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March 1, 2021
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Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar: Appearances of impartiality dubbed by media ‘a hunt for lawbreakers and felons’ must be eliminated; presumption of innocence must be respected

Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar stated on Wednesday that the measures that must be taken to respect the rights and freedoms of persons who are criminally prosecuted include striking a balance between presenting information about some dossiers and giving them media coverage, in order to eliminate the appearances of impartiality dubbed by the media “a hunt for lawbreakers and felons” and thus to respect the presumption of innocence.

“A criminal prosecution must take place at standards of quality that would eliminate the appearances of impartiality dubbed by the media a hunt of lawbreakers and felons, an understanding induced by certain excesses or shortcomings on the plane of communication, a reality that compels to the careful management and eloquence of institutional messages,” Augustin Lazar stated at the conference that launched the project called ‘The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the criminal prosecution stage.’

Romania’s Prosecutor General emphasised that in the process of criminal prosecution a balance must be struck between presenting certain information from a dossier and giving them media coverage, so that the criminally probed person’s presumption of innocence would be respected.

“The presumption of innocence issue is a European standard. During criminal prosecution we must adopt this stance (…) of impartiality that the criminal prosecution body must show. Not only does it think it, but it must also show it. There was frequent discussion about exaggerated media coverage in some cases. Here I believe we must have a position of balance from both sides, both from judiciary bodies when they offer information on the progress of the criminal process, as well as from the press regarding the manner and frequency with which the information is requested. Of course, we cannot tell the press with what frequency they should request information about a certain case. There are cases that are more interesting, information is requested more frequently, however our mission is to keep a balance in presenting this information, for the presumption of innocence to be respected,” Lazar said.

 

“The criminally prosecuted citizen is not an adversary or enemy of the prosecutor but simply a person who has rights and freedoms, dignity and a family”

 

“The criminally prosecuted person is not an adversary or enemy of the prosecutor, but a person who has rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, family and dignity,” Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar added, pointing out that the protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms does not cease when the criminal prosecution starts.

“The criminally prosecuted person is certainly not an adversary – or worse, an enemy – of the prosecutor. The citizen is simply a person, a fellow man who has, allegedly, broken the law by disregarding the general interests of society, or who harmed them, however a person with thoroughly-defined rights and with clear constitutionally-recognised freedoms, who has dignity, a soul, a family, friends and, last but not least, very likely problems we often don’t know about, some maybe graver than the criminal accountability process in which they are engaged,” Augustin Lazar stated at the conference launching the project titled ‘The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the criminal prosecution stage.’

The Prosecutor General stated that the criminally prosecuted person is not the only one subjected to constraints, but so is the prosecutor handling the criminal probe, because the prosecutor must make sure the rights and freedoms of the person whose case the prosecutor is handling are respected.

“Of course, criminal prosecution – whose finality is defining the criminal accountability – has its virtues, thinking in professional terms, but has its servitudes at the same time, understood as special obligations regarding the observance of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Hence, there are “constraints” not only for the person subjected to criminal investigation, but also for the person carrying out the investigation: for the former in the sense that they must respect certain obligations imposed by the specificity of judiciary exigencies; for the latter, for the prosecutor, for instance in the sense that the prosecutor must unconditionally obey the constitutional commandments on respecting and protecting the fundamental human rights and freedoms in the case they handle,” Lazar said.

He added that the protection of the rights and freedoms of the citizens does not cease the moment the criminal prosecution starts and talked about the presumption of innocence as “the historic triumph of the freedom of human nature over the danger of being unjustly suppressed through excesses in law enforcement.”

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