On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved government emergency ordinance no.14 (GEO 14), which repeals the ordinance amending the Criminal Codes.
The ordinance was approved with 118 votes in favour, the total number of Senators present.
The Senate debated GEO 14 in an urgent procedure. The Senate is the first Chamber notified, the Lower Chamber being set to have the final say.
Before the vote, PNL and USR Senators asked for both GEO 13 and GEO 14 to be debated within the plenary meeting, however after many discussions and a pause for consultations the Opposition’s request was rejected.
The Senate’s favourable vote on GEO 14, which repeals the controversial government emergency ordinance no.13 (GEO 13), came after the members of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee adopted on Monday evening a favourable report on the bill approving GEO 14 and admitted two amendments filed by USR, which set two articles of GEO 14 in line with Constitutional Court decisions. The favourable report was adopted unanimously, all members of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee favouring the adoption of GEO 14. The Judiciary Committee also adopted two of the amendments filed by USR, in order to set the Criminal Codes in line with Constitutional Court decisions.
During the Judiciary Committee’s meeting, PNL and USR Senators also proposed the rejection of GEO 13, in a package with the approval of GEO 14.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Serban Nicolae (PSD) opposed discussing GEO in the same package with GEO 14, and his PSD and ALDE colleagues followed suit. The proposal filed by PNL and USR was not adopted, five members of the committee (from PNL, USR and UDMR) voting in favour but six members (from PSD and ALDE) abstaining.
Scandal within Judiciary Committee: Senator Serban Nicolae kicked the representative of the Public Ministry out of the room because she hadn’t been invited
During the debates on GEO 14, Committee Chairman Serban Nicolae (PSD) reproached prosecutor Irina Kuglay, the representative of the Public Ministry, with showing up uninvited at the committee’s meeting, thus breaking the regulations. Following an extremely heated exchange, Serban Nicolae asked the Public Ministry’s representative to leave the room.
The scandal erupted as soon as the Prosecutor Office’s representative was asked by Alina Gorghiu to talk about an amendment included in the bill approving GEO 14. Committee Chairman Serban Nicolae warned her that she was not invited and told her she was not allowed to speak within the committee.
“Firstly, you should have informed me about your presence here. I didn’t know who you are. You have 11 Senators in front of you, if someone from the Public Ministry considers himself/herself far too superior – probably because of the salary, since the Prosecutor General earns five times as much as a senator – to talk to a Senate committee, I’m asking you not to speak ever again,” Serban Nicolae told the Prosecutor General Office’s representative.
She pointed out that the Prosecutor General Office informed the Speakers of the two Chambers of Parliament and the Judiciary Committees about her presence at the meeting, but the Social Democrat rejected her arguments.
“Please, don’t insist. You should know that based on this logic then we too, out of a desire to support the Prosecutor’s Office, could announce our desire to take part in criminal investigations, especially those based on secret protocols and mixed teams. You can never take the liberty to show up uninvited at committee meetings by notifying Parliament. Thank you for your presence, it’s nothing personal, it’s not about you,” he said.
“I cannot take it personally, it would be a compliment for me to take it personally,” the Prosecutor’s representative retorted.
“Don’t try to be ironic, madam. It’s no compliment, it’s a very polite warning and believe me we care about the observance of laws and regulations. Madam, I’m asking you nicely to leave the room. You’re crossing the limit, don’t take it personally. Am I really pleading with you within the Parliament’s committee? What is this? How dare you insist? Open another criminal file if you like,” Serban Nicolae angrily reacted.
Public Ministry: Prosecutors’ presence at debates on judiciary’s legislation is a tradition
Following Monday’s scandal within the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, the Public Ministry reiterated, in a communique remitted to the press on Tuesday, its “constant preoccupation and openness toward inter-institutional dialogue, in the sense of offering technical, specialised support within the framework of the procedure to amend criminal legislation and the laws concerning the judiciary.”
“The presence of Prosecutor General Office representatives at the meetings of parliamentary committees, as well as within the working groups set up within the Justice Ministry or the Supreme Magistracy Council is necessary to fulfil the constitutional role of representing the general interests of society and to protect the rule of law, as well as citizens’ fundamental rights and liberties,” the communique reads.
At the same time, the Public Ministry informs that its representatives’ participation in debates on legislative amendments that are of interest for the judiciary represents a tradition that takes concrete form in the studying of the bills, the filing of observations in the bill drafting stage, the filing of proposals following Constitutional Court decisions, the identification of the need for extra regulations or for the amendment of existing texts etc. The Public Ministry’s leadership expresses its hope that prosecutors will be allowed to take part, as guests, in the process of drafting the legislation that concerns the activity of the judiciary.
In the same communique, the Prosecutor’s Office deems that by offering technical, specialised support, prosecutors contribute to the implementation of the principle of judicial security, per which the strength of the rule of law is conferred, among other things, by the predictability and quality of laws.
Dragnea: I understood that those are the regulations and the Public Ministry’s representative hadn’t been invited
Asked by journalists about the scandal within the Judiciary Committee, PSD President Liviu Dragnea stated on Tuesday: “I understood that those are the regulations and she hadn’t been invited. Mr. Serban Nicolae has to explain it to her, surely he has a serious motivation.”
GEO 13 kept under debate in Judiciary Commission
The Opposition Senators in the Judiciary Commission demanded on Tuesday the rejection of OUG 13/2017, a proposal which did not meet the majority’s votes, the piece of legislation being due for debate together with the pardon laws, next week, in the presence of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Superior Council of Magistracy and The National Administration of Penitentiaries.
The Liberal Senator Alina Gorghiu recommended to take into account the opinion from the constitutionality Committee, which amended the title of the said piece of legislation, the bill regarding the approval of GEO 13/2017 for the amendment and completion of the Criminal Codes becoming a rejection draft law of GEO 13/2017.
“The proposal that I ask you to cast your vote upon is the discussion today of GEO 13, and the other points on the agenda, 2 or 3 respectively, that you wanted to debate upon on the judicial system to be made at a later date. I consider imperative to give a solution today. It seems to me that the solution provided by the Constitutionality Commission yesterday morning is a commonsensical one, which is why I ask you to discuss on the law rejecting the GEO 13,” asked Gorghiu.
The Judiciary Commission Chairman, the Social Democrat Serban Nicolae specified that he will invite the Justice Minister, the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) leadership and the general manager of National Administration of Penitentiaries (ANP) at the discussion of the three pieces of legislation.
Alina Gorghiu stated that the pardon draft law does not solve the problem of prisons’ overcrowding, the piece of legislation only targeting 1,112 people, according to data from the National Penitentiary Agency.
Emergency Ordinance 13/2017, the bill to pardon some penalties and some custodial and educational measures and the bill amending Law no. 254/2013 on the enforcement of sentences and custodial measures ordered by the court during the criminal trial will be debated again in the Judiciary Commission meeting of February 21.