By Monday evening, more than 900 magistrates had signed the “Romanian magistrates’ resolution for the defence of the rule of law,” a document initiated and made public by the Forum of Romanian Judges on Saturday, during the protest staged outside the Palace of Justice, protest in which over one hundred judges and prosecutors took part. They ask political actors, among other things, to immediately cease their attacks on the rule of law, on Romanian judges and prosecutors, to urgently consult the Venice Commission regarding the modification of the Criminal Codes, and to immediately suspend the proceedings of the special parliamentary committee until the Venice Commission’s opinion is received. “The judicial branch must be independent, which entails the existence of certain guarantees in relation to the other branches of government, in order to consolidate the independence and impartiality of the magistrate,” the signatories of the document point out.
The magistrates state that they have adopted this resolution bearing in mind the recent public developments regarding the modification of the judicial laws, which seriously jeopardise the independence of the judiciary and the Romanian state’s evolution within the European Union and the Council of Europe, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of Romanian judges and prosecutors have not accepted the bills that concern the activity of the judicial system, the magistrates’ will being disregarded and a dialogue with them being avoided within the framework of a veritable “judicial experiment.”
The magistrates also invoke the statements made by the Justice Minister and by the representatives of the legislative branch, which downplay the GRECO Report. They also point out that the legislative proposals currently undergoing public consultations represent an involution in the creation of a modern criminal justice system adapted to the new social realities, as well as a misrepresentation of the purpose of the criminal trial and the state’s criminal policy, the change of paradigm from a criminal justice that protects the victims of crime to a new concept that puts the defendant in a privileged position being obvious.
In the resolution initiated during Saturday’s protest outside the Palace of Justice, the magistrates also invoke the disregarding of the rule of law principles, of the statute of magistrates and of the transparency rules that must characterise the process of public consultations. They also note the attempt to intimidate Romanian judges and prosecutors by transforming some disciplinary offences of low social risk into criminal offences with punishments whose limits are close to those set for the crime of murder (for instance, the crimes stipulated under Article 280, Index 1 – Bad faith, and Article 280, Index 2 – Severe negligence), the “visceral hatred” toward judicial authority shown by the decision to place judges and prosecutors in the category of criminal clans, on the same level with procurers and human traffickers, with loan sharks and smugglers, criminal offences being imagined in order “to counter clans, as well as prosecutors and judges, in the committal of specific crimes,” and the escalation of the corruption phenomenon, which represents a serious threat to development and stability, with negative consequences on all levels of governance, as well as the repeated attempts, on multiple planes, to cancel the Romanian magistrates’ efforts to fight corruption crimes.
Likewise, magistrates complain about the unprecedented attacks levelled against numerous judges and prosecutors who handle high-level corruption cases, but also against the most important state institutions which play a role in defence and public safety, including the National Anticorruption Directorate, and the fact that the Justice Minister “takes the liberty to publicly attack all National Anticorruption Directorate prosecutors, speculating that they administer evidence by breaking the law, opining on the constitutive elements of crimes, on the establishing of some person’s guilt or innocence, demanding lists of acquittals pronounced in courts.”
The “Romanian magistrates’ resolution for the defence of the rule of law” includes eleven demands: the immediate cessation of attacks against the rule of law and Romanian judges and prosecutors; the urgent consultation of the Venice Commission on current aspects that concern the modification of the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Civil Procedure Code, as well as connected aspects, the immediate suspension of the joint special committee’s proceedings – until the Venice Commission’s opinion is received – being necessary; the postponement of any decisions on the part of the competent Romanian authorities in what concerns the judicial laws, until the Venice Commission’s opinion is received and the bills are set in line with the European Commission and GRECO’s requests; the real consultation of the corps of magistrates on the legislative packages that concern their activity, through the General Assemblies of courts and prosecutor’s offices.
“The Supreme Magistracy Council does not represent the magistracy if it ignores the point of view of thousands of Romanian magistrates. The Supreme Magistracy Council’s legislative proposals cannot be promoted in a non-transparent fashion and cannot represent the will of 5-6 members. We demand the real consultation of civil society, whose reactions must be considered within the framework of legislative debates,” the magistrates point out in the document.
At the same time, they ask the Justice Minister “to abstain from actions that intimidate prosecutors and affect the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” to ratify Protocol no.16 to the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 10 July 2013 and open for signing on 2 October 2013, in Strasbourg. The Protocol stipulates the fact that the contracting parties’ highest courts may ask the European Court of Human Rights for an advisory opinion when they deem that a certain clause on their dockets raises a serious problem regarding the interpretation or the enforcement of the Convention or of its protocols.
The signatories ask the members of the Supreme Magistracy Council to immediately and firmly condemn the attacks on the rule of law, on judges and prosecutors, to adopt immediate measures that would offer adequate support to the magistrates against whom criticism that undermines the independence of the judiciary is levelled, and encourages the general assemblies of courts and prosecutor’s offices to convene immediately and to decide on the forms of protest they deem necessary.
They also ask for dignified work conditions, stating that “carrying out a high-quality act of justice presupposes the allocation of the minimally required time study the cases, analyse the legal issues and the continuously changing legislation, not the issuance of solutions that may be affected by improper work conditions, lack of time and overburdening.”
“We invite all Romanian citizens to join this resolution, in their capacity as bearers of hopes and aspirations for the moral healing of the country and for keeping it on the coordinates of civilised Europe,” the Resolution concludes.