On Wednesday, the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) made public its report on Romania, a report in which it expresses serious concern about certain aspects of the laws on the status of judges and prosecutors, on the judicial organisation and on the Superior Council of Magistracy as well as on draft amendments to the criminal legislation.
In a press release, GRECO points out that it prepared the report following a decision at its December 2017 plenary meeting to carry out an urgent evaluation of judicial reforms in Romania considering they could lead to serious violations of anti-corruption standards.
Likewise, the report notes that the amendments to the three laws on the judiciary adopted by the Parliament in December 2017 do not contain some of the most controversial proposals presented initially in the summer. Nevertheless, GRECO is concerned about their potential impact, including for the staff structure in the courts and prosecution services.
“Despite the importance and wide scope of these reforms, their impact was not properly assessed, and the legislative process was also questionable,” GRECO points out.
GRECO calls upon Romania to abandon the creation of a new special prosecutor’s section for the investigation of offences in the judiciary.
The report takes note of the process to dismiss DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, initiated in February 2018, and reiterates its call for additional safeguards in relation to appointments and dismissal procedures for chief prosecutors by the executive branch of government.
GRECO is equally critical about the draft amendments to the criminal legislation, being of the opinion that, if adopted, they would clearly contradict some of Romania’s international commitments, including the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption.
“Amendments to the criminal procedure currently discussed by the special parliamentary joint committee are perceived by foreign countries as a threat for the effectiveness of mutual legal assistance,” the document reads.
Likewise, the report criticises “a series of draft laws initiated in the Senate on 21 December 2017 which would considerably weaken the incrimination of various corruption-related offences in the Criminal Code; for example, bribery and trading in influence would no longer apply to elected officials and with regard to the abuse of office offence the amendments would completely decriminalise all acts committed in relation to damages up to 200,000 euros.”
GRECO invites Romania to present an update on the stage of the proposed judicial reforms at its next plenary meeting on 18-22 June 2018, and to refrain from passing further criminal law amendments which could undermine its anti-corruption capacities.
A week ago, the Government adopted a Memorandum on the GRECO Report, however it announced the document would remain confidential until GRECO publishes the report.
Nicolicea: Either we didn’t explain it properly, or they didn’t understand what we explained, but we’ll formulate it so that they’d understand
Referring to the GRECO report, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Eugen Nicolicea stated on Wednesday that either those who amended the laws did not explain very well what they did, or GRECO did not understand, pointing out that the clarifications will be formulated differently.
“The first issue was fear of the violation of the independence of judges and prosecutors, a fear that I’ve seen, and this must be very clear: the violation of the independence of judges and prosecutors means the violation of the separation of state powers. This reason is obviously a reason for the unconstitutionality of a law. Had it existed in our bill, the Court would have declared it unconstitutional. Most of the articles were declared constitutional, consequently they do not affect the independence of judges and prosecutors, and the few articles that were declared unconstitutional were declared so due to other reasons. Consequently, the CCR has established that these bills and the amendments in the form in which they passed through both Chambers the first time around and ended up at the CCR do not violate the independence of judges and prosecutors,” Eugen Nicolicea said.
Asked by journalists for his concrete comments on the criticism levelled by GRECO, the House lawmaker responded: “Give them a call and ask them. Either we didn’t explain it properly or they didn’t understand what we explained, but, considering that they’ll still hold talks, I suspect they’ll understand what we’re explaining. We’ll formulate it in a different manner, so that they’d understand.”
Likewise, he said that the CCR can verify whether the independence of judges and prosecutors is being infringed upon.
Turcan: GRECO report confirms PNL’s and civil society’s fears that the amendments to the judicial laws cause serious harm to the judicial system
PNL First Vice President Raluca Turcan stated on Wednesday that the GRECO report has confirmed PNL’s and civil society’s fears regarding the amendments brought to the judicial laws, claiming that the CCR must analyse the extrinsic reasons of unconstitutionality that the Liberals noted in what concerns the three judicial laws.
“The GRECO report confirms PNL’s and civil society’s fears that the modifications brought to the judicial laws cause grave harm to the judicial system. In what concerns the special section, there is only one way left to correct this, namely the Constitutional Court should analyse the extrinsic reasons of unconstitutionality lodged by the PNL. The moment a law is rejected on procedural grounds, then the entire law is rejected. It’s the only remaining way out, if I can put it this way, to stop this steamroller of control over the judiciary, set in motion by the [parliamentary] majority.”
General Prosecutor’s Office: GRECO Report confirms warnings of Public Ministry related to modifications on justice laws
The Public Ministry claims the GRECO Report conforms its repeated warnings related to the vulnerabilities that the adoption by Parliament of the modifications on justice laws would mean to the judiciary.
“After mass-media representatives asked for the Ministry’s viewpoint related to the GRECO Report, which was made public today, the information and public relations office of this Ministry specified the following: The Report of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) confirms the repeated warnings of the Public Ministry in relation to the vulnerabilities that will be caused to the judiciary and the rule of law in Romania in case Parliament adopts the modifications brought to the justice laws,” reads a release of the General Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday sent to AGERPRES.