The President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Guido Raimondi, says that the number of cases that reached the Court after complaints from Romania have been submitted, has doubled in the last year, many of them being caused by the prison conditions. For this reason, he recommends Romania to take similar legislative measures to those from Italy, where some prisoners had their sentences reduced, and for others, the sentence has been commuted to house arrest, with surveillance bracelets.
In a speech held at Strasbourg on the occasion of the new judicial year of the European Court of Human Rights, the President of the institution stated: “after a two-year reduction in the number of incoming cases, in 2016 we saw for the first time in several years a 32% increase in the number of new cases. This influx is to be explained by the situation in three countries: Hungary, Romania and Turkey”.
“Firstly, with regard to Hungary and Romania, for which the number of cases increased by 95% and 108% respectively in 2016, these essentially concern issues related to conditions of detention. Admittedly, these are priority cases, since they come under Article 3 of the Convention, but they are repetitive cases which reflect systemic or structural difficulties and require that solutions be found at domestic level”, Guido Raimondi explained.
He underlined “that no immediate miracle cure exists for these situations, either in the country concerned, for which resolving this issue implies considerable political and budgetary measures, or in Strasbourg”.
“This is possible, as is demonstrated by the example of Italy, for which the number of cases has been more than halved in two and a half years. This is the result of the Italian Government’s policy, firstly in response to the Torreggiani pilot judgment (e.n – on prison conditions), which concerned prison overcrowding, and secondly, with regard to the length of proceedings. This shows that where a Government has the will to resolve a situation and takes the necessary measures, the results quickly follow.
The measures taken by Italy
Guido Raimondi referred to a series of measures taken by Italy after the pilot decision of 2013, by the so-called decree “Empty prisons”, that partially solved the issue of the prison conditions. Thus, early release, decided by judges, has been established for approx. 1,700 detainees, by reducing their sentences by 75 days for each 6 months spent in prison in the case of the prisoners with good behavior, parole has been established with a ceiling increased to 4 years of remained prison, as well as special parole for drug and alcohol addicts, if they spend the probation period in rehabilitation centers.
Moreover, Italy has widened the scope of the house arrest for approx. 12,000 detainees who had to spend no more than one year and a half in prison.
Italy has also expelled the detainees of other nationalities, requesting the sentence to be executed in their home country. At the same time, the officials from the Peninsula immediately started to build new prisons and they reduced the use of remand.
Another series of detainees have been released when the Italian Constitutional Court decided to reject a law that criminalized marijuana consumption and trafficking at the same level with the cocaine and heroin.
As far as Romania is concerned, it is known that the GEO bills on pardon and amending Criminal Code initiated by the Justice Ministry have caused so far high controversies in politics and society, street protests to which President Klaus Iohannis also attended for a short time. The Head of the State was present for about 15 minutes at the demonstration from University Square held on January 22 to which more than 20,000 people have attended, and said that it’s unacceptable to amend the laws in the manner in which it is intended to, and that people have reasons to be indignant.
“A gang of politicians having criminal problems want to amend the Romanian law, they want to weaken the rule of law. But this is not acceptable. It is unacceptable for the law to be amended and dozens, hundreds of politicians with legal problems, have clean files and to continue commit trespass. Romanians are right to be indignant” Iohannis said.
Other tens of thousands of people protested in several cities.
President’s gesture to attend an unauthorized demonstration was harshly criticized by the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Liviu Dragnea, who accused him of initiating a new “mineriad”. After the demonstration of the last Sunday from the University Square, Dragnea stated that President Klaus Iohannis placed himself outside the law, that his participation at the unauthorized meeting is a start of a coup, and he assured that he will not allow the head of state to overturn the constitutional order, to usurp official capacities by abusively entering in the Government’s sessions or to instigate to social disorder and violence.
On the other hand, PSD leader Liviu Dragnea stated on Thursday that he “didn’t get exactly what the Government wants to in the matter of the ordinances on pardon and amending Criminal Codes”.
Klaus Iohannis “twisted” after the discussions with the ECHR officials: Pardon is only a possible solution
President Klaus Iohannis went to the ECHR last Tuesday, asking for a standpoint from the Presidents of the Court and of the Venice Commission, related to pardon and prison conditions. After meeting them, the Head of State mentionied that fining Romania on this ground is not in question now. He said that the amount of EUR 80 million invoked as fine is the result of a calculation “made on the table’s corner”. Iohannis added that the matter of pardon can be approached only within a wider package of measures related to the prison system that Romania has to implement.
“Pardon can possibly be a small part of the package of solutions, but it isn’t the solution. This is what all of those who are nervous about pardon have to understand. The issue was put totally wrong at home. I don’t exclude pardon, but it can’t be made for politicians. It’s an absurdity. Pardon makes sense in this package if the pardoned ones are those from prison, not those from Parliament waiting for pardon” stated the President, in total contradiction with his vehement position against pardon which he had before going to Strasbourg.
“So pardon is only a possible solution, a small part of the whole package that has to be designed by us” Klaus Iohannis underlined.
Before going to Strasbourg, the Head of State announced that a referendum on pardon will be held
Before going to Strasbourg for meeting the officials of the Council of Europe and ECHR, President Klaus Iohannis announced last Tuesday that a referendum on the judiciary laws will be held, stating that there’s a wide interest on amending the Criminal Codes and on pardon, and people have to decide on these issues.
“These days, protest took place, people came out in the street indignant, to protest against this attempt to amend the criminal laws by GEO. I heard all kinds of absurdities, right after people came out in the street. Nervous activists and agitators fled to the obedient TV channels to explain to people that this is a coup. A coup made by citizens? No, politicians are those who make the coup, but they don’t make a coup, they give the final blow to the rule of law” Iohannis stated.
President announced that, as a result, he will initiate the procedures for a referendum on the subject of the two GEOs on pardon and amending the Criminal Code.
Constitution provides that President can call people to a referendum, but he has to consult Parliament also. Deputies and senators have to express their opinion by voting, in a joint session, and they have 20 calendar days from the President’s request. But if they don’t meet the 20-day deadline, the head of state can issue the decree on organizing the referendum. Parliament’s point of view is advisory.
Justice Minister wants Government to assume responsibility for pardon
GEOs on pardon and amending Criminal Codes will not be definitively withdrawn. After the public consultations scheduled for Monday, Justice Minister Florin Iordache will announce the form in which they will be adopted: GEO, Government accountability or law. Iordache stated for Digi24 that he will personally announce the decision, and as far as he’s concerned, he would prefer them to be adopted by Government accountability.
Therefore, these bills which caused many negative reactions and scandals in society, culminating in protests in several cities, and which made more than 20,000 people from Bucharest to go out in the street on January 22, could have a different form starting from Monday January 30. It’s very likely for them to turn into a package of laws on judiciary. This package could also include provisions related to the modernization of the penitentiaries.
The Government accountability involves submitting the law or the legislative package to Parliament. If no censure motion is submitted, or if it is submitted but it isn’t adopted, the Government’s responsibility is deemed to be assumed. The opposition announced its intention to submit a no-confidence motion, but it doesn’t have the necessary force to make it be adopted.
Public debate regarding the GEOs on pardon and Criminal Code in a room with 50 seats
Justice Minister will held on Monday, January 30, a public debate regarding the GEO bills on pardon and amending Criminal Codes, but the room where discussions will take place has only 50 seats.
The representatives of the Justice Ministry say that everyone is free to attend to this debate. There will be three minutes allocated to each participant, including the associations invited to attend to the discussion.
“The debate is organized pursuant to Art.7 para. (9) of the Law no.52/2003 on the decisional transparency in public administration, republished”, states a press release of the Justice Ministry.
Florin Iordache: Murderers and rapists over 60 years will not get out of prison. Where the new penitentiaries will be built
Justice Minister Florin Iordache stated on Saturday that, following the implementation of the GEOs on pardon and amending Criminal Codes, murderers and rapists over 60 years will not get out of prison, mentioning that there will also be additional measures, including for the reinsertion of those who will be released.
Iordache explained that two new penitentiaries will start to be built in 2017, in Caracal and Berceni, adding that the detention unit from Caracal could have been built since 2005, if the Justice Minister at that time, Monica Macovei, wouldn’t have renounced to a grant provided by the Austrian authorities.
Justice Minister stated that, following the debates that took place until now, certain provisions of the GEOs on pardon and amending Criminal Codes have been removed, mentioning that rapists or murderers over 60 years will not get out of prison.
“Rapists, murderers and those who came with serious sentences are excluded even if they are aged more than 60. Those expression in the Article 4 para.2 is removed. So, don’t be afraid. We started from a bill that existed in Romania, the last law on pardon was given in 2002. It’s not a miracle solution if 3,000 prisoners of 28,000 get out of prison, we have to take other measures” stated Iordache for Antena 3.
Justice Minister added he talked to the Labor Minister, Lia Olguta Vasilescu, to find solutions related to the reinsertion of the former detained persons in society and on the labor market. An option is to provide the employers with facilities if they hire persons released from prison.
Florin Iordache explained, in the support of the necessity to adopt a package of laws which would solve the problem of the overcrowded prisons, that he saw, during his visits in penitentiaries, people with faces tumefied by the bites of ticks, and there are cases of rooms of 16 square meters with 20 detainees per room.
The Minister also said that two penitentiaries will start to be built this year at Caracal and Berceni, but their completion will last five years. Iordache mentioned that the Caracal penitentiary, whose construction was approved in 2004, could have been built starting from 2005, if the Justice Minister of that time, Monica Macovei, wouldn’t have renounced to a grant provided by the Austrian state to this end.
On November 8, 2016, asked if the Caracal penitentiary will continue to be built, former Justice Minister Raluca Pruna stated that it will not be made because the Ministry of Defense doesn’t agree with it, given that it’s too close to the Deveselu military base. Instead of it, Pruna stated at that time that a penitentiary in the Berceni Commune near Ploiesti will be built.
“The Prosecutor General doesn’t say if a law is good or bad. He applies it”
Florin Iordache criticized the Prosecutor General of Romania, Augustin Lazar, for the reason that in the last period he commented on the laws, forgetting that the role of the Prosecutor is to apply laws, while making them, is the Parliament’s attribution. “In the end, the Parliament is the one that makes the laws in Romania, and the one that amends them. In the last period, I saw state bodies who comment about laws. I saw the Prosecutor General saying if a law is good or bad. Prosecutor has to apply the law. Parliament is the one who makes the laws” said the Justice Minister.
“The law on the magistrates’ liability is part of the package of the judiciary laws, we’re talking about the Laws no.303, 304 and 317. By February 15, CSM (The Superior Council of Magistracy – e.n.) has a deadline to reanalyze them, because they were designed by the former CSM. Justice Ministry will undoubtedly have its own remarks on these laws, and they will reach the Parliament” Iordache added.
The Prosecutor attached to the Supreme Court, led by Augustin Lazar, sent on January 25 to the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) a critical point of view related to the GEOs on pardon and amending the Criminal code, initiated by the Justice Ministry, appreciating that adopting these regulations in emergency regime could have the result of seriously making state institutions vulnerable towards criminality.
UDMR’s Kelemen says Gov’t decision to amend Criminal Code through ordinances wrong
The government standing to amend through Emergency Ordinances (OUG) the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, is wrong, on Saturday said in central Targu Mures the president of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR, opposition) Kelemen Hunor, at the Council of Union Representatives (CRU).
Kelemen Hunor added, according to the official translation, that every time an amendment was made ‘by by-passing’ the Parliament, ‘issues occurred.’
First of all, it is about the matters regarding the Criminal Code and teh Criminal Procedure Code (…) I’d like to travel a bit in the past. When these codes were adopted by assuming responsibility and with Emergency Ordinance by a Government, it has always led to problems. (…) This standing of the current government to modify the codes through OUG is wrong because every time a government did that, and by-passed the Parliament, issues appeared. We have a proposition: both codes to be amended in accordance with the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR), in the Parliament. There is grounds allowing us to address each problematic issue, each decision by the CCR, all the matters the EU too is requesting from us as part of the harmonisation of the law, two weeks, two months if necessary we have to debate to behave like a Parliament and analyse and finalise this matter. Not through ordinances, not by assuming responsibility, said Kelemen Hunor.
As regards the pardon, Kelemen Hunor said that this government should not have started its ruling with the pardon topic, adding that the Executive has had a ‘wrong’ approach on this matter.
I know that what I say is not nice, on pardon, but this is not about the people and the convicts, but about the state, the state is granting the pardon, there is no referendum on the fiscal policy pardon, amnesty, budget and international relationship, because such things cannot be decided through referendum. If you ask the people, the people will ask for the death penalty. Last time in 1990, when Valeriu Stoica was the Justice Minister, a collective amnesty was granted. If the state at some point, if the Parliament endorse a pardon law, then I believe it would be wrongdoing, or if the president pardons individually, then it is possible, but such a thing could not be done through ordinances and assuming responsibility, no matter how strange that might sound to you, the Parliament must endorse a law accordingly,” said Kelemen Hunor.
He added that nobody could talk reasonably on pardon, and yet in the Parliament a rational debate could take place, and that a lot of people take the pardon with amnesty, willingly or not.
At the same time, Kelemen Hunor said that the laws regarding the national security need corrections, because the legal framework could leave place to ‘interpretations.’
The law package on the national security needs corrections because in the past weeks, months I’ve seen how many things surface. It turned out that there is a possibility for the legal framework to be interpreted and this could lead to sentences behind which no exact accusations could be perceived. When the Prosecutor’s Office today, due to the court’s forbidding it, uses no more the wiretapping made by the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) in the criminal cases, it doesn’t speak the truth. If only we look into the Ana Horvath case we see it is about wiretapping that makes the indictment or the grounds of some criminal procedures. I have no reason whatsoever to believe that in some cases it is valid and in others it is not,” said Kelemen Hunor, according to the official translation.
Dragnea: “I don’t build my hopes up that they will issue some ordinances and I’ll slip out from the system’s grasp”
The Social Democratic Party (PSD) Chairman Liviu Dragnea on Friday sent a public message to the PM Sorin Grindeanu regarding the GEOs on pardon and amending the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. “I don’t build my hopes up that they will issue some ordinances and I’ll slip out from the system’s grasp”, Liviu Dragnea said.
Liviu Dragnea made new statements on the two ordinances on the judiciary, after he stated on Thursday, for Digi24, that he didn’t know about them, since he was left in the USA.
“I’m waiting something from the Government in this matter, and generally related to all the initiatives. When they plan to do something, they have to be determined, clear and very accurate and rigorous. I’m waiting to see if they decide something to this end. I saw it’s said that they are made for me. I’m not interested, no matter of what provisions will be included in those ordinances, files can be prepared for me one after another, anyway. I don’t build my hopes up that they will issue some ordinances and I’ll slip out from the system’s grasp. I don’t believe such a thing, because the stake is very high” Liviu Dragnea claimed, adding that the objectives of the electoral campaign are assumed.
“One of the objectives remains to protect judges from being influenced by any institution or by any person, no matter of its position in the Romanian state, and to improve the quality of the judicial infrastructure”, PSD chairman added.
Liviu Dragnea also said that no one made any criticism on other occasions “when dozens of amendments of the Criminal Code have been adopted by GEO, violating the Constitution. The rights have been affected there, because punishments have been increased”.
Being asked if these ordinances will be assumed by Government accountability, Liviu Dragnea answered that he is not an “opinionist”. “I assume what I say. I am very interested and very curious to see the Government’s position in this matter, position 1, position 2, position 3, but a position that all of us can understand” he said.
Regarding his statement according to which he takes responsibility for the government of this period, Liviu Dragnea said that these ordinances are not negative.
“Did I say that they are negative? No, I didn’t! Taking a decision is more important than not taking one. Either you adopt them, or you don’t, or you make a law. They have to take a decision at some point. I take the whole responsibility, that’s why I am very interested. I don’t want to talk more than needed regarding the Government’s activity, it’s enough” stated the PSD leader.
PM Grindeanu: I plan to have a discussion with President of ECHR in next period
Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu stated on Sunday, on the Antena 3 private television station, that he plans to have a meeting with the President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the upcoming period, in order to make a “clear picture” in the context of discussions in Romania regarding pardon.
“I plan in the following period to have a discussion and to go to the ECHR. To have a talk with the President of the ECHR, because it is necessary to make a clear picture, even if currently I have a lot of information, but it’s necessary to make a “real picture,” Grindeanu stated.
He mentioned that such a meeting is “absolutely necessary.”
“I have seen the President’s statement in the plenary meeting and the recommendation he made to Romania and Hungary in order to adopt the example of Italy, stating (…) that it’s related to the internal politics of each member state,” the Prime Minister added.
He reiterated the fact that “pardon alone doesn’t solving the problem, but an entire package of measures, which the Justice Ministry has the duty to present in the shortest time possible.”