Justice Minister Stelian Ion announced having sent on Friday morning to the government the bill on the abolition of the Section for the Investigation of Judicial Crimes (SIIJ), emphasizing that the negative opinion given by the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM) on this matter is just advisory.
“This morning I signed and sent to the Government of Romania the bill proposal for the abolition of SIIJ. As you know, CSM had a long meeting yesterday to debate this legislative draft. A negative opinion was given in the end. I would like to point out that this opinion is advisory and that after having analyzed all the arguments, I decided to proceed with this bill for the abolition of the SIIJ. It is important to return the judiciary to normalcy. From my point of view, dismantling this section means normalization. It’s a promise we have made, it is a very clear and well-defined point in the governing program, and we keep all these promises. Of course, I listened to all arguments, but they can be considered in a different context. We will discuss the justice laws and see if other adjustments are needed,” Minister Stelian Ion told a press conference.
The Justice Minister said that there were “unimaginable anomalies” in the Special Section’s way of operation, mentioning the investigations launched against several European officials or the case opened against Laura Codruta Kovesi.
“The way the SIIJ works now, it’s clear that it has failed in its mission to hold the magistrates accountable to the law, I mean those who violate the law, because the Special Section is an absolutely inefficient body that was wrongly conceived from the start as a central office, with no local structures; it therefore cannot handle all the issues in all the courts and prosecutor’s offices in the country and has almost 6,000 cases on its hands. It is relevant to say that in all these years, the SIIJ sent to court an average of two cases a year, which is very little. There was no indictment on corruption. We cannot imagine that all acts of corruption among magistrates have disappeared all of a sudden after the creation of the SIIJ,” Stelian Ion said.
According to the JusMin, certain issues raised questions, such as the unexplained abandonment of appeals in favor of certain politicians and magistrates.
“There have been issues with the promotion and initiation of criminal proceedings against certain magistrates who did not agree, at the time of the promotion of the justice package in 2017-2018, with those provisions. One by one, they were summoned to the SIIJ, which proves that the purpose of this section was to put pressure on honest magistrates who had a say on those laws. We also saw unimaginable anomalies, such as the investigation of senior European officials, although the section had no competence in this area. There were also attempts to stop the access to a certain European position, in a certain situation, by acts that were ruled illegal by the court. Also, CSM magistrates were called to the Section as a form of intimidation,” Stelian Ion explained.
The Justice Minister voiced his disappointment at the negative opinion given by the CSM on the bill to abolish the SIIJ, arguing that the members of the Council didn’t come up with concrete proposals at the meeting on Thursday, and that he doesn’t agree with magistrates enjoying “super-immunities”.
“For me, CSM’s negative opinion is a disappointment. Let me tell you that I have never been insensitive to the idea of guaranteeing and strengthening the independence of magistrates. On the contrary, I considered several variants, but they did not materialize because no constitutional formula was found to promote them. At the same time, there were no concrete proposals from the CSM members other than the ones we removed from the original text – those additional immunities – to call them so – I did not agree and will never agree with,” said the Minister.
He went on to show that unlike other categories, the magistrates already enjoy some sort of immunity under Article 42 of Law 317/2004, which provides that searches, arrests, detentions and precautionary measures cannot be done without the approval of the competent CSM section.
“To now introduce other immunities, so that criminal proceedings cannot even be initiated without the prior consent of the Prosecutor General, who – as a side note, didn’t even want such a variant – is not acceptable. To have yet another additional element, the approval of the CSM section for judges and for prosecutors, respectively, in order to proceed with indictments means immunities or, as they were publicly called, super-immunities,” Stelian Ion argued, according to Agerpres.
Judges Forum criticises CSM’s negative opinion in case of dissolution draft of Justice Crimes Special Investigation Section
Two professional associations of magistrates, the Judges Forum Association of Romania and the Initiative for Justice Association, harshly criticized Thursday’s negative vote given by the Superior Magistracy Council (CSM) in the case of the dissolution bill of the Justice Crimes Special Investigation Section (SIIJ), claiming that most CSM members had an “outrageous attitude” by conditioning the abolition of the SIIJ on instituting some “inadmissible privileges”.
“The exponents of the negative vote of the CSM regarding the draft to abolish the SIIJ disregard the ideals of honesty and integrity to which the Romanian magistrates’ corps adhered, by its essence, regarding the exclusion of any procedural obstacles in the conduct of criminal proceedings. The Judges Forum Association of Romania and the Initiative for Justice Association have noted with concern the outrageous attitude of the majority of CSM members to condition the abolition of the Justice Crimes Special Investigation Section on the establishment of inadmissible privileges, which ensure impunity, an unconceivable fact in stable democratic societies,” the two associations inform in a release issued on Friday.