According to some parliamentary sources, the special committee on the judicial laws might convene on Thursday too, despite previously voting to suspend its proceedings on December 14-16, during the three days of national mourning decreed as a result of King Mihai’s death.
“I just found out: tomorrow, starting at 11 a.m., the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code will be butchered within the Iordache Committee,” USR House member Stelian Ion, member of the special committee, wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.
The special committee is set to start the debates on the proposed amendments and additions to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code by reference to the transposition of EU Directive 2016/343 of the European Parliament and Council, dated 09.03.2016, on the consolidation of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present in court during criminal proceedings.
According to the Directive, member states must make sure that suspects and defendants benefit from the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in line with the law.
The directive applies to natural persons who are suspected or charged as part of criminal proceedings, in all the stages of criminal proceedings, from the moment in which a person is suspected of or charged with the committal of a crime or of an alleged crime until a final ruling that establishes that the said person committed the crime.
The directive states that the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial are consecrated by Articles 47 and 48 of the EU Chart of Fundamental Rights, Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The directive stipulates common minimum norms regarding certain aspects of the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings and the right to be present in court during the criminal proceedings.
PSD’s Florin Iordache, Chairman of the special committee, stated in early November that a threshold of damage is required for abuse of office and that it could be set in the ballpark of RON 19,000, pointing out that he does not believe this would inconvenience someone.
“That threshold that causes a great deal of interest was requested in the two CCR [Constitutional Court of Romania] decisions too, and if it’s going to be a modest threshold, I believe it won’t inconvenience anyone. A modest threshold, I mean actually starting off from the proposal that the association of magistrates made, that threshold that consists of 10 salaries, somewhere in the ballpark of RON 19,000. I don’t believe a modest threshold inconveniences anyone. So far, I believe there are 14-15 formulas and tomorrow the debates will continue on both the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, in line with CCR decisions,” Florin Iordache pointed out.
The Criminal Code’s stipulation on abuse of office is about to be modified after the Constitutional Court issued two rulings which aim on the one hand for abuse of office to be considered a criminal offence only if laws or Government ordinances were violated and, on the other hand, claiming that it is not sufficient to note that the incriminated guilty acts injured the protected social values but that this injury should have a certain degree of intensity, of gravity, that would justify the penal punishment.
Starting off from the two CCR rulings, political parties and judiciary institutions have proposed various rewritings of the article on abuse of office.
Thus, the Prosecutor General’s Office has proposed that abuse of office should be defined as the violation of a law or legislative act that had the power of law on the date of its adoption, without proposing any threshold beyond which abuse of office should be considered a criminal offence. Likewise, the Prosecutor General’s Office proposed that the current punishment for abuse of office – 2 to 7 years in prison and the suspension of the right to hold public office – should be maintained.
In its turn, the National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) proposes that abuse of office should be defined as a criminal offence if the damage caused surpasses the minimum threshold of ten minimum salaries.
On the other hand, the Union proposes that the current punishment, namely 2 to 7 years in prison and the suspension of the right to hold public office, should be maintained.
On the other hand, the Association of Romanian Prosecutors (APR) has not come up with a concrete proposal. “We deem that the amending of the law in line with the provisions of the two Constitutional Court rulings can be done after a preliminary study of the internal casuistry, as well as a comparative study on the way such situations are regulated in the other European Union states, a necessary overture in order to set the provisions of Article 297 of the Criminal Code in line not only with the documents of international bodies but also with the European Union’s criminal law in this field,” the APR informs.
Notifications submitted by PNL and USR on the legality of establishing the Iordache Committee have been rejected by CCR
The notifications submitted by PNL and USR on the Parliament’s decision to establish the specialized Committee for the Laws on Justice, chaired by the former Justice Minister Florin Iordache, have been rejected on Wednesday by the Constitutional Court.
The PNL and USR notifications have been rejected by 8 votes against one – the one belonging to Livia Stanciu, who makes dissenting opinion.
The notifications related to the Parliament’s decision to establish the specialized Committee for the Laws on Justice have been rejected as ungrounded.
The Save Romania Union’s notification was submitted to the Constitutional Court on November 23; USR claimed that “PSD-ALDE granted illegal attributions to the specialized Committee, in order to shorten as much as possible the time to debate and adopt the amendments to the Laws on Justice, and according to the Regulation of the two Chambers, these attributions belong to the standing Legal Committee”.
According to USR, in the founding decision is not clear which the role of this specialized Committee is, which creates confusion between this role and the attributions of the standing committees, and the subsequent proceedings related to the draft laws become uncertain and unpredictable.
“According to the Constitution, the draft laws amending the Laws on Justice that are subject to the illegal debate in Iordache’s specialized Committee must be debated by the standing Legal Committees of the Deputies’ Chamber and the Senate, and only then they can be adopted by the plenum of each Chamber, which is a fundamental issue for respecting the principle of bicameralism” USR claims.
“By this decision, PSD-ALDE created a super-committee, which supersedes the standing committees of the two Chambers of the Parliament and can extend its existence by the decision of the Standing Bureau whenever it wants, which is a violation of the Constitution and of the Regulation of the joint activities of the two Chambers” stated the USR Vice Chair, Senator Vlad Alexandrescu.
USR believes that there are already favorable precedents in the case law of CCR, “which has already ruled in previous decisions that the displacement of a constitutional decision-making center (the Parliament) to its committees is not in line with the constitutional role of the Parliament”.
Later, PNL also notified CCR on the legality of establishing the Iordache Committee, and Ludovic Orban mentioned that Liberals will also notify the Venice Commission.