The special parliamentary committee set up to amend the justice laws has passed on Monday the most controversial provisions of the bill, meaning the one regarding the judicial organization. The committee chaired by the SocDem Florin Iordache (photo), the former justice minister who initiated the GEO 13 last winter, has passed the amendment of law 304/2004 on judicial organization by 14 votes to five. The bill is to be forwarded to the Chamber of Deputies plenary session.
The most important and also most controversial amendments filed to the law is related to the establishment of a special department to investigate prosecutors and judges. Other provisions refer to harsher conditions to become an anti-corruption or anti-organized crime prosecutor, or that the DNA chief prosecutor will be compelled to get consent of the Superior Council of Magistracy if she or he wants to set up territorial departments of the directorate.
By the new provisions, the special department to investigate the potential crimes committed by magistrates will function within the General Prosecutor’s Office and will be authorized to exclusively conduct criminal prosecution against corruption crimes potentially committed by judges and prosecutors.
The amendment to set up such a body belonged to PSD senator Serban Nicolae.
The provision on the special department to investigate magistrates has passed by the votes cast by PSD, ALDE and UDMR, while the opposition (PNL and USR) has vetoed it. The PMP representative on the special committee has not attended any sitting of the committee.
Another amendment was the one saying that judges will have to motivate their decision in 90 days at most since the ruling is pronounced.
The EC, Romania’s President alongside foreign embassies and ambassadors in Bucharest have repeatedly warned the amendments to the justice laws would affect Romania’s democratic track and its anti-corruption fight. People have taken to the streets several times this autumn, calling on the ruling coalition to drop the controversial amendments, arguing they aim at politically subordinanting the judicial system.
According to USR, the final vote on the first justice law is scheduled today after the solemn plenary sitting dedicated to King Michael, although it had been announced for Tuesday.
Asked by the jurnalists to explain “the rush” to adopt the first amendments filed to the justice laws, considering protests are scheduled on Tuesday, the committee chairman Florin Iordache irately replied: “We are not holding our meetings depending on how protesters are organizing themselves“.
“You are misinforming or you should inform more, as you have said since the start of the debates in the special committee that we affect the justice independence! Give me a single article that is diminishing the justice independence. You cannot give this example. Give me a single example or a single line that is cutting or slowing down the fight against corruption by our amendments.
The laws, as we adopted them, will only strengthen the statute of the prosecutor or the judge and separate their careers. We introduced the magistrates’ responsibility in the law. They are disturbed that we have introduced the principle saying that anyone who makes a mistake should pay and that it also applies to magistrates,” Iordache told journalists.
More controversies around CSM members’ seniority, judicial inspection’s statute
The Opposition MPs have also slammed the ruling coalition’s intention to amend law 317/2004 on the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), arguing it’s not clear yet what is the proposed version regarding the judicial inspection, as the amendments have been revealed in a last-minute move. PNL deputy Catalin Predoiu said there is no excuse for the PSD-ALDE to tread down the justice laws, while USR deputy Stelian Ion that the party has received the home stretch amendments on the final version of the law only Friday.
At the same time, the special committee passed an amendment to law 317, saying that the CSM members must have a seniority of at least seven years as judge or prosecutor and they mustn’t have been sanctioned in the past three years.