President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace met representatives of the judiciary and magistrates’ professional associations regarding the current state of play in the judicial system.
“A remark for the general public and , obviously, for my guests: today, we discuss about justice and about the justice laws, so that no erroneous impressions emerge,” the head of state mentioned prior to the beginning of discussions.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), the High Court of Cassation and Justice, the Judges’ Forum Association of Romania, WeDem Just, Romania’s National Union of Judges, the Movement for the Defense of the Prosecutors’ Statute, the Initiative for Justice Association, Romania’s Prosecutors’ Association, the LiderJust Association, the Magistrates’ Association of Romania.
On Tuesday, the head of state carried out consultations with representatives of the civil society on the referendum on justice. At the end, founder of the Initiative Romania organisation Elena Ghioc announced that the President conveyed, within the meeting, that the referendum on Justice will be organised on 26 May, at the same time with the elections to the European Parliament.
Judge Dana Garbovan: The President has assured us that this will not be the case to politicize this issue or to damage justice in any way
Representatives of the judicial authority and of the magistrates’ professional associations discussed on Wednesday with President Klaus Iohannis about the laws of justice, the Special Section for Magistrates’ Investigation, and the timeliness of the referendum on justice.
“The discussion focused mainly on the laws of justice, with a more specific note on the Justice Crimes Investigation Section. That was not the topic proposed by the President, but in the discussions the magistrates brought pros and cons with regard to this section. There were also discussions between magistrates about why the amendments to the laws of justice are and are not good. (…) We have expressed our concern that this referendum could affect the citizens’ trust and that this issue could be politicized, especially since there is an electoral campaign. The President has assured us that this will not be the case to politicize this issue or to damage justice in any way through it,” said Judge Dana Garbovan, representing the National Union of Judges in Romania.
In her opinion, justice cannot be a theme for a referendum, because “the referendum requires the opinion of the people about two answers that must be equally valid. As far as justice is concerned, there is only one valid answer: independent justice, in a state that is democratic and respects the rule of law.”
She argued that the Special Section is a guarantee of independence.
“The prosecutors appointed there are appointed strictly by the Superior Council of Magistrates plenary, and the involvement of the plenary and not just of the prosecutors was welcomed by the Venice Commission precisely because it ensures the independence of both judges and prosecutors when they are investigated,” the judge said.
Judge Cristi Danilet said that President Iohannis was extremely concerned about the legislating way over the past two years in the field of justice, and added, among other things, that the prosecutors in the Justice Crimes Investigation Section should be selected “more rigorously”.
Danilet also said that, as regards the referendum on justice, “the population could be asked if they agree with laws that are more favorable or not for the dignitaries being prosecuted for corruption and office crimes.”
Danilet also said that the referendum could not affect the independence of the judiciary.
Human rights association APADOR-CH does not support the referendum: It shouldn’t be treated as an electoral bus
Human rights association APADOR-CH condemns the holding of a referendum on the same day of the European Parliament elections, emphasising that such an overture must not be used to influence the result of elections and must not be treated as an electoral bus.
“APADOR-CH considers that a national referendum is a form in which the people exercise their sovereignty, in line with Article 2, Paragraph 1, of the Constitution, not a vehicle that can be put in the service of influencing the result of some elections. A referendum must not be treated as another type of “electoral bus” whose purpose is to bring as many voters as possible to the parliamentary elections, whether national or European. Logically, first, there must be a problem of national importance, clearly identified, which worries the entire nation, a problem whose answer can be found out following a national referendum,” the representatives of APADOR-CH point out in a press release.
According to the mentioned source, the idea of holding a referendum came first, followed by the issue of what question to put on the ballot papers.
“This question is yet to be formulated, at a time when the referendum has advanced from the ‘almost determined’ to ‘determined’ stage. So, we have a referendum, but we still need a question. If there really is an extremely important national problem that requires the holding of a referendum (and not of a simple national opinion poll), then the referendum should be treated in line with its importance and be held separately, not as a simple electoral annex,” the association adds.
“The overlap of debates will not favour the clarification of opinion points”
APADOR-CH also points out that, even though the referendum on the judiciary – held simultaneously with the European Parliament elections – has been declared constitutional, it must be ascertained whether it solves real problems.
“By overlapping the national referendum with other elections (parliamentary – national or European; presidential) the result is interference of topics and subjects that will be debated simultaneously, since the campaign periods – for the elections and the referendum – will coincide. This overlapping of the debates will not favour the clarification of opinions, on the contrary. In the case of the May 26 elections and referendum, it is very likely that the questions on topics that are specific to European Parliament elections will be answered with arguments that have to do with the issues aimed at by the referendum. And vice-versa. The gain for voters – in terms of correct and full information – will be minimal, while many politicians will be able to juggle nonchalantly with topics that have no connection,” the communique adds.
Therefore, APADOR-CH did not take part in Tuesday’s consultations at the Presidential Palace, the association’s representatives state.
The representatives of civil society stated on Tuesday, following the consultations at Cotroceni Palace, that President Klaus Iohannis will “surely” call a referendum on the judiciary on the day of the European Parliament elections, being determined to do so.