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August 18, 2022
JUSTICEPOLITICS

Legal Committee of Chamber of Deputies votes Report on bill to abolish SIIJ

The legal committee of the Chamber of Deputies on Friday voted for a report on the adoption of the draft law on the abolition of the Section for Investigating Magistrates (SIIJ).

There were 18 votes cast “in favour” and 7 “against”.

The draft law, initiated by the Ministry of Justice, stipulates that the SIIJ will be abolished, and its responsibilities will be taken over by the ordinary prosecutor’s offices, with the respective cases to be investigated by specifically appointed prosecutors.

“Cases pending at the level of this section will be transmitted administratively, within 60 working days from the date of entry into force of the law, through the care of the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice, to the competent prosecutor’s offices, which will continue their settlement, and the settled ones, in the archives of the section, will be sent within 180 working days from the date of entry into force of the law,” the bill provides.

Only a few technical modifications proposed by the PSD (Social Democratic Party) were adopted, and those of USR (Save Romania Union) and AUR (Alliance for the Union of Romanians) were rejected.

One of the adopted modifications, proposed by PSD deputy Steluta Cataniciu introduces under this law the judges from the Constitutional Court and the assistant magistrates.

The bill is due to be debated and voted on by the plenum of the Chamber of Deputies next week.

General discussions on the draft took place at Thursday’s meeting of the Committee on Legal Affairs, and articles and amendments are to be considered on Friday and the report voted on.

 

 JusMin Predoiu, at debate on SIIJ abolition: Dangerous to argue that non-specialized prosecutor’s offices cannot implement and enforce law

 

Minister of Justice Catalin Predoiu (photo) stated on Thursday that it is dangerous to claim that prosecutor’s offices that are not specialized cannot implement and enforce the law in cases including corruption offenses committed by magistrates, all prosecutor’s offices having powers in this regard.

The minister participated, in the Legal Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, in the debate on the draft law on the abolition of the Section for the Investigation of Judicial Crimes (SIIJ).

“There has been a choice between demagoguery, inefficiency and failure, and it achieved the main goal out of several goals that it can have in the given context. The choice was to be irrational, unrealistic and to lead your government to failure or take a step forward on the path to normalization. The choice was between abolishing the SIIJ or continuing to talk here for months or maybe years about how to dismantle it … The question of why there is a strong current in the judiciary and in the CSM [the Superior Council of Magistrates] against the implementation of a draft that would return the competence to DNA [the National Anticorruption Directorate] – it is not the ministry that has to answer that question. The associations responded, the CSM responded through the opinion it gave. It is absolutely incorrect to stigmatize the members of the CSM in a Stalinist way just because they have an opinion … The bill was approved in the CSM by both judges and prosecutors,” Predoiu declared during the debate.

According to the minister, “this false dilemma introduced in the judiciary from the political side, politicizing the judiciary, that some are reformists and others are not, must stop”, adding that “it has gone too far with slanderous statements”.

“There are magistrates who have different opinions, with arguments in favour and against, and they must be respected and treated as such. I had a choice between persisting in this blockade, whose responsibility is largely borne by the former leadership of the Ministry of Justice, which in 2021 ignored calls and signals from colleagues in the coalition, namely to discuss with the CSM until the opinion on the bill is obtained, so as not to be blocked in Parliament. I myself have drawn attention to this, and not publicly. (…) If we are here today, we are because it was a total failure the way it was done in 2021. I refuse to push my own government into failure and to continue to push the judiciary into this guilt, which is incomparably more important than the other big issues that are waiting in line – the laws of justice, logistics and so on. Therefore, if I have chosen to do something, I did not choose, as it is alleged, to side with X or Y because some are retrogrades and others reformists, but I have chosen to build a viable solution that would go through Parliament with the vote of the CSM and to do a service to the country. That was my choice and I am not ashamed of it,” he said.

He added in the context that the Romanian prosecutor’s offices are all competent, there is no need for specialized structures.

“It is dangerous to argue that non-specialized prosecutor’s offices cannot implement and enforce the law in cases including those involving corruption offenses committed by magistrates. This is dangerous, I refuse to give this message. Romanian prosecutor’s offices – specialized or, say common law – they are all competent, and the fact that the legislator opts for one competence or another does not mean an implicit blame for the other prosecutors who do not have competence. Let us steer clear of these dangerous false dilemmas. The world will not be able to trust the judiciary if we send message after message that only specialized structures can be trusted. Prosecutors will not find the inner impetus to fight, including corruption, in the judiciary if we send the message that they have no value unless they are in specialized structures. (…) To make a trial of intent only because the fact that the legislator opted for a system seems to me to be dangerous for the trust in the judiciary and I categorically reject this path,” said Predoiu.

The Minister of Justice reminded that the deadline in the government program for the abolition of the SIIJ is March 31, 2022.

“If we exceed this deadline, the opposition will rightly come and say that we do not do our job within the set deadline (…) It was said that the previous draft was blocked, because it was hastily published. False! That bill that is currently in Parliament has been blocked since the spring of last year. I published the draft in January 2022, months apart,” Predoiu said.

 

More recently it is fault to work on it, Venice Commission opinion exist

 

The Minister of Justice, Catalin Predoiu, also stated on Thursday that there are at least three opinions of the Venice Commission on the draft abolition of the Section for the Investigation of Crimes in Justice (SIIJ), and the request made by Save Romania Union (USR) MP Stelian Ion for the postponement of the debates until receiving a point of view from the European forum leads to the blocking of the adoption of the normative act.

In an online speech at the debate in the Legal Committee of the Chamber of Deputies on the draft law on the abolition of SIIJ, Predoiu said that the request to postpone the debate comes from a deputy who, throughout 2020, summoned and criticized the Ministry of Justice because it does not issue an emergency ordinance for the abolition of the magistrates’ investigation section.

“At that time, the issue of an additional opinion, of the referendum, of the majority that could adopt or reject the emergency an emergency ordinance was imperatively and insistently raised. I do not want to insist on the logical fracture between this request and the request made today,” added the minister.

According to him, the actual consultation process of the Venice Commission already exists, and the Ministry of Justice took into account the opinions issued by it when drafting the bill.

He emphasized that he did not see any incompatibility in running a parallel debate in Parliament, the “supreme legislative authority”, and the Venice Commission, with which he would discuss all these issues.

USR MP Stelian Ion proposed on Thursday to postpone for a month the debate on the draft law on the abolition of the Section for the Investigation of Justice Crimes in the Legal Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, in order wait for the opinion of the Venice Commission.

 

DNA on SIIJ dismantlement: All professional categories should benefit from equal treatment

 

The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) has said, on Thursday, that the reactions coming following the institution’s message regarding the adoption by the Government of the draft for the dismantlement of the Section for the Investigation of Judicial Crimes (SIIJ) “omit” treating the problem’s substance, namely ensuring coherence and efficiency in combating corruption in all important sectors of society, including the judiciary, emphasizing that “all professional categories should benefit from equal treatment.”

“In the context of debates regarding the dismantlement of the SIIJ, the National Anticorruption Directorate, as an institution authorized by law to combat corruption at the highest levels, emphasized the need to strengthen the efficiency of the fight against this phenomenon in all important sectors of society, by ensuring the necessary premises for professional and unbiased investigations,” the DNA mentions in a release sent to AGERPRES.

The anticorruption prosecutors say that expressing opinions regarding the abolition of the Section for the Investigation of Judicial Crimes represents nothing else than “a necessary exercise in any democratic society,” meant to contribute to identifying the best legislative solutions.

“We believe that some interpretations exposed in the public space, as a reaction to the message expressed by the DNA, omit treating the problem’s substance, namely ensuring coherence and efficiency in combating corruption in all important sectors of society, including the judiciary, context in which all professional categories should benefit from equal treatment, so that society is effectively defended, through clear and coherent laws, in accordance with the international commitments assumed by Romania, against all infringements,” the release mentions.

DNA assures institutions in the judiciary environment and representatives of legal professions of its entire openness for a loyal collaboration and reciprocal respect in the service of fulfilling a correct act of justice, in the interest of citizens.

On Wednesday, the Department for Judges of the Supreme Council of Magistracy said that the DNA’s position regarding the dismantlement of the SIIJ, which attributes to magistrates in courts and prosecutors’ offices, as well as lawyers in bars ‘the quality of potential investigation subjects,’ “shows a backwards mentality towards the role and attributions of the participants in the act of justice.”

 

Compiled from Agerpres

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