The assessment report on Augustin Lazar’s activity has reached the Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM) on Thursday, and its Section for Prosecutor has decided to hear the Prosecutor General on November 13, the substantiation set to be issued on November 21, judicial source have told MEDIAFAX.
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader announced on Wednesday that he would start the procedures for the removal from office of Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar.
JusMin Toader on PG Lazar’s assessment: Report is structured on five chapters and has 63 pages
He presented a report on Lazar’s managerial activity.
“The report is structured on five chapters, on five parts. The first part refers to the legal basis, the legal ground. The second part refers to the premises of this report. The third part [refers] to the assessment itself. The fourth – the conclusions. The fifth part – proposals. The report has 63 pages,” Minister Tudorel Toader stated.
“Pursuant to the provisions of Article 54 (4), in conjunction with Article 51 (2) (b) of Law 303/2004, as further amended and supplemented in regards to the statute of judges and prosecutors, I am hereby commencing the procedure for the removal from office of Romania’s Prosecutor General Mr Augustin Augustin Lazar,” Toader said at the Ministry of Justice.
He added that the assessment report and the proposal for the removal of the attorney general, will be submitted to the Prosecution Section of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) in the evening to study for an analysis and a consultative opinion, as well as to the President of Romania for a decision in accordance with his legal powers on the matter.
Toader added that the facts listed in the report are “intolerable” for the rule of law, and Lazar’s managerial activity violates his constitutional and legal obligations.
“We consider that the actions and deeds listed in this report, intolerable for the rule of law, show that Mr Augustin Lazar’s managerial activity violates his constitutional and legal obligations. Given the circumstances, the continued occupation and exercise by Mr Lazar of the highest office of the Public Prosecution Service is no longer tenable. All the evidence presented support the seriousness of the behaviours, the public messages of the attorney general who, through the management implemented, hijacked the activity of the Public Prosecution Service away from its constitutional role,” said Toader.
Justice Minister questions the legality of Augustin Lazar’s appointment as Prosecutor General
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader stated on Wednesday, in his statement regarding the assessment of Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar’s activity, that the latter was appointed in office by the President in the absence of an evaluation, at the proposal of Minister Raluca Pruna, the dossier nevertheless containing a resolution to close the case concerning President Klaus Iohannis.
“On 27 April 2016, he signed the appointment in the office of Prosecutor General, without the evaluation of the professional performance criteria. It results that the Justice Minister at the time nominated the Prosecutor General by not observing the legal criteria and procedures. The President of the Republic did not verify the legality of the evaluation in the proposed nomination. Why did the Justice Minister send the dossier without it being complete, why did the President appoint in office without the verification of legality; we don’t believe there is any connection between the appointment in office and one of the documents included in the candidacy dossier, in which – and I don’t understand why – there is a resolution to close the case concerning the incumbent Romanian President, issued by prosecutor Lazar. I can’t find the explanation,” Tudorel Toader stated.
Augustin Lazar was appointed Prosecutor General on 28 April 2016, by President Klaus Iohannis, having been nominated by then-Justice Minister Raluca Pruna.
“The question is why did the Prosecutor General oppose the evaluation of the DNA Chief. I don’t believe he didn’t know the rapport between the regulations and the law. I believe he wanted to pre-empt his potential evaluation. Proceeding to evaluate him, we raise at least two question marks. The first concerns the legality of appointing the Prosecutor General in this high office. On 17 February 2016 – the Justice Ministry initiated the selection procedure for the Prosecutor General office. The criteria and conditions that were enunciated, which we have in the personnel file at the Ministry of Justice, stipulated, among other things, the legal conditions and the ‘Very good’ mark at the last assessment. On 15 March 2016 – the candidacy of Mr Prosecutor Augustin Lazar was registered at the Justice Ministry. On 21 April 2016 – the Prosecutors’ Section of the CSM [the Superior Council of Magistracy] issues a positive opinion regarding the Justice Minister’s proposal. One week after: on 28 April – Romania’s President signs the appointment decree for the Prosecutor General office. Coming back from 2016 to nowadays when we make the assessment and what do we find? That in the candidacy file, at the respective moment, there was no indication of a document proving that the criterion for obtaining the “Very Good” mark at the latest activity assessment was met. Which means that there was a piece missing from the file in the assessment and appointment – the mark, the assessment over the latest period,” Toader said when presenting the report on the managerial activity of the Chief Prosecutor of Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (PICCJ).
“It’s true that the opinion issued by the Section for Prosecutors does not mention the failure to meet this requirement. I’ve tried to document this report, there was no evaluation, it remained at the CSM. I asked the CSM to put our disposal the evaluation reports. We were told: this evaluation report was drawn up today, 20 April 2017, in three copies. So, long after his appointment. As I was saying, the [appointment in office] decree was signed on 28 April 2016. The President signed the appointment against the backdrop in which evidence that the criteria had been met did not exist in the dossier. The dossier shows as clearly as possible that the [Justice] Minister at the time nominated the Prosecutor General without meeting all the legal provisions. The President did not verify the legality of the procedure. Of course, there is a CCR decision that invokes the same requirement. Based on the documents we have, we cannot conclude why the Minister relayed the nomination with an incomplete dossier, why the President signed the appointment in office without verifying the legality of the appointment, and I don’t believe that the appointment in the absence of all documents is connected to one of the documents of the candidacy dossier, in which there is a resolution to close the case, issued by prosecutor Lazar and concerning the incumbent Romanian President. I can’t find the explanation,” Tudorel Toader stated.
“Moreover, the assessment of the Prosecutor General for the 2014-2016 period shows an issue that is hard to explain. And it says that the person assessed took note of the assessment on 18 September 2018, precisely the day before the written answer was issued by the CSM toward the Justice Ministry,” he added.
Toader stated that he only presents the information, without drawing other conclusions.
“The third point I noted, and I believe the facts noted in the case of the Chief Prosecutor of the DNA are equally imputable to the hierarchically superior Prosecutor General. You will see in the report, listed here are very many situations in which the Prosecutor General surely took note of backsliding in the DNA’s activity, but took not measure, did nothing. Not only did he take no measure, but in public statements he approved the activity taking place at the DNA. It’s obviously necessary to verify whether things appearing in the public space are true or not,” the Justice Minister added.
Tudorel Toader pointed out that, fourthly, Augustin Lazar ignored the crisis situations and downplayed them through public speeches. “I’ll give you only one example. There was and there is talk about the fact that many cases are solved after the statute of limitations date is reached, something that is particularly grave, no matter how much you would invoke the workload and the difficulty of meeting the legal deadline. I would give you one more example: three juridical conflicts of a constitutional nature generated by the DNA Chief. Let’s say that in the case of the first… but the Prosecutor General had no intervention not even after the second one,” he explained.
Fifthly, Toader said: “You know that the Judicial Inspection has drawn up a report on the managerial activity at the DNA. That report ended up at the CSM’s Section for Prosecutors, managerial deficiencies were reported. What did the Section do? It approved it with a majority of votes, after which it erased fragments from the report. What did the Prosecutor General tell us about that? That we should trust that the Section for Prosecutors will issue a correct solution and that the rule of law is being consolidated.”
Lazar on dismissal from office proposal: Such a signal means the infringement of the independence of both the prosecutors and the Public Ministry. The prosecutors’ work in big dossiers is dismantled every few months
In his turn, shortly after Tudorel Toader’s announcement, the Prosecutor General made a press statement.
Augustin Lazar said that he is not indifferent to what is happening but refused to give details about the closing of a dossier concerning President Iohannis, which the Minister made mention of.
In the press statement he gave after the Justice Minister announced that he proposes his dismissal from office, Lazar said that “such a signal on the part of the Executive has the meaning of the infringement of the independence of both the prosecutors and the Public Ministry,” pointing out that the work of the prosecutors handling big dossiers that interest the public opinion is being “dismantled” every few months.
“Such a signal on the part of the Executive has the meaning of the infringement of the independence of both the prosecutors and the Public Ministry, considering that important dossiers, of utmost interest for the public opinion, are pending. Everybody expects us to no longer pay damages, to no longer have convictions at the ECHR for the big dossiers and, publicly, everybody claims that prosecutors did not show due diligence in making these dossiers. Well, how could they have done that when what we manage to bring together gets dismantled every few months, when a team of professionals is dismantled after a few months. And this is also a coincidence, speech marks,” Augustin Lazar stated.
PG Lazar: JusMin arguments to demand for my resignation, “clear-cut, biased exaggerations”
He stated that the evaluation report of his managerial activity presented by Justice minister Tudorel Toader, on the grounds of which the latter is requesting for his resignation, is the answer the Gov’t understands to give to the Venice Commission’s recommendations, adding that the minister’s arguments are “clear-cut, biased exaggerations”.
Augustin Lazar brought to mind that for as many as 36 years he has only received the “very good” mark, adding that he has never been challenged in what is his professional fabric.
In what concerns the accusations according to which he encouraged indiscipline within the Public Ministry, Lazar explained that “minimum diligence on the part of the author or authors of the report would have resulted in the Public Ministry conveying the 16 notifications that the Prosecutor General lodged with the Judicial Inspection during his term in office,” two of them concerning DNA prosecutors, and six concerning actions against prosecutors suspected of perpetrating disciplinary offences.
PG, message to citizens: They should trust the prosecutors, we will remain loyal to the spirit of the Constitution. The Constitution does not belong solely to someone who claims to know it very well and that everyone else violates it, the Constitution belong to us all
On Wednesday evening, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar issued a message to the citizens, telling them to trust the prosecutors and assuring them that they will remain loyal to the spirit of the Constitution. “The Constitution does not belong solely to someone who claims to know it very well and that everyone else violates it, the Constitution belongs to us all,” Lazar stated.
“I want to tell the citizens of Romania to trust the prosecutors, and to assure them that we will remain loyal to the spirit of the Constitution. The Constitution does not belong solely to someone who claims to know it very well and that everyone else violates it, the Constitution belongs to us all, and if we want to defend the rule of law of course we start off from the spirit of the Romanian Constitution. We will remain loyal to the spirit of the Romanian Constitution in the sense of professionally and impartially representing the general interests of society and of defending the rule of law, as well as the rights and freedoms of the citizens,” Augustin Lazar said.
Augustin Lazar, teary-eyed at end of press statement
Prosecutor Augustin Lazar ended his press statement on Wednesday evening with tears in his eyes and a shaky voice, stating he is nervous.
“Please excuse my emotional state, but I’m not indifferent to what I’m telling you at this moment, and I feel it’s a special moment not only for my career, but a special moment for Romania. And the flame about which someone claimed in the desert that it is not as it should be, they’ll have the surprise of seeing it pass on from the old generation to the new generation, and we will always have independent magistrates as a state of mind; it’s not necessary for them to be the same, because terms in office wear down, but they will pass on the flame of dignity and independence of the magistracy to the next generations. So help us God, as we swore when we entered the magistracy,” a teary-eyed Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar stated at the end of his press statement on Wednesday evening.
Reactions to Toader’s proposal to dismiss Prosecutor General
Iohannis reacts to JusMin’s request to have Prosecutor General dismissed: The request, unsuitable. President demands that Toader resign
President Klaus Iohannis conveys that the Justice Minister’s request on having the Prosecutor General dismissed from office is completely unsuitable and liable to generate distrust in the system and concern. The President once again demands that the Justice Minister resign.
“Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has received and will analyse the Report on the managerial activity at the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, with the proposal to dismiss from office Mr Augustin Lazar. President Klaus Iohannis appreciates the Prosecutor General’s activity and considers that the Justice Minister’s request is completely unsuitable and liable to generate distrust in the system and concern among our European partners. The manner in which the minister publicly presented the report is tendentious and denotes his intention to politically subordinate the prosecutors,” the Presidential Administration points out.
President Klaus Iohannis once again demands that Tudorel Toader resign.
“Crediting the idea that prosecutors are the enemies of society is being attempted once again. But, in representing the general interests of society and in defending the rule of law, prosecutors play an essential role, expressly consecrated by the Fundamental Law. I call on the magistrates not to lose confidence in the Romanian society’s capacity to resist this new assault on the rule of law. The Justice Minister’s undertaking to dismiss from office the Prosecutor General strengthens the Romanian President’s conviction that Mr Tudorel Toader must urgently leave from the helm of the ministry he leads. The Romanian state has the obligation to protect the rule of law, the freedoms and rights of its citizens, and this cannot be done without an independent and efficient Public Ministry,” the mentioned source adds.
Former Justice Minister Raluca Pruna: At the time the nomination was made, prosecutor Augustin Lazar was meeting all formal criteria; they were rechecked by the CSM before it issued its favourable opinion
Former Justice Minister Raluca Pruna states that she has the “obligation” to answer the statements that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader has made regarding “the alleged non-legality” of nominating Augustin Lazar as Prosecutor General. “At the time the nomination was made, prosecutor Augustin Lazar was meeting all the formal criteria (10-year seniority, the “very good” mark obtained in the latest professional evaluation, the absence of any disciplinary sanction in the last 3 years), in line with Law no.303/2004. These formal criteria were rechecked by the Superior Council of the Magistracy, before issuing its favourable opinion,” Pruna explained, pointing out that the opinion was issued unanimously.
“I’m the Justice Minister who nominated Mr Augustin Lazar as Prosecutor General of the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice. I have the obligation to publicly answer Minister Toader’s statements regarding the alleged non-legality of this nomination,” Raluca Pruna wrote on Facebook.
She points out that, when the nomination was made, prosecutor Augustin Lazar was meeting all the formal criteria (10-year seniority, the “very good” mark obtained in the latest professional evaluation, the absence of any disciplinary sanction in the last 3 years), in line with Law no.303/2004.
“These criteria were rechecked by the Superior Council of the Magistracy before it issued its favourable opinion, by consulting the professional dossier of the candidate, dossier present at the Council. The CSM’s favourable opinion on the nomination of Augustin Lazar as Prosecutor General of Romania confirms that all legal and procedural criteria were met. The favourable opinion was issued unanimously,” Pruna added.
She points out that when forwarding the nomination to the Romanian President she included all elements required by law.
“Some supplementary elements. At the time of the nomination, prosecutor Augustin Lazar had 34 uninterrupted years on the job and only “very good” marks throughout his entire career. At the moment of the nomination, Augustin Lazar was Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the Alba Iulia Court of Appeals, on a second stint obtained in a competition organised by the CSM. The Council verifies the formal criteria consisting of seniority, marks and the absence of professional sanctions before appointments to leadership offices. The CSM verified the fulfilment of the conditions, in December 2015, when prosecutor Lazar obtained, by competition, his second term as Chief Prosecutor of the Prosecutor Office attached to the Alba Iulia Court of Appeals. And, as I pointed out, in April 2016 when I forwarded the nomination for the office of Prosecutor General of Romania,” she wrote.
Zegrean tells Augustin Lazar how he can challenge his dismissal: He can ask for the annulment of the decision in court. It would be interesting to see the ruling
Former Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) President Augustin Zegrean has stated for MEDIAFAX that Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar can demand in court the annulment of the decision to dismiss him from office, adding that it would be the first time when such an act issued by the Justice Minister is attacked in court and it would be interesting to see the ruling.
Former CCR President Augustin Zegrean says that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader’s decision to dismiss Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar can be attacked in court, even though the law does not explicitly specify this. The former CCR President says that anyone can turn to the courts if they consider themselves wronged by an administrative act, adding that it would be interesting to see the court ruling in this case.
“The Prosecutor General, if he considers that the document proposing his dismissal from office is not legal, can turn to the courts, because free access to justice is guaranteed by the Constitution. Any person who considers that one of their rights was violated by an administrative act – and this is an administrative act – can turn to justice, to ask for the annulment of the act and the reparation of the damage caused. It would be the first time something like this happens, when a minister’s act concerning dismissal from office is attacked in court, but firsts are welcome and usually justice cannot have a say if nobody asks it to. The first step is for him to demand this. It would be interesting to see what the court ruling would be. Of course, the law does not say he cannot turn to justice and that this act can be attacked, but the judge cannot reject a de plano request because the law is unclear, or be because it is not stipulated in the law. He/she must judge, but it’s an interesting solution proposed by the Prosecutor General…,” Augustin Zegrean stated for MEDIAFAX.
The former CCR President says since the Constitutional Court ruled on the conflict between the Romanian President and the Justice Minister situations of this type will appear and every time a minister is angry with a prosecutor he can dismiss him from office. Moreover, Augustin Zegrean says he does not find it normal for the President to be forced to draw up a document he disagrees with.
“I said since the Constitutional Court ruled on the juridical conflict of a constitutional nature between the Romanian President and the Justice Minister, when the President refused to issue the decree dismissing from office the Chief Prosecutor of the DNA, back then I said that the route is open, because any minister that comes and takes office will replace the Chief Prosecutors, the High Court prosecutors, the DIICOT prosecutors etc…. But not only when ministers change, I see that [taking place] also during their mandate, if they are angry with the Prosecutor General they can demand his replacement, and according to the Constitutional Court ruling the President is obligated to accept and to issue the dismissal from office decree. I don’t find that all right, of course it’s not all right, because the President cannot be forced in any circumstances to draw up a document he disagrees with. Basically, this Court decision forced things a bit and look at the point reached… What is blamed on the Prosecutor General now to justify his dismissal from office, [has] many things in common with what was blamed on the DNA Chief Prosecutor, he is actually blamed for things that had to do with the DNA Chief Prosecutor, not necessary with the Prosecutor General of Romania, but it may go as far as reproaching him with not doing and not taking any measure against the “irregularities” noted in the activity of prosecutor’s offices,” Zegrean explained.
According to the aforementioned source, Lazar is also reproached with not including all documents in his candidacy dossier, however that is not his fault.
“But what is interesting is that the Prosecutor General is reproached with not filing all documents required by the rules on the filing of candidacies at the moment he was appointed in office; he didn’t file the evaluation on his last year of activity, but that is not his fault. He didn’t file it because he didn’t have it. He is not the one carrying out this evaluation, others were in charge of this and if it didn’t take place he couldn’t have filed it, so he is reproached with things that are not pertaining to him,” Augustin Zegrea added.
The former CCR President warns that an annulment decision in what concerns the mandate of the Prosecutor General can lead to the annulment of all documents he drew up, and lawyers will not miss the opportunity to get their clients off the hook, through any means.
PNL, USR react to JusMin Toader’s request of revoking PG Lazar
The chairman of the National Liberal Party (PNL) criticized on Wednesday the decision of the Minister of Justice, Tudorel Toader, in regards to launching the revoking procedure of the Prosecutor General of Romania, Augustin Lazar, saying that this proposal is “absurd”, “stupid” and “lacking arguments”.
“It is a new villainy, committed by the embarrassing Justice minister Romania has had, an absurd revoking proposal, stupid, that is not backed by any sort of arguments. Toader did nothing more than to buy himself another month of mandate from Liviu Dragnea, executing the order of beheading the Public Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (the Supreme Court, ed. n.). (…) Tudorel Toader showed that he is not the minister of Justice, that he is not the minister of Justice of Romanian citizens and that he is nothing else than a lawyer to the Mob and an executioner that was hired to decapitate all of the Justice institutions, at Dragnea’s orders, with the obvious purpose of blocking any sort of fight against corruption in Romania, of politicizing these fundamental institutions that make the rule of law work in Romania and to transform them into PSD (Social Democratic Party, major at rule, ed. n.) instruments of suppressing the Opposition in the society. Today, the gesture of the minister of Justice, that has no legal and constitutional foundation, that has no sort of argument, shows us how right we were when we decided to submit a vote of no confidence against this individual that is mocking Romanian Justice,” Orban declared for Agerpres
He said that Toader defies all of the Venice Commission’s recommendations.
“It is unbelievable how Tudorel Toader, who was rewarded for all the rubbish that he made since being appointed minister of Justice, by Dragnea and his anti-Justice gang, with a new mandate to the Venice Commission, it is unbelievable how a member of the Venice Commission can literally defy all recommendations from the Venice Commission, that were adopted two days ago. Among the Venice Commission’s recommendations there is the recommendation through which the Romanian authorities are requested to not let the procedure of appointing and revoking the heads of the Public Prosecutor’s Offices at the whim of the minister of Justice and the law to balance this procedure, strengthening the role of CSM (Superior Council of Magistracy) and the president of Romania,” PNL leader said.
The leadership of the Save Romania Union (USR) said that the minister of Justice, Tudorel Toader, changed the head prosecutors, based on the orders that came from PSD and ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, minor at rule, ed. n.), thus saving his position from a reshuffle.
USR also considers that it is “unacceptable” that among the reasons for revoking the Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar to be criticizing “high-ranking criminals”, appreciating that basically he was revoked because he “criticized criminal Liviu Dragnea.”
Judges’ Forum requests minister of Justice to abandon revoking procedure of Prosecutor General
The Romanian Judges’ Forum Association (FJR) and the Movement for Defending the Status of Prosecutors have requested the minister of Justice, Tudorel Toader, on Thursday, to abandon the procedure for revoking the Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar.
“The Romanian Judges’ Forum Association, professional judges’ association, and the Movement for Defending the Status of Prosecutors, professional association of prosecutors, firmly request the minister of Justice, Tudorel Toader, to immediately give up the revoking procedure of the Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar. Such a procedure, that basically bypasses the guarantor of the independence of justice, namely the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), the role of which is simply decorative and disobeys the right to defence of a prosecutor subjected to being revoked, was deeply criticized by the Venice Commission, the GRECO and the European Commission and jeopardizes Romania’s path in the European Union and in the European Council and the very democratic existence of the Romanian state, not to mention the negative and discouraging signal sent to an important part of the Magistrates Body,” according to a press release of the Judges’ Forum.
The Judges’ Forum shows that, in the context of altering and amending the package regarding the functioning of the judicial system in Romania, the Venice Commission underlined, throughout the Opinion no. 924/2018, “the necessity of ensuring the autonomy of prosecutors’ offices from the perspective of the way of appointing and revoking from office of the head prosecutors, so that they can ensure the protection of magistrates from political meddling.”
“It is found on the one hand, an increase of the involvement of the political factor in the activity of the Public Prosecution Service, and on the other hand, the necessity of <>. We specify that this vision on raising the independence of the Public Prosecution Service and, at the same time, on excluding meddling of the political factor in the prosecution offices’ activity, is noticed in the opinions of the Venice Commission, especially reported to Romania’s situation,” the Judges’ Forum says.
In its opinion, carrying out a revoking procedure, with disregard to CSM’s role who’s opinion has a consultative role, and without offering a right of defence to the prosecutor proposed to be revoked does not take into account the European Commission’s reports, within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), nor the Copenhagen criteria, “high ranking prosecutors basically being placed under the exhaustive and unlimited control of the minister of Justice, the role of CSM being disregarded in managing the career of these magistrates.”
“As long as a chief prosecutor can be revoked at the discretionary appreciation of a political person, be they the minister of Justice, there can be no question of any independence, an excessive political influence being created. As such, looked at it in this context, revoking high ranking prosecutors ignores the European standards and numerous international principles. We are punctually referring to the principles of the United Nations regarding the role of the prosecutor, adopted in Havana in 1990, the recommendation of the Council of Europe (2000) in regards to the role of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system, the Standards of professional responsibility and the statement about the obligations and rights of prosecutors, adopted by the International Association of Prosecutors (The Rome Statute),” the quoted source shows.
Concerning the magistrates’ freedom of expression, the Judges’ Forum says that, in the opinion of the Venice Commission on projects amending Justice laws, apart from the proposal to abandon art. 9, paragraph (3) from Law no. 303/2004 (that states to compel judges and prosecutors that, in “exercising their attributions, they should abstain from manifesting defamation, in any way, against the other powers of the state – legislative and executive”), the Venice Commission shows that magistrates “are entitled to express their opinions on the way the judicial system operates, even if those opinions could have political implications, given that the functioning of the judicial system is a topic of public interest.”