to modify a law has to be discussed with those directly affected by it.
“I said it every time, any proposal to modify any law has to be discussed with those that will have to apply the law. The Justice Ministry has always had the same point of view. We have no activity failures. I talked with the CSM colleagues, I will talk today with the members of the Judicial Commission too, let’s see whether we have time to debate all proposals. There are several proposals that came from the system and I believe they should be included among the priorities. Ever since last year we proposed several modifications, we have the obligation to implement certain European directives, so this whole story has to end up within the Judicial Commission,” Cazanciuc said when leaving the CSM meeting.
Lower Chamber MPs want to urgently modify the Penal Code in order to dodge prosecutors’ investigations. The ruling power is preparing no fewer than 22 modifications, including the ones that make preventive arrest harder to rule and that decriminalize conflict of interest, a charge that Victor Ponta faces too. A lot of work was needed to persuade the MPs to accept the points of views of all institutions concerned. CSM would have wanted a period of reflection of two weeks but the Lower Chamber MPs have decided: the issue gets back on the agenda next week.
President Klaus Iohannis wrote on May 8 on his personal Facebook page that he disagrees with the proposed modifications to the Penal Code, which he labelled as “attempts to weaken the judiciary.”
“The Penal Code modifications proposed in Parliament are liable to affect the proper functioning of the judiciary. I disagree with these attempts to weaken the judiciary!” Klaus Iohannis wrote.
The proposed Penal Code modifications include:
– PSD Senator Serban Nicolae’s proposal to punish by up to 3 years in jail those who leak information from ongoing criminal investigations. The proposal was criticized and labelled as attempted press censorship.
– PSD Senator Serban Nicolae’s proposal to eliminate the use of handcuffs in the case of persons placed under preventive arrest who did not commit violent crimes. Namely the proposal that rids the corrupt of handcuffs.
– PSD Lower Chamber MP Haralambie Vochitoiu’s proposal through which the court’s rulings become executory only after the drafting and explaining of the final rulings. Experts claim this proposal gives criminals the possibility to run away because the process of drafting and explaining the ruling can take several days after the ruling is made.
– The “solid clues” vs. “reasonable suspicions” proposal.
CSM: SRI General Dumitru Dumbravă’s assertions did not hurt the independence of Justice
The plenary of the Superior Magistracy Council also decided on Monday that the assertions of General Dumitru Dumbrava, head of the Legal Department of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), did not hurt the independence of the judiciary.
CSM approved the report of the Judicial Inspection according to which General Dumitru Dumbrava DID NOT affect the independence of Justice by stating in an interview that the institution follows the developments within certain cases heard by the courts of law, calling them a ‘tactical field’.
According to Romania TV, the CSM meeting on Monday was attended by representatives of the Italian and Danish Embassies in Bucharest, but not by the representatives of the three associations that made the complaint.
The CSM members decided in majority that Dumbrava’s statement in the interview had a general character, that his assertions were removed from context and that it was not an attack on Justice.
The subject had been extensively debated on during the CSM meeting. According to romanialibera.ro, Judge Norel Popescu was the only CSM member who decisively asked for the independence of Justice to be defended from SRI interference.
High Court President Livia Stanciu warned during the meeting about the major danger being the modification of criminal legislation that would hamper fight against corruption. She said that those legislative changes and not the way in which SRI hurts the independence of the judiciary should interest the associations of magistrates.
Stanciu said that the Judicial Inspection had been notified to check if Dumbrava hurt the independence of Justice or not. According to her, in the interview, General Dumbrava was bringing to the attention the phenomenon of corruption as a threat to national security and SRI wanted to submit corruption to public debate.
CSM discussed on Monday a complaint received from three professional magistrates associations – the National Union of Judges in Romania, the Association of Magistrates in Romania and the Association of Prosecutors in Romania – who asked the Council to defend the independence of the judiciary against the possible influence of the Romanian Intelligence Service, after the head of the Legal Department of SRI, Dumitru Dumbrava, had said in an interview that the courts of law were a ‘tactical field’ to SRI.
‘It is very easy to make mistakes in the public area when you want to communicate something. I don’t think that interview hurt in any way. (…) However, it would have been better for that statement to be a bit more nuanced, explaining more clearly what the general meant to say. I don’t believe Justice was affected’, Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc said on Monday.
PSD postpones modification of Penal Code
PSD will postpone the modifications to the Penal Code until Parliament’s next sitting, PSD sources state. No official decision has been announced in this sense. The decision comes against the backdrop in which the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) has expressed its disagreement with the planned modifications to the Penal Code and in which Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea has stated that his party could leave the ruling coalition if the code is modified “stealthily.”
The postponement of the modification of the Penal Code comes after Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea threatened that his party will leave the government if PSD “stealthily modifies the Penal Code.”
“We have two pillars – the national interest and the Romanian state – and we militate for the strengthening of the Romanian state. I told this to Victor Ponta and to our coalition colleagues too – the moment we notice that work is stealthily done on the new Penal Code or an attack on the Romanian state is sought they’ve lost us as partners,” the UNPR President said in a talk-show.