Justice Minister Tudorel Toader on Monday asserted that he suggested the resignation of neither National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi nor of Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar, and all he did was evoke “a Labour Code institution.”
“I didn’t suggest they resign. I said and asked everyone to refrain from speculating on this issue, and I evoked an institution that exists in the Labour Code. Anybody may resign, nobody is forced to do something against their will,” Tudorel Toader specified at the Justice Ministry’s headquarters.
Romania’s Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar on Monday morning said he will not step down, after the Justice Minister had announced he was going to take measures after assessing the activity of the Prosecutor General and the DNA.
When asked Monday whether he intends to resign, Augustin Lazar answered: “I’m telling you only this: I won’t go into public controversy.”
JusMin announces assessment of the activity of the Public Ministry and the DNA
The Justice Minister announced on Sunday, in an interview with private TV broadcaster Antena 3, that he would meet Romania’s Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar and National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi in the upcoming days, to discuss the investigation related to the government emergency ordinance (GEO) 13, pointing out that he does not rule out the possibility of their resignation.
The Minister of Justice was asked what steps he would take after the Constitutional Court released its reasons for the decision which established the existence of a constitutional conflict between the DNA and the Government.
“In the following days, I will have discussions with Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar, and separately with the Chief Prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate, on the aforementioned topic, on how they related to the law, to the constitutional standard, to the standards of the Venice Commission. In the decision, you have seen several paragraphs in which the Commission says that a line should be drawn between political accountability and legal-criminal accountability, that the decision maker, the legislator must have the freedom of choice, the advisability of the legal act, that the legislator must not have the pressure of criminal liability, that legal acts can be subject to censure through legal and constitutional procedures. I will discuss separately with them in the upcoming days, to see their point of view,” the Justice Minister said.
Tudorel Toader mentioned, in response to a question, that he did not rule out that both Lazar and Kovesi might resign.
Asked what will he do if the two do not resign, Tudorel Toader said: “I would not like to speculate that I know something about this. I just meant there is this possibility. (…) In parallel, perhaps starting tomorrow (Monday – ed. n.), through my colleagues at the Ministry of Justice, we will draw up an assessment of the activity of the Public Ministry on one hand and of the DNA on the other. And then, the assessment will have two components: on the one hand the professional one, the cases, and on the other hand the managerial one, the institutions they lead. After my discussion with them I will make this two-fold assessment, I will determine the measures I’ll take and I’ll communicate my decision to the media.”
The Minister of Justice stated that in 10 to 14 days, he will make his decision public.
Toader on Intelligence Service’s protocols with prosecution authorities: Termination not enough, declassification also needed
Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader also said on Sunday evening that terminating the protocols that the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) had with the prosecution authorities is not enough, but they should also be declassified in order to shed light on the prosecutors’ collaboration with intelligence services.
“As a principle, intelligence services are structures of the rule of law. Their prerogatives complement other state prerogatives. I mean we cannot deny the public utility of these services, but we cannot allow them to interfere in the judicial activities of criminal prosecution or the trial either. (…) The public knowledge is that these are different protocols with different institutions, so if we take a step, let’s carry the job through, not just terminate the protocol with one institution and keep another three or four in force. On the other hand, terminating them is not enough (…) this means they are no longer in force, that they are no longer applicable. But I think it would be more interesting for us to be able to see them, to declassify them for us to know how these structures operated, how the collaboration worked,” Tudorel Toader told private TV broadcaster Antena 3.
Asked if he will ask the General Prosecution Office, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) and the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) to reassess their protocols with the SRI, Tudorel Toader said that, according to his understanding, these protocols are no longer in force.
“As far as I understood from the Prosecutor General, he has already terminated them, they are already no longer in force. I was referring to the next step, of gaining insight into what has been but is no longer in force. (…) I won’t keep such protocols, such collaborations in force except within the strict limits of legal competencies,” concluded JusMin Tudorel Toader.
Grindeanu: It’s not the PM’s job to assess the Prosecutor General’s activity; I’ll discuss this with JusMin
Premier Sorin Grindeanu stated on Monday morning that he and the Justice Minister will meet in order to talk about the latter’s statements concerning the replacement of the Prosecutor General and the Chief Prosecutor of the DNA, pointing out however that it is not his job to carry out “activity assessments” in what concerns these persons.
“I haven’t had talks with the minister. (…) I heard about the CCR decision, I haven’t read it and I don’t believe it’s my job. I believe it’s the Public Ministry’s job, I don’t want to enter this kind of details. (…) I believe it’s a domain in which those who must enforce the CCR decision must observe the law. It’s not an issue pertaining to the Prime Minister. (…) I don’t believe it’s my job to carry out such assessments and I won’t do it either. It’s not the Prime Minister’s job to assess the activity of the Prosecutor General or of structures of this type,” Grindeanu said.
Asked whether he was going to hold the talks on Monday, the Premier said: “I’ll try to meet him, let’s see what his schedule is too; we have Parliament [meeting] today too.”
He stated he talked with the Justice Minister last week, before the CCR published its substantiation, but their talks focused on what must be done in regards to the penitentiary problem.
“I believe that enforcing this CCR decision is rather the Public Ministry’s role, because it’s mandatory. The talks concerning what Mr Tudorel Toader said – firstly I want to hear it from himself, apart from the statements,” the Prime Minister added.
Prime Minister : JusMin is free to make things work in his area
Later on on Monday, PM Grindeanu said that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader is free as far as he is concerned to make things work in the area under his authority.
“It is not the prime minister’s business to get to manage each ministry separately. He will do his thing and all the assessments and all that is required by the law at the ministry he is running. (…) I have given him free reign in enforcing the law and I am convinced he will do that. I have understood he wants some discussions. It is his business whether or not he has discussions; that is none of the prime minister’s business. (…)” Grindeanu said at Parliament Palace.
He mentioned having discussed for some minutes with the justice minister on Monday.
Asked whether or not he will take into account the street’s grievances about justice, Grindeanu said “all that the government, and the Justice Ministry implicitly, supports – bills or other things – has to happen in an as large a debate as possible where featuring as players, besides the governmental institutions and political parties, should be NGOs and all stakeholders.”
Grindeanu went on to say that the justice minister has not suggested Attorney General Augustin Lazar or head of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate Laura Codruta Kovesi being replaced form office.
“I am not conducting assessments and it is not my part to make such assessments, and I do not want to as it is not what I have to do. Mr minister, according to the law and from what I get, is entitled to regular meetings with the leaders in this area; that does not mean he makes proposals like the ones you have enunciated. I have not heard him say so,” Grindeanu concluded.
Turcan on JusMin’s statements: These are the PSD theses, there are interests other than those for an independent judiciary
PNL Interim President Raluca Turcan criticised on Monday the statements made by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, pointing out they are PSD’s statements and she believes interests other than those for an independent judiciary lie behind them.
“It seems to me the Justice Minister’s statements are PSD’s statements. That his theory overlaps the PSD’s theses. There were institutional conflicts before too, after which there was no talk about dismissing the leadership of institutions. Rather, it seems that behind these statements lie interests other than those for an independent judiciary,” Raluca Turcan stated.
Asked for her opinion on the CCR ruling that criticised the DNA for its investigation into the adoption of GEO 13/2017, Turcan said she does not comment on Constitutional Court decisions, as a principle.
“In what concerns Constitutional Court decisions, my stance is the same as it was before: we won’t comment on them, they must be respected. Likewise, I’ve seen on the part of the two institutions too the openness to verify how the Constitutional Court’s decisions can be respected. If we want a really independent and credible judiciary, the mechanisms currently exist – by law – to regain credibility and correct the backsliding or abuses,” Turcan added.