The government on Tuesday passed an emergency ordinance amending the justice legislation that refers, among other things, to reassignments to high-level positions in the Public Prosecution Service, according to Justice Minister Tudorel Toader.
The government passed an emergency ordinance regarding temporary measures related to the admission contest to the National Institute of Magistracy, initial training of judges and prosecutors, the graduation exam of the National Institute of Magistracy, the internship and proficiency examination of intern judges and prosecutors, amending and supplementing Law 303/2004 on the Statutes of Judges and Prosecutors, Law 304/2004 on Judicial Organisation and Law 317/2004 on the Supreme Council of Magistracy (CSM).
The minister emphasised that the proposed amendments came from the CSM.
At the same time, Tudorel Toader announced on Tuesday that the Public Ministry’s leadership offices can also be held by prosecutors who were judges, and that the persons currently holding these offices on secondment can continue to do so for 45 days. For the Public Ministry’s leadership offices, the endorsement will be issued by the CSM plenary.
He pointed out that the legislative act adopted by the Executive includes a series of amendments, such as the appointing of high-ranking prosecutors, or even the prerogatives of the head of the Investigative Section. One of the provisions points out that the head of the Investigative Section can decide on all the solutions involving magistrates.
“There is a fairly important change in the senior positions at the Public Prosecution Service – general prosecutor, deputy, chief prosecutor of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), the Directorate for the Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT), office managers. (…) The law provides for these offices to be held for a three-year term that can be renewed; but renewal does not mean either the extension or a new term. A second term can only be possible when the legal requirements are met. It is a novelty that these prosecutorial offices, senior positions, where the procedure is initiated by the minister of justice (…) they cannot be reassigned. Their vacancies can only be filled by following the procedure the law provides for it. As we speak many high-level prosecutorial office vacancies are filled by reassignment, which is not normal, because the law says, it has to follow the procedure that I mentioned,” Toader explained.
Dancila on ordinance amending judicial laws: I want an independent judiciary; laws are not passed for a certain person, and I believe the political has no place in the judiciary
When asked about the ordinance amending the judicial laws, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila stated on Tuesday evening, after the meeting of PSD’s National Executive Committee, that lately “everything one does must be linked to a certain person.” Dancila talked about the need to change this way of thinking, because laws or ordinances do not refer to a certain person, they are drafted for all Romanians. “I want an independent judiciary; laws are not passed for a certain person, and I believe the political has no place in the judiciary,” Dancila said.
“Lately, in Romania, everything one does must be linked to a certain person. I believe we must modify the way of thinking, and when we modify a law, we adopt a GEO [Government emergency ordinance], that GEO does not concern a person, it is adopted for the whole of Romania and for all Romanians,” Viorica Dancila stated on Tuesday evening when asked about the GEO on the judicial laws.
Moreover, Dancila claims that “we mustn’t stick a certain ordinance on a certain person.”
“I want an independent judiciary; laws are not passed for a certain person and I believe the political has no place in the judiciary. I believe the rights of citizens must be respected. We are all equal before the law and we continue the fight against corruption. I assure you none of the ordinances I have issued today infringes upon the three principles I have listed,” the Premier added.
Dancila claims that there were consultations on the topic of the GEO on the judicial laws.
“I understand that the minister (Minister Tudorel Toader – editor’s note) has had consultations, has discussed with the CSM, but I don’t see why there are so many question marks regarding two ordinance which… let’s see what they entail and how they match the Romanian reality,” Dancila stated.
Dragnea: This ordinance is all right and was necessary
PSD President Liviu Dragnea stated on Tuesday evening, after PSD’s ExCom meeting, that the GEO on the judicial laws “is all right and was necessary,” pointing out that he has looked at the text of the draft.
“The person whom the Romanian President will appoint [will lead the DNA]. I don’t know whether this was the goal, but I believe it is natural. I mean I believe that the Romanian President must exercise his prerogatives. I believe the emergency ordinance did [observe the principle of transparency], yes, it is an emergency ordinance, it should be adopted quickly. I don’t work at the Government. I too have looked at the text of the ordinance and I believe this ordinance is all right and was necessary in what concerns both the INM and the other articles of the ordinance,” Liviu Dragnea stated.
Alina Gorghiu: PNL will notify Venice Commission about GEO on judicial laws
Commenting on the GEO on the judicial laws, National Liberal Party (PNL) Senator Alina Gorghiu told RFI that we are witnessing a back and forth in the judicial system, orchestrated by three persons: Tudorel Toader, Viorica Dancila and Liviu Dragnea. Gorghiu announced that she will notify the Venice Commission.
Referring to the GEO on the judicial laws, Alina Gorghiu stated that “there is back and forth through the judicial system, performed at the hand of the same directors: Mr Toader, Mrs Dancila and, from the shadows, Mr Dragnea – the absolute director from the PSD.”
The PNL Senator informs that the Liberals will notify the Venice Commission about the new GEO on the judicial laws: “I believe the first undertaking that will take shape on the part of the PNL will be a new notification via our delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, asking the Venice Commission to once again express an opinion on these amendments, so that we would have a very clear radiography of PSD’s abuses.”
Moreover, Gorghiu says that “the second demarche that must be immediately made is clearly that internal political front in Romania and within Parliament, for the defence of the judicial system.”
“This second issue obviously also takes shape as a joint demarche to topple the current Government. (…) The third mandatory demarche has to do with the right wing uniting around Klaus Iohannis’s presidential candidacy. Faced with such a PSD offensive, we can no longer afford issuing messages that would not conserve President Iohannis’s mandate against the PSD’s excesses, and this gesture of unity is obviously necessary,” Alina Gorghou added for RFI.
PNL simple motion: Ordinance on Justice, means to repress magistrates who don’t respond to PSD-ALDE commands
The recent ordinance amending the Justice Laws, announced on Tuesday by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader “represents a means of repression against magistrates who don’t respond to the Social Democratic Party (PSD) – the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE)’s commands,” shows the simple motion on Justice lodged with the Deputies’ Chamber by the National Liberal Party on Wednesday.
According to the document called “Tudorel Toader and PSD-ALDE, take your dirty hands off Justice!,” which asks Toader to “leave” the office, “obedience, lying, irresponsibility and bad faith being the cause of Justice’s kneed down.”
The Liberals challenge the emergency ordinance regarding some temporary measures related to the admission contest at the National Institute of Magistracy, the initial professional training of judges and prosecutors, the graduation exam of the National Institute of Magistracy, the internship and the examination of intern judges’ and prosecutors’ ability, as well as the amendment and addition of Law No.303/2004 on the status of judges and prosecutors, Law No. 304/2004 on judicial organization and Law No. 317/2004 on the Superior Council of Magistracy.
They say that the normative act is an incalculable demarche that contradicts the principles of the rule of law and endangers even Romania’s democracy.
PMP: Tudorel has evolved in infamy. He has brought us into the Age of Thieves
House lawmaker Eugen Tomac, President of the PMP, criticised Justice Minister Tudorel Toader on Wednesday, stating that he has “evolved in infamy” and has brought Romania “into the Age of Thieves,” after the Government adopted an emergency ordinance amending the judicial laws.
“Tudorel has evolved in infamy. He has brought us into the Age of Thieves and has appointed Dragnea – his master – ‘bailiff over prosecutors.’ Tudorel has managed to deprive the Prosecutor General of prerogatives. Tudorel, you will pay for the crimes you have committed only to save the skin of that guy with a tractor driver’s moustache. Dude, Dragnea, your master, won’t be in power for long! Victor Ciorbea, since these guys have cut your nabob’s pension anyway, now you can exact vengeance. You can challenge the foul ordinance at the CCR. Do you have the nerve?!”, Eugen Tomac wrote on Facebook.
Superior Council of the Magistracy (CSM) prosecutors stated on Tuesday, after the Government adopted the GEO on the judicial laws, that they were not aware of the amendments proposed and they found out about them on Monday, when the document arrived for endorsement. The prosecutors state that the amendment regarding the delegation of prerogatives “is liable to gravely affect the activity of the prosecutor’s offices.”
In his turn, Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar issued a statement on the changes that the GEO brings to the judicial laws, expressing his “concern about the institutional blockage that the recent amendments to the judicial laws could generate at the Public Ministry.” Moreover, Lazar claims that some of the provisions are unconstitutional.
The representatives of the Save Romania Union (USR) have also announced that they will ask Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea to file a constitutional challenge against the emergency ordinance on the judicial laws, ordinance adopted by the Government. They called on the European Commission to intervene because Romania is legislating against the CVM and the EU Treaties.
DNA voices concern with respect to Ordinance on Justice Laws
The National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) on Wednesday voiced concern with respect to the modality of adoption and content of the emergency ordinance modifying the three Justice laws.
“Related to the emergency ordinance modifying the three Justice laws approved several months ago by Parliament, the DNA is concerned with both the hasty adoption of the normative act and also its content and drew attention that it will block this institution’s activity. The draft normative act wasn’t discussed with the representatives of the magistrates, while the fact that the ordinance was submitted to the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) on the same day of its adoption by the Government shows a total lack of interest for having an honest dialogue between powers with respect to provisions of such a great importance, which will significantly affect the functioning of the judicial authority,” reads a release of the DNA.
Also, DNA did not receive an official version of the adopted normative act, with the above comments being made based on the versions presented by the media.
The authority also specified that forbidding mandates in the case of the management jobs will block the DNA activity and it will make it impossible for this authority to exercise its legal duties, considering that the prosecutors heads of department will no longer have the possibility of verifying the indictments and they won’t be able to charge those who commit illegalities. A concrete example is represented by the Section for combating corruption and the Judicial Section of the DNA, which remain without chief prosecutors once the current mandates expire on March 20.
DNA also mentioned the newly created possibility for the magistrates who no longer meet the good reputation criteria to be released from office, while there are no guarantees related to how the CSM sections are going to deal with this task and while the independence of magistrates is compromised, for they could easily be put under a lot of pressure.
DIICOT: Amendments to Justice Laws contravene institutional architecture set by Constitution
The amendments to the laws of Justice contravene the institutional architecture established by the Constitution, the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) specified on Wednesday, referring to the emergency ordinance adopted a day ago by the Executive.
According to a press release, the General Assembly of DIICOT Prosecutors, held on Wednesday, convened for the presentation of the activity report of the Directorate for 2018, decided to supplement the agenda with the issuing of a point of view on the amendments to the laws of Justice by this emergency ordinance.
“Following the consultations of the prosecutors present at the General Assembly, they decided unanimously to rally and support the views issued by the Prosecutor General of the High Court of Cassation and Justice and the Prosecutors’ Section with the Superior Council of Magistrates, in the sense that the amendments to the laws of Justice contravene the institutional architecture established by the Constitution and would prevent the Public Ministry from fulfilling the specific attributions stipulated by the Romanian Constitution and the organic laws,” DIICOT points out, on the institution’s website.
EC, following with great concern latest developments related rule of law in Romania
The European Commission is following with great concern the latest developments related the rule of law in Romania, a spokesperson for the European Commission said on Wednesday.
Both the content and the procedure of the last changes through the use of emergency ordinances, without consulting the judiciary and those directly interested, appear to be in direct contradiction with the recommendations of the European Commission within the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, upheld by all Member States and consequently the Commission will ask for explanations from the Romanian government about the latest changes, the spokesperson stressed.
“I bring to mind that the November EC report urges Romania to establish a solid and independent system for the appointment of high-level prosecutors, based on clear and transparent criteria and supported by the Venice Commission”, and to “review the laws of justice by taking full account of the CVM recommendations and formulated by the Venice Commission and GRECO,” the EC spokesperson said in a statement, noting that “the latest changes follow a different path.”
“As I have said before, Romania must urgently bring back on track the reform process, which means going forward rather than backwards and refraining from any measure that wipes out the progress made in recent years,” the spokesperson concluded.