In an opinion adopted during its 2-3 July plenary session, the Venice Commission issues several recommendations to the Romanian authorities concerning the draft law to dismantle the Section for the Investigation of Offences committed within the Judiciary (SIOJ).
The opinion was requested by the Minister of Justice of Romania and covers both the draft law adopted by the government and the amended version adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, which the Senate is now considering.
According to a press release sent to Nine O’Clock, the Venice Commission welcomes the Romanian authorities’ intention to reform the judiciary, which includes an essential step in dismantling de SIOJ, and encourages them to continue with their broader reform of the judiciary.
Although the Venice Commission criticised the establishment of the SIOJ in two opinions adopted in 2018 and 2019, this last opinion underlines that, after three years of conducting cases, dismantling it should not be taken lightly.
Therefore, it makes the following specific recommendations:
-Article 4 of the Amendments of the Chamber of Deputies should be removed since it introduces a new type of inviolability for judges and prosecutors within the framework of a highly sensitive field – criminal prosecution – that goes far beyond functional immunity.
-Article 6 of the Amendments of the Chamber of Deputies should not be pursued. This article provides for a new competence of the Superior Council of the Magistracy (SCM) by giving the relevant section of the SCM the exclusive competence to decide on actions in criminal matters against judges and prosecutors. The Venice Commission considers that criminal proceedings that fall outside the remit of functional immunity should not fall within the competence of the SCM and should be brought directly before the courts of law without the SCM’s prior screening.
Vexatious complaints, which often are criminal complaints, by private individuals against judges and prosecutors should be dealt with by the ordinary prosecutorial service and should be regarded as an urgent matter in need of reform.
JusMin Stelian Ion: I expect the Senate to meet next week and put on the agenda the bill on the repeal of the Section
Minister of Justice Stelian Ion announced on Monday that Parliament may meet in extraordinary session to discuss the bill on the repeal of the Section for the Investigation of Judicial Crimes (SIIJ), following the Venice Commission’s favourable opinion, stressing that he expects the Senate to put this bill on next week’s agenda.
Stelian Ion explained that, on Wednesday, he will present in the meeting of the governing coalition the opinion given by the Venice Commission, whereupon Parliament should meet in an extraordinary session.
“Parliament can meet in an extraordinary session without any concerns, because it has the correct solutions proposed by the Government and I want to thank Prime Minister Florin Citu for his support on this bill. In fact, this is the first measure in relation to the Justice chapter that should have been taken in the government program. The bill has been blocked in Parliament. The correct version would be the one proposed by the Government, and that is the message I will be taking to the coalition on Wednesday. We agreed at the previous coalition meeting that a special session will be proposed to solve this problem, in order to abolish the SIIJ, within two weeks from the receipt of the opinion. Here, today, we have received the opinion. If not this week, next week already an extraordinary session for the dismantlement of the SIIJ would be expected (…) These are important issues, which will be considered, of course, in the coming days, all the paragraphs of this opinion, which has no fewer than 14 pages. I call on my fellow senators to promptly consider this bill, to report to the Legal Committee and further to have a final vote cast in the Senate,” Stelian Ion told a press conference.
The Minister of Justice specified that he expects the Senate to meet next week, emphasizing that now there are no more arguments not to dismantle the SIIJ.
“I expect the Senate to meet next week and put on the agenda the dismantlement of the Section for the Investigation of Judicial Crimes. It is a matter already assumed in the coalition, and with these arguments, I think there are no other arguments that could prevent this demarche. If this were to happen, there would already be serious questions about compliance with the government program, compared to the real arguments that some or other actors in the judiciary might bring, because some proposals have been criticized and the abolition of the SIIJ itself has received some criticism from certain parts of the judiciary, but also from some politicians. Given this confirmation from an independent body of the Council of Europe, which is made up of several members, that consists mainly of specialists in constitutional law and is therefore outside this internal turmoil and all the clashes over this issue, given this support – and I would like to thank the members of the Venice Commission, especially for promptly answering our request – so in view of all these aspects I see no other impediment,” said Stelian Ion, according to Agerpres.