The independence of the prosecutors must be defended with “dignity” and “strength”, on Thursday night said the Prosecutor General of Romania Augustin Lazar, speaking of “attempts of certain powers of the state to deprive the Romanian prosecutors of their independence on dubious ways, through vicious parliamentary bills and procedures”.
Lazar’s reaction came up after the special parliamentary committee decided on Thursday the setting up of the Directorate for the Investigation of Criminal Offenses of Judges and Prosecutors within the General Prosecutor’s Office.
“A Directorate for the Investigation of Criminal Offenses of Judges and Prosecutors is being set up and rendered operational within the Prosecutor’s Office with the High Court of Cassation and Justice, whose exclusive competency is to carry out the criminal investigation for corruption and similar offenses, provided for in the Criminal Code and by Law 78/2000, the work-related crimes and other similar offenses as well as crimes against justice being served by judges and prosecutors, including those who are members of the Superior Council of Magistracy and also military prosecutors and judges,” is the amendment voted for by the committee’s members at the amendment draft of law 304/2004 regarding the judicial organisation.
“Between protecting the criminals or the victims, the Prosecutor’s Office has made it clear cut its choice for a long time: it will protect the victims, and towards the criminals it will be steady, intransigent and yet even-handed. By doing that, the Public Services Ministry will assume independence it has to benefit according to the Constitution of Romania, as well as the international documents, some of which a part of the domestic law through ratification, in accordance with Art. 11 of Romania’s fundamental law. We thus answer all of the question by the public opinion, the attempts of certain state’s powers to deprive the Romanian prosecutors of their independence on dubious ways, through vicious parliamentary procedures and bills, or through fraudulent maneuvers engineered in political circles with interests against the criminal justice, that the Public Service Ministry will not abdicate nor from its independence, nor from its steadiness. The independence conferred by the Constitution of Romania is defended with dignity, firmness and through judicial tools provided by the law!” says Lazar, according to a release sent issued on Thursday by the Prosecutor’s General Office.
The Prosecutor General reviews the internal and international documents that rule the prosecutors’ independence, reminding of the noted political scientist Francis Fukuyama and criticises the bill to amend the laws of Justice.
“There is a clear connection between the rule of law and the prosecutors’ independence. We talk about the prosecutors’ independence because it is only by this the grave criminal deeds could be sent to court, meaning the justices have the possibility to decide upon the guilt or innocence of the defendants. To harass the prosecutors, to put them in a defensive state, to threat them with disproportionate legal liabilities against eventual mistakes they did, to assimilate ipso facto a court decision of acquittal of a defendant with a professional guilt, to turn the Prosecutor’s Office into a weak link between the Police and the courts, to subdue the prosecutors to control from an executive fully political body, as the Justice Ministry is, headed by a politically appointed Justice minister and with a political agenda means in a nutshell to gravely violate fundamental principles of the rule of law,” Lazar says.
In his opinion, the rule of law is based on the rule of law principle, and yet it implies the idea of moral, ethical, political and judicial responsibility, too.
According to the Prosecutor General Art. 132 paragraph (1) of the Constitution refers not to any subordination of the prosecutors to any other state authority and under no circumstances to the Justice minister.
Augustin Lazar says that several international documents speak about the prosecutors’ independence, and yet admits that there are constitutional systems across the world where the prosecutors are part of the executive power, “but Romania, as a neo-Latin culture European country is not part of this family of constitutional systems.”
“The real mission of a prosecutor in the society is to act in the service of the criminality victims, considering ahead of all, their rights. And these are human rights, moreover they are rights of the innocent and whose legitimate rights and interests have been aggressed, ruined, mocked of by the criminals. The obligation of the Public Service Ministry to observe the human rights also refers to the persons accused or prosecuted for doing crimes, but only in what regards the assurance of guarantees of a fair trial, the observance of the right to freedom, insomuch as this right justifies its existence in the criminal prosecution stage and trial of the criminal process and least but not last of the presumption of innocence. The rights of the defendants will never be more important than the rights of the victims, on the contrary because otherwise we’d live in a twisted world wherein they who suffer through crime are meant to suffer the humiliation of a criminal investigation and a trial that puts them in inferiority against their aggressor,” Lazar asserts.
“The prosecutors’ firmness is a trait specific to their social role, and the society should appreciate the steadiness examples from the prosecutors’ offices because this attitude means but intransigence towards the criminals and a higher defence of the criminality victims,” Lazar concludes.
Opposition accuses Power for pursuit of “judicial system disruption”
The National Liberal Party (PNL) and Save Romania Union (USR) representatives in the special parliamentary committee for the amendment of the justice laws package maintained on Thursday that “the disruption of the judicial system” is being pursued and provided the example of an amendment regarding the setting up of the Directorate for the Investigation of Criminal Offenses of Judges and Prosecutors within the General Prosecutor’s Office.
PNL deputy Catalin Predoiu argued that the enforcement of such an amendment will take over from DNA’s attributions.
“My impression is that a clear attempt to disrupt the judicial system is being made. I saw today some texts clearly taking over from DNA’s [the National Anti-corruption Directorate – ed.n.] competency, important attributions, in order to transfer them to a planned directorate at the level of the General Prosecutor’s Office. On the other hand, what is twice as worrisome is that not even this hypothesis does its job well – the texts they received from UNJR [Romania’s National Judges Union – ed.n.] were simply dismantled from a technical point of view by the representatives of the Public Service Ministry, so we had some texts which were not well enough thought through and prepared, discussed. At the same time, I would like to underscore that without correlating all these provisions, great disruptions will occur in the functioning of the judicial system. I wouldn’t want that, after the completion of this fast-forward process we notice that the architecture of the judicial system has been fumbled with as if a child were playing with a match in a gun powder warehouse, because there are fine mechanisms which, once disrupted can lead to mass consequences,” Catalin Predoiu, former Justice Minister in the Gov’t’s of Calin Popescu-Tariceanu and Emil Boc stated in Parliament.
USR deputy Stelian Ion also affirmed that DNA stands to lose part of its attributions.
“There is nothing new, nothing spectacular as compared to what I have noticed in the last sessions. The same line is being pursued, DNA is being demonised, attributions are taken away from it, I have noticed a big issue regarding a proposal to set up a new directorate, not a crime investigation department, they have renamed this department, only that no concrete proposals were made so as to render operational such an organism, such a department. The proposal was made, but it is expected from the participants in the debate to improve the texts they have picked upon the move from UNJR. UNJR is not representative for the entire magistrates’ profession, the magistrates have already expressed their points of view on the matter,” the USR deputy argued at the end of the committee’s meeting.
He also criticised the fact that good part of the committee’s Thursday meeting took place without quorum and announced that USR will request the recordings to prove this.
“These are amendments which eventually disrupt the judicial system. It is unlikely that the texts already amended be reconsidered next week. The Senate is expected to improve them – this manner to release an improvised law. (…) The removal of the principle of the prosecutor’s independence is still being pursued, important attributions are being taken away from DNA, we therefore consider them disruptions. By establishing a special department within the General Prosecutor’s Office without any clear regulations to render this directorate operational, this judicial system is being disrupted,” Stelian Ion added.
PSD’s Iordache: Justice not disrupted, nor Justice independence
The amendments adopted on Thursday in the committee on the justice laws package do not destabilise in any way the judicial system nor do they affect the independence of Justice, Head of committee, Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Florin Iordache of the Social Democratic Party (ruling PSD) maintained Thursday after the opposition criticised the decision regarding the setting up of the Directorate for the Investigation of Criminal Offenses of Judges and Prosecutors “thus taking over from the DNA’s [the National Anti-corruption Directorate – ed.n.] attributions.
“We certainly do not destabilize Justice through these laws, nor Justice’s independence. All those paragraphs which aim at the involvement of the political or the Justice Minister’s involvement in any way – be it appointment, or dismissal, etc., have undoubtedly been eliminated. What we would like, upon the proposal of the professional associations is the establishment of this specialised directorate, a department subordinated to the prosecutor general and the chief prosecutor of this directorate to be appointed by the CSM [Superior Council of Magistracy – ed.n.], at the proposal of the prosecutors’ directorate. So there is no political meddling whatsoever,” Iordache said at the end of the committee’s meeting.
He added that all professional associations who lodged amendments expressed their viewpoints during the debates, among these being the Romanian Magistrates’ Association (AMR) and the National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR).