Most of the courts in the country have decided to postpone the organization of forms of protest, one of the claims being that the Government didn’t include magistrates in the GEO on the salary increases for some specific categories of budgetary employees, announced the National Union of Judges of Romania (UNJR) on Tuesday.
“Courts in the country have started to vote in the general meetings, starting from September 5, ‘The Memorandum on Justice’, in which they indicate the problems of the judiciary, requesting the implementation of a set of measures to lead to ‘an efficient, modern and quality justice’. Until September 13, the memorandum was adopted by almost 60 courts and over 20 prosecutor’s offices. Within these general meetings, some courts have decided to also adopt other forms of protest, such as postponing the cases that are not urgent or protests with armbands, but most of them have decided to postpone the adoption of similar forms of protest depending on the answer provided by the other powers, in particular by the Government, to the magistrates’ requests”, reads a UNJR press release, quoted by Agerpres.
UNJR also announced that part of the courts have expressly voted for the Justice Minister, Raluca Pruna’s resignation.
On Monday, several courts in the country, including the ones from the counties of Dolj, Valcea, Neamt and Mures, announced protests, asking for Justice Minister’s resignation and requesting the Government to enforce the courts decisions on the salaries.
According to the information sent by the Prosecutor General to the Ministry of Justice, no magistrate is in strike at the level of the prosecutor’s offices.
“This one is the largest protest since 2009, and magistrates – judges and prosecutors – are highlighting the problems of the judiciary through the general meetings, providing solutions in order to have an efficient, modern and quality justice. The current memorandum, initiated by the professional associations of the magistrates, is the result of the fact that the trust in justice has decreased by 13 percent in one year, as well as of the fact that problems of the judiciary, indicated in the resolution of the general meetings since 2009 haven’t been solved, other additional problems being added to them”, stated UNJR.
The memorandum requests the other powers to provide a real independence of justice, without any kind of direct or indirect influence, a coherent, stable and accessible legislative framework, financial, logistical and human support for an efficient, modern and quality justice.
Magistrates demand respect for the courts’ independence, the principle of separation of powers, the binding force of courts’ final decisions, as well as the equality of arms between prosecution and defense.
Moreover, magistrates have also condemned “perpetuation of a primordially repressive justice in the public space”, as well as “disregarding the right to defense, including in terms of client-lawyer confidentiality’s acknowledgement”.
Judges have sounded the alarm also on “moving the act of judgment from the court in the public space by excessive media exposure of the remanded persons, by repeated leaks of information from prosecutors, without being seriously investigated and by uncomplete information provided to the public related to criminal investigations, favorable solutions for the prosecuted persons being omitted”.
As a result of these violations of the human rights and of the presumption of innocence, magistrates have requested “the respect of the European standards on presumption of innocence in compliance with the EP and Council Decision, approved on February 12, 2016”.
On the other hand, judges have requested for “guaranteeing and respecting the statute of the magistrates, their independence, including by providing proper remuneration and decent working conditions in the judiciary”.
They highlighted the lack “of the proper spaces for magistrates and ancillary stuff from many courts and prosecutor’s offices”, as well as using “physically and morally depreciated equipment” by the courts and prosecutors, “subject to the risk to definitively remaining blocked”.
The acute shortage of personnel, as a result of not supplementing the schemes according to the memorandums assumed by the Government from the perspective of implementing the new codes, was another issue indicated by the magistrates.
A point raised in the memorandum is “the reductive vision of the justice”, seen only through “the fight against corruption”, which error is also included in MCV.
UNJR also claims that the lack of a legal instrument to dismiss the elected CSM (Superior Council of Magistracy) members was another issue noted in the memorandum. A CSM member is elected for a term of 6 years, and today there is not any instrument for his/her dismissal, so he/she cannot be accountable to those who elected him.
Another issue related to CSM was its refusal to fulfill “in an effective manner the mission to ensure the independence of justice”.
For instance, CSM refused to involve even when this was requested by the magistrates, “in cases like the limits of the disciplinary or criminal investigation on pronouncing a court decision, criticism of major players in the act of justice, including DNA (National Anticorruption Directorate), to some final court decisions or clarifying the interference between justice and intelligence services”.
Therefore, magistrates suggest “the urgent approval of legislative measures on the dismissal procedure of the Superior Council of Magistracy’s members, as well as other measures meant to make the activity of this institution more effective”.
Judges have also sounded the alarm on “the way of acting of the Judicial Inspection regarding the respect of the judge’s independence in pronouncing decisions and the measure unit in action”.
“The Judicial Inspection have established a ‘fear’ as a result of the ‘arbitrary and abusive manner in which magistrates were investigated on the pronounced decisions’, reads the memorandum. The memorandum requests the review of the competences of the Judicial Inspection in order to remove the possibility of affecting the independence of the magistrates and the vitiation of the act of justice by exercising/triggering verifications similar to the judicial control”, stated UNJR.
Another issue indicated in the memorandum relates to the underfunding of the judiciary, since the budget per capita allotted to justice is much under the average of the allotted budget in the EU member states.
For instance, “the amount granted by the state for the salary of a first court judge per solved case is under RON 100, less than a half of the minimum amount allotted as a fee for a court-appointed lawyer”.
In addition to the proper funding of justice and “the immediate removal of the discriminations in the salary matter”, magistrates have also requested “the actual taking over of the attributions related to the management of the courts’ budgets by ICCJ (The High Court of Cassation and Justice), as the law provides”.
Magistrates have also raised the issue of the lack of transparency and of the political appointments in leading positions within the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, one of the solutions being the implementation of transparent procedures and the removal of the political factor in appointing people in leading positions within the Public Ministry.
Judges also highlighted the incoherent legislation (e.g. salaries, or car tax / environmental stamp), which caused dozens of thousands of disputes “involving both an extremely high effort for courts, and significant financial costs for the state and for the citizens”, another issue being the failures caused by implementing the new codes, in particular the criminal ones.
According to UNJR, judges also requested total transparency in the institutional cooperation with the intelligence services, the strict compliance with the legal framework and a real judicial and civil control on their activity.
The memorandum also refers to “the establishment of a judicial police body under the exclusive authority of the Public Ministry, and the establishment by the law of a civil authority for interception, which should allow the full compliance to the CEDO (ECHR), regarding the technical and legal guarantees”.
Another request is related to clarifying the relationship between justice and intelligence services and making it transparent, since the judges appreciate that “the relationship between justice and any other power or state institution has to be set by laws or public protocols, which is the reason for which CSAT (The Supreme Council of National Defense) has to declassify and make public all the decisions of this institution that have an impact on the prosecutors’ or judges’ activity”.
“Other two issues indicated in the memorandum were the unsolved situation of the former intelligence service SIPA, which spied and blackmailed magistrates, as well as not making public the effective procedure followed by CSAT when the situation of the undercover officers among magistrates was checked. Magistrates requested CSAT to make public the procedure followed in order to perform the concrete check of the existence of the infiltrators in the judiciary, employees/collaborators/informants of the intelligence services”, added UNJR.
Justice Minister Raluca Pruna, after the magistrates’ protests: Salary policy is made by the Labour Ministry. I will contact the Minister
Justice Minister, Raluca Pruna, stated for Mediafax that she was informed from the press about the magistrates’ protests, mentioning that she will contact the Labour Minister in order for the relevant Ministry to find out what the judges’ claims are.
“Salary policy is made by the Labour Ministry. I acknowledge the press information regarding the protests at the courts level. I will contact the Labour Minister in order for the Ministry to talk to those who are involved in the protest about their claims. According to the information sent by the Prosecutor General to the Justice Ministry until this moment, there is no magistrate in strike at the level of the prosecutor’s offices”, stated Justice Minister, Raluca Pruna, for Mediafax.