JUSTICE

Kovesi dossier: PG’s press bureau censores information transmitted by Section for Investigating Magistrates. Prosecutor General’s Office responds to allegations of ‘censoring’ releases of Judiciary Crime Investigation Section in Kovesi case: Prosecutor’s offices must respect the presumption of innocence

Important information from two communiques released by the Section for Investigating Magistrates, concerning the dossier of former National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi, was redacted by the Press Bureau of the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice (PICCJ), the latter issuing on Friday evening an official press release that differed from the one issued by the Section.

Adina Florea, the prosecutor handling Laura Codruta Kovesi’s dossier, has confirmed for MEDIAFAX that the Section for Investigating Magistrates had in fact sent two communiques to the PICCJ’s Press Bureau, however the press officially received only one, by email.

According to judicial sources, one communique concerned the charges filed against Laura Codruta Kovesi, while the second explained the decision to extend the in-rem investigation regarding a PICCJ communique on Nicolae Popa’s extradition, issued in 2017. Both should have been remitted to the press on Friday. However, on Friday evening, the Prosecutor General’s Press Bureau remitted only one communique, which did not contain all the information that the Section wanted to convey to the public opinion.

One of the Section’s communiques, not remitted to the press but obtained by MEDIAFAX, contains information not included in the official communique.

For instance, the official communique does not name the suspect – Kovesi Laura Codruta – but only points out that the suspect is “a former Prosecutor General of the PICCJ.” In what concerns Sebastian Ghita, the members of the Section for Investigating Magistrates revealed his initials – G.S.A. –, which are not included in the official communique remitted to the press.

At the same time, comparing the two press releases (the official press release and the Section’s press release) reveals that certain information was not brought to the knowledge of the public opinion.

“- They travelled to Jakarta, Indonesia, for a conference, on which occasion they contacted Indonesian authorities, implicitly the President of the Republic, to whom they handed a letter from the Romanian Presidential Administration, letter in which the Romanian Presidential Administration was expressing its hope regarding the expediting of the procedure to extradite P.N. (Popa Nicolae – editor’s note).

“- The PICCJ carried out all demarches to obtain visas for the members of the delegation set to travel to Indonesia, and to pay the flight tickets of all the persons who were part of the delegation designated to bring P.N. back to the country, including D.M. and I.A., who were SRI officers.

“- Given the authority she had, she prompted the Interior Ministry to offer to the IGPR the sum needed to pay the Jakarta-Bucharest flight, since it was estimated that the Bucharest-Jakarta flight had a cost of EUR 130,500, according to the tax invoice worth RON 234,207.30, representing the Otopeni-Jakarta-Otopeni CHARTER-GALAXY (YR-TII) flight of 20-21.04.2011,” reads the document obtained by MEDIAFAX, much of this information being eliminated from the official communique.

 

Prosecutor General’s Office responds to allegations of ‘censoring’ releases of Judiciary Crime Investigation Section in Kovesi case: Prosecutor’s offices must respect the presumption of innocence

 

The PICCJ representatives answered regarding the two press releases sent by the Investigation Department on Kovesi’s case and stated that the prosecutor’s offices must respect the presumption of innocence, and press briefings must only contain details that do not put the investigation’s result at danger.

“According to the provisions of Art.3 of the Law no.544/2001 on the free access to information of public interest: ‘The access to the information of public interest by the public authorities and institutions is ensures ex officio or upon request, through the public relations department or the person designated for this purpose’. Therefore, issuing press releases is an attribution of the Public Relations and Information Office, which must be carried out by observing all the relevant legal provisions”, reads a release of the General Prosecutor’s Office.

The above-mentioned release also mentions certain legal provisions.

– Art.62 par. (3) of the Law no.304/2004 on the judicial organization, as amended by the Law no.207/208 and GEO no.92/2018 states: “Prosecutors must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, the principle of equal weapons, the independence of the courts and the enforceability of the final court decisions. In the public communication, prosecutor’s offices must respect the presumption of innocence, the non-public nature of the criminal prosecution and the non-discriminatory right to be informed”.

– Art.12 par. (1) let.d) of the Law no.544/2001: “(1) The following information are excepted from the free access of citizens provided by Art.1, respectively by Art.11^1: d) information on personal data, according to the law;

In this context, the representatives of the institution mention that the Public Ministry’s communication practice “has complied to the new legal requirements on the personal data protection, of the presumption of innocence, the non-public nature of the criminal prosecution, following the example of other European states and considering the regulations applicable to Romania”.

Here, the General Prosecutor’s Office indicates these regulations:

 

– The general regulation on data protection – the Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 27, 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC.

 

– the Directive (EU) 2016/343 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence. (The Directive guarantees that public authorities and judicial decisions cannot make any public referral to a person’s guilt before it is proven).

“The internal legislation has been subject to some analysis, since there is a well-established jurisprudence. Thus, the recitals of the Decision no.611/October 3, 2017 of the Constitutional Court mention that: the criminal prosecution file, regardless of its stage (either an ongoing criminal prosecution or a closed case) is subject to the provisions of Art.285 par.2 of the Criminal Procedure Code, according to which ‘The procedure is non-public during the criminal prosecution’. Moreover, the non-public nature of the information included in a criminal prosecution file is confirmed also by the Law no.544/2001 on the free access to the information of public interest, Art.12 par.1 let. e) and f)”, the quoted source also reads.

Making a reverse interpretation, according to PICCJ, the information of public interest can consist “only of information on the procedure during the criminal investigation that do not put the result of the investigation at danger, which do not disclose confidential sources or put life at danger, body integrity, health of a person as a result of the investigation that was performed or is ongoing, as well as the information on the judicial procedures that do not affect the fair trial or the legitimate interest of any of the parties involved in the trial”.

“The Court mentions that the law is referring to the public nature of the ‘information on the procedure during the criminal investigation’, respectively ‘information on judicial procedures’, therefore punctual issues (for instance, regarding the development of the proceedings in a certain criminal case, their stage or the possible procedural measures that were ordered), and not to the public nature of the criminal investigation file or of the file on the docket before a court, in its entirety, which continues to be regulated by the legal regime of the non-public information. Consequently, public persons and authorities who hold such information are accountable for their protection, they are bound to observe the legal framework in force that require protection measures of the information belonging to the mentioned categories”, the release also reads.

The release explains, also, the absence of the name Laura Codruta Kovesi from the official press briefing sent on Friday to the press: “Jurisprudence also outlined that the abbreviation under the form of the acronym is not an option that fulfills the objective of the effective anonymization, because the acronym is an information related to personal data, since it can indirectly lead to identifying the person. We draw attention on the fact that providing information otherwise than within the legal framework is likely to jeopardize the conduct of justice and the rights of the persons involved into a criminal procedure in any way, as well as to put impartiality of the criminal investigation under question”.

 

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