The Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM), Judicial Inspection (IJ) and High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) concluded protocols of cooperation with the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), CSM Vice President Codrut Olaru stated in a plenary meeting.
According to him, as a result of the requests transmitted to the judicial institutions, as decided in the previous CSM plenary meeting, the High Court, Judicial Inspection and Public Ministry have informed that they did conclude protocols with the SRI. He pointed out that a protocol with the SRI was concluded at the level of the CSM too, but it was cancelled in 2017.
“We have received correspondence with entities in the judicial system as follows: the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Supreme Court of Cassation and Justice, the Supreme Court of Cassation and Justice, the Judicial Inspectorate, and it should be remembered that such a protocol was concluded at the CSM level, a protocol that was denounced by the former CSM management in 2017 at the request of all the members of the CSM (…) As a consequence, all the other entities in the judiciary, be it the National School of Court Clerks, the National Institute of the Magistrates, the other courts and prosecutor’s offices at the level of courts of appeal, tribunals and courthouses, for the period 2005-2018, did not conclude such protocols,” Olaru told a CSM plenary session.
He pointed out that this centralisation was based on information received at the CSM level, but there are no written protocols attached.
“Consequently, the whole situation only regarded minimal correspondence we had with these organisations. The specific object of these protocols, given that we are talking about classified correspondence, could not be attached to be made public for reasons that are easy to understand, consequently, all members are asking them to be able, at the level of the security body of the CSM, to analyse specific correspondence with those organisations. I think we should stick to our point of view which we all embraced in the March 20 meeting, insisting on receiving all these protocols; we will carry out the scrutiny thereof with all the CSM members,” said Olaru.
In her turn, CSM President Simona Marcu proposed that the CSM should transmit, to the institutions that signed protocols with the intelligence structures, requests to analyse to what extent the procedural elements needed to start declassifying the protocols are met.
“The Council did not receive these documents in their material form, we cannot express other conclusions. Many of the protocols are no longer in force. Even those of us who have access to classified documents, we need them declassified; I propose that the plenum should transmit, to the institutions that signed these protocols, requests to analyse to what extent the procedural elements needed to start declassifying these protocols are met,” Marcu said.
According to her, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar – who did not take part in the meeting – asked that the debates on this topic be postponed.
The CSM plenary meeting continued with a videoconference with the Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR).
“No abuses made based on signing of Prosecutor’s Office – SRI protocol, we can’t start off from the premise that a protocol can generate dysfunctionalities”
Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) Vice President Codrut Olaru also stated during a plenary meeting on Wednesday that the protocol concluded by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the SRI did not generate abuses and irregularities, adding that one should not start off from the idea that such a document can create dysfunctionalities. Olaru added that the protocol between the SRI and the Public Ministry was signed for a technical purpose “justified by the necessities.” He proposed that the CSM should conduct the verification into the way the protocols affected the independence of the judiciary, considering that the Judicial Inspection, the institution legally empowered to do so, signed a protocol with the intelligence services.
“Even though I’m not a signatory, in 2009 I worked, professionally speaking, based on this protocol. I assure all those watching us that there were no abuses, no things outside the law, under the signatures of this protocol. (…) I believe this protocol and the subsequent ones were generated by an eminently technical purpose justified by the necessities. I agree that things that ten years ago probably worked based on a certain paradigm now work from a different perspective,” Codrut Olaru stated during the plenary meeting.
The CSM Vice President added that one should not start off from the idea that a protocol can generate abuses or dysfunctionalities, however, the declassification should not be pushed to the limit either.
“At that moment, the Public Ministry wasn’t the only one concluding protocols. Other judicial institutions also concluded such protocols. We can’t start off from the premise that a protocol can generate abuses or dysfunctionalities. I would like this analysis we are doing to be an integrated analysis. There are protocols that cover things of major interest. We can’t push declassification to the extreme. I agree that the public opinion must be informed, however we must also protect our working methods. (…) We must also think about the standpoint of the victims, not only that of the defendant,” Olaru said.
He proposed that the CSM should verify the way the protocols affected the independence of the judiciary, bearing in mind that the Judicial Inspection, the institution legally empowered to do so, has a protocol with the intelligence services.
“I believe it’s important to establish the entity that carries out the verification. That would be the Judicial Inspection, according to the law. But we must all ask ourselves whether the Judicial Inspection, which has a protocol, can conduct such an assessment on this segment. I believe the CSM should undertake this assessment,” Olaru added.
“If we start to doubt an institution because a protocol might exist – we don’t know, because we didn’t see it…,” former CSM President Mariana Ghena stated.
The CSM Vice President added that the Judicial Inspection sent to the Council all the data requested and pointed out, in its address, that the procedure to declassify the protocol started on March 21: “Let’s be honest – the Judicial Inspection communicated the data we requested. Moreover, the Judicial Inspection pointed out in its address that they started, on March 21, the procedure to declassify that protocol. (…) I’m not starting off from a presumption of lack of objectivity in what concerns the Judicial Inspection.”
Likewise, several CSM members demanded that all protocols be declassified.
“Even though we are the CSM, we don’t have the right to see classified documents, for this reason I believe it is necessary to demand the declassification of those protocols concluded by judicial system authorities, in order to conduct an analysis within the Council’s plenum. It’s a procedural issue,” Victor Alistair, civil society’s representative within the CSM, said.
UNJR President in CSM meeting: I’m absolute shocked to find out that the ICCJ, the apex of the judicial branch, signed protocols of collaboration with an intelligence service. What such protocol might contain is beyond my imagination
National Union of Romanian Judges (UNJR) President Dana Girbovan said that she was shocked that the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) concluded a protocol of cooperation with an intelligence service, adding that what that protocol might contain is “beyond her imagination.” On Wednesday, Girbovan asked the Vice President of the CSM, via videoconference, to state when the protocol was signed and with what intelligence service.
“I understood protocols were concluded by the High Court, the Judicial Inspection, the CSM and the Prosecutor General. I’m absolutely shocked, I must confess. (…) For me it’s absolutely shocking to find out that the ICCJ, the apex of the judicial branch – the President of the High Court represents the judicial branch – signed protocols of collaboration with an intelligence service, because what such a protocol might contain is beyond my imagination,” Dana Girbovan stated during the plenary meeting of the CSM.
The judge asked the CSM Vice President to state when this protocol was concluded and with what intelligence service.
Codrut Olaru told her he cannot do that, bearing in mind that the CSM’s entire correspondence with judicial institutions is classified. “I would gladly do that. I said that the entire correspondence that the CSM received from partner institutions, from judicial system institutions, is classified. To publicly disseminate now the date on which the protocol was concluded, its object, the date of its potential cancellation, exceeds such a setting. You should discuss this with the President of the High Court, she is best positioned to have this dialogue,” Olaru said.
Regarding the protocol between the Public Ministry and the SRI, Dana Girbovan said that the Prosecutor’s Office should make public the list of institutions that received the document.
“The Prosecutor’s Office should make public all institutions toward which this protocol was disseminated. I believe 240 copies were made. So, to whom was it disseminated? Was it sent to the prosecutor’s offices, to the courts? We should see this too,” the judge added.
On March 20, the CSM decided in its plenary meeting, among other things, to ask the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the courts of appeals and the prosecutor’s offices attached to them, the National Magistracy Institute, the National School for Court Clerks, and the Judicial Inspection to send to the Supreme Magistracy Council the protocols they had signed with the intelligence services/structures starting on 1 January 2005, provided such protocols exist.
On Friday, the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) published the protocol of collaboration that the SRI and the Prosecutor General’s Office concluded in 2009. The protocol was signed in February 2009 by Tiberiu Nitu, First Deputy of the Prosecutor General, and SRI First Deputy Director Florian Coldea, and replaced similar documents concluded immediately after the Nastase Government established the National Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office (PNA), which is the current National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).
The document bears the signatures of SRI First Deputy Director Florian Coldea and First Deputy Prosecutor General Tiberiu Nitu, being approved by Prosecutor General Laura Codruta Kovesi and SRI Director George Maior.
Protocols’ issue continues to stir vehement reactions in the public space
UDMR’s Kelemen on protocols: Legislation must be amended
Legislation must be amended so that abuses would no longer occur, Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) President Kelemen Hunor stated. According to him, the existence of joint teams consisting of prosecutors and intelligence officers who are jointly working on dossiers benefits no one.
Asked at a press conference what are his comments on the protocols that the SRI signed with various institutions, and whether abuses were committed as a result of the protocol concluded by the SRI and the Prosecutor General’s Office, Kelemen Hunor stated on Tuesday the situation is extremely grave.
“The protocols are the most important topic in our domestic politics these days, but not only here but also in what concerns Romania’s standing at international level. We have been talking for a long time about aspects that are not all right, that go beyond the limits of the rule of law, beyond fundamental human rights. At first, people were saying ‘leave it be, they’re Hungarians,’ or that we want to defend someone. (…) The legislation must be amended so that such abuses would no longer occur, because it is to the benefit of no one for such joint teams to exist, for prosecutors and intelligence officers to jointly work on dossiers, it’s unacceptable for the prosecutors to have the obligation to report how they used the intelligence received. It’s an extremely grave situation,” Kelemen said.
He pointed out that UDMR had information, but not evidence, that such protocols exist, considering that in several trials it was felt that these protocols mean not only classified evidence but the fact that the accused person or their lawyer was not allowed to know what was in the dossier, only the prosecutor and the judge knew that.
“That means we went beyond the rule of law long ago, there isn’t a fair, balanced judiciary. At this moment I say we cannot continue if these issues are not corrected, not for some but for us all, for the health of democracy, for the health of society, to restore confidence in the judiciary. In a certain area of the judiciary, things are very grave, I’m talking about the prosecutor’s offices, not the judges. We are waiting for a response from the CSM, from the factors that have huge responsibility,” the UDMR President emphasised.
Kelemen said he agrees with judge Dana Garbovan and with the position of some lawyers on the issue of the protocols, considering that the ones mentioned are part of the judicial system and know what happens within the system, at the level of prosecutor’s offices, courts, courts of appeals.
“I believe it’s very good that that protocol was declassified, but we must continue,” the UDMR leader concluded.