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March 23, 2023

Justice Minister proposes new law on magistrates’ accountability, by June: We don’t want to be the most exigent in the EU, but not the most permissive either

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader announced on Wednesday that by June he wants to propose a new law on the accountability of magistrates, which will be drawn up by also considering comparative studies concerning other European countries, because the initiators of this legislative act do not want to be the most exigent in this field but not the most permissive either.

Tudorel Toader said that he is analysing the forms of magistrates’ accountability in other European Union countries and that he will file the bill with Parliament by June.

“It will be a larger package, there are many proposed amendments from the Supreme Magistracy Council, from the Prosecutor’s Office and the High Court. I’ve started a rigorous and exact research into the way in which European Union member states regulate the accountability of magistrates. Ten days ago, the Venice Commission issued a report on a question filed by the President of the Constitutional Court of Moldova. Starting off from our current regulations, we take a look at the reports of colleagues from the other institutions, we take a look at the comparative studies on other EU countries, because we won’t be the most exigent nor the most permissive, we relate to the Venice Commission’s standards and you’ll see the bill that will be ready in June,” the Justice Minister pointed out.

Tudorel Toader added that the Justice Ministry will also draw up other bills for the transposition of all European directives.

The minister gave as example a memorandum drawn up to transpose a 2012 directive establishing minimum norms concerning the rights, support and protection of the victims of criminality, whose transposition deadline expired long ago.

“We have the obligation to transpose, we must find the legal way, whether the victims of crimes will have the support of the Justice Ministry, the Internal Affairs Ministry or the Labour Ministry. We will discuss at Government level, establish who should have the competence of protecting the victims and, based on this, we’ll draft a bill,” the minister pointed out.

Tudorel Toader added that the Justice Ministry is working on the package of laws for the judiciary.

“We have the draft, we have the point of view of the authorities involved in the procedure of drafting the judiciary bills, we are also waiting for the procedure at the CSM; as soon as we have them, we’ll issue the bill,” the Justice Minister added.

Tudorel Toader also presented other bills the Justice Ministry is considering, such as the bill on the filling-in of 45 vacant offices, pointing out that legal procedures to fill-in all offices will start “as soon as possible.”

“We need the services allocated to the Justice Ministry, the offices are budgeted, but they are vacant and we are trying to cover the tasks of these offices with existing personnel; this must be changed,” Toader said.

On the issue of penitentiary overcrowding, Toader said that short-, medium- and long-term solutions can be proposed.

The minister pointed out that several solutions were presented, including the granting of pardons, modernising existing penitentiaries, building new ones, serving sentences over the weekends, monitoring convicts with ankle bracelets and modifying parole criteria.

“We haven’t found a magical solution to solve the problem, but I believe that the penitentiaries’ problem can be solved by combining some of those listed,” Toader said.

The minister also talked about organising, next autumn, an international conference that would tackle the Justice Ministry’s role in the architecture of the rule of law, a conference at which justice ministers from all European Union states will be invited.

Ex-Justice Minister Florin Iordache wanted to draft a bill on the accountability of magistrates too, invoking the European law on the accountability of magistrates.

The Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) presented back then a point of view on the said law, pointing out that its adoption is not advisable since the legislative and executive branches of government lack a law on the accountability of dignitaries.

“The independence of the judiciary represents an essential component of the rule of law in which the three branches of government – the legislative, the executive and the judicial – must be in permanent balance. The Council emphasises that current legislation regulates the accountability of magistrates in a triple form: disciplinary, penal and civil. The adoption of other legal regulations on this aspect is not necessary. Another regulation that does not have a counterpart in similar forms of accountability for the members of the other two branches of government – the legislative and the executive – represents in and of itself the perturbing of the balance between them, with serious consequences for the proper functioning of society,” CSM President Mariana Ghena was stating at the time.

In CSM’s opinion, any legislative initiative whose object would be holding magistrates materially accountable based on coordinates other than the existing ones is not advisable.

High Court of Justice President Cristina Tarcea was stating at the time that she agrees with improving the magistrates’ accountability law only if laws on the accountability of parliamentarians and the accountability of the Government are tabled.

Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar was pointing out that, at this moment, the accountability of magistrates is regulated by the Constitution and by other laws, modifying it not being an emergency.

National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Codruta Kovesi was saying at the time that such a law is not necessary since legislation exists in this sense, being enforced and offering sufficient guarantees that magistrates that do not carry out their duties can be censured in a disciplinary and penal manner and even by holding them directly accountable by placing levies on their personal assets.

“The legal regulations are now in line with European legislation, in my view they don’t have to be modified, there are sufficient guarantees that, when they do not carry out their duties in good faith, magistrates can be censured in a disciplinary and penal manner, or even by holding them directly accountable, [by levying] his own assets. So, in my view, this law doesn’t have to be modified. If a bill appears, we’ll have to see in what sense it’s being modified,” Kovesi pointed out.



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