Justice Minister Raluca Pruna said on Tuesday that the Government will approve next week the guidelines for the enforcement of the Law on Penitentiary conditions and that subsequently the National Penitentiary Administration (ANP) will pass the relevant tertiary legislation within 30 days.
“Law No. 254/2013 was adopted in February 2014. The guidelines should have been adopted at the same time, but here we are two years later, and their adoption is still pending. A working group was set up to develop the guidelines. They ended up on my desk in early December. As a new Minister in charge I took the time to read them, and not just that, but I also added some elements that were missing,” the Minister of Justice told the Chamber of Deputies’ Commission on abuses and petitions.
Director general of the National Penitentiary Administration Catalin Bejan was also attending Tuesday’s discussions with the Commission.
Also, the Justice Minister added that she has to work with Catalin Bejan for as long as they are both in office, claiming that she acted hastily when she sought to replace him. “I have to work with Mr. Bejan and Mr. Bejan has to work with me for as long as each of us is in office, because the Justice Ministry is the one that coordinates ANP’s activity. I have no other solution,” Raluca Pruna said.
“I am not ashamed nor afraid to say I acted hastily, I was not able to demand this resignation formally and now I have to work with the person that is director general there and I see fit to do so well,” the Justice Minister pointed out at the end of her talks with the members of the Lower Chamber’s Commission on Abuses, talks that centred on the situation of Romanian penitentiaries.
Government asked ECHR to postpone pilot decision on prisons, will issue action plan
The Government has approved a memorandum asking the ECHR to postpone a pilot decision regarding conditions in Romanian prisons and is considering an action plan on short and medium term, Justice Minister Raluca Pruna informed on Tuesday.
“The Government adopted in January a memorandum asking the ECHR to postpone briefly the pilot decision, as the Romanian state would incur a huge cost. Romania would not be the first Council member state to be subjected to such a pilot decision. We have the example of Italy, and the ECHR compelled the Italian state to pay eight euros per day for every detention day for every person under sentence since the day they were put under sentence and, including, retroactively. This means that the Italian state is paying 78 million euros per year. For Romania, even if there won’t be eight euros per year, and if there are, say, 4 euros per day, our calculations show that, subject to the population in detention, around 28,000 people, and the sentences they received, our estimates show that indeed, the Romanian state would also have to pay around 80 million euros,” Raluca Pruna stated during talks with the Chamber of Deputies’ Abuses and Petitions Committee.
The Justice Minister added that the memorandum requested the approval of the ECHR to postpone on a limited term the issuing of a pilot decision concerning Romania.
Pruna also noted that the short-term measures considered include a better management of prisons that would also include finding solutions that would allow inmates to work while in detention and consequently benefit from a series of advantages.
Minister Pruna also stressed the importance of the system of probation and of strengthening it by supplementing the number of probation counselors.
According to the Minister, the long-term solution would require an overhaul of the prisons’ infrastructure and building new prisons.
The Justice Minister also noted that currently Romanian prisons are overcrowded and added that the numerous decisions against Romania issued by the ECHR, namely 75, together with the complaints concerning prison conditions and the approximately 460,000 euros paid by Romania to those who addressed the court last year, an amount double compared to 2014, are all arguments supporting this statement.
‘I do not take political stand on electoral threshold; Parliament must decide’
Justice Minister Raluca Pruna stated on Tuesday that the Parliament must decide on maintaining or amending the electoral threshold, adding that her statement on the subject was made from the position as guest at a debate on elections, in reply to a question.
“I saw with some surprise that there was a news story. I made a statement, as a guest, not as a speaker, at the February 17 debate at the Central University Library of Bucharest, at the Carol Foundation. There I said, perhaps in a more flamboyant way, but the idea was, I said this: it is up to the Parliament to decide whether the elections are to be held in one or two rounds and the electoral threshold can also be debated because new parties have been created that, should they enter political life, they must certainly have a threshold allowing this. (…) I gave this answer in reply to an explicit question from the audience. Therefore, I do not take a political stand, it is not my prerogative to decide. (…) I expressed an opinion and, implicitly, I learnt a lesson: I will only answer questions that are directly concerning the Justice Ministry,” at the Palace of Parliament.
Minister Pruna also stated that, as a member of the Ciolos cabinet, she supports and will continue to support the point of view of the Prime Minister who was very clear on the topics connected to the elections in one or two rounds and the electoral threshold, namely, that it is up to the Parliament to decide.
‘I have an affiliation of ideas with Monica Macovei’
The Justice Minister rejected the thesis discussed in the public sphere by certain political analysts according to whom her statement was aimed at showing support for Monica Macovei, president of a newly-created party, M10.
“I do not have the intention to comment on such a statement. I am not hiding, I worked with Monica Macovei and, let’s say, I have an affiliation of ideas with Monica Macovei. But I, here, did not accept this position to support one or the other. I am here to serve the citizen and it is not my prerogative to support small or large parties. I do not support any party,” Raluca Pruna added.