74 civic organizations , non-governmental organizations, civic groups, student associations in Romania and abroad, ask the Government to abandon the bill initiated by the Ministry of Justice to amend the laws on justice. Among them, Initiativa Romania, Institutul pentru Politici Publice, Grupul pentru Dialog Social, Asociatia ProDemocratia, Freedom House, Funky Citizens, VeDem Just, Societatea Timisoara si Platforma Romania 100, a release received from Judge Cristi Danilet informs.
In a letter released on Tuesday the signatories say: “Given that the Superior Council of Magistracy has reacted negatively to this bill, and almost 4,000 magistrates, nominally, have asked for the project to be withdrawn, we believe that it is necessary to listen to the opinion of the specialists and to organize genuine debates on aspects should be promoted. Any changes are intended, they must lead to a strengthening of the independence of the judiciary and the further fight against corruption on the coordinates of the reform that started in 2004-2005.
We noted the intention of the Ministry of Justice, expressed on August 23, 2017, to propose to the Romanian Government a draft law amending the law package on justice – Law no. 303/2004 on the status of judges and prosecutors, Law no. 304/2004 on judicial organization and Law no. 317/2004 on the Superior Council of Magistracy.
We also took note of the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Justice in the draft currently under consideration. In view of its content, this request, made pursuant to the Government Ordinance no. 27/2002 on the regulation of the petitions settlement activity, the signatory organizations from Romania and the Diaspora strongly urge you to withdraw the draft law and to resume the debates on ways to make the judicial system more efficient.
The Romanian justice system was reformed in the years 2004-2005, as a condition for Romania’s accession to the European Union. This is when the independence of the judiciary was strengthened and the administrative and functional separation of the Ministry of Justice from the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) was enacted. Since then, the CSMhas taken over the management of the magistrates’ career, including the powers of control over their activity and the management of the courts and prosecutor’s offices, and at that time the National Anticorruption Directorate was established. Due to these essential changes, leading to magistrates having a secure career, free from political interference, cases have been solved involving persons with important positions in Romania, thus revealing the systemic corruption within the public institutions and authorities.
Subsequently, the confidence of Romanian citizens in the justice system has steadily increased over the last 10 years. Soon, Romania has become a regional and European model for fighting corruption at the level of judicial institutions. In fact, this positive track record has been highlighted by the European Commission in the reports of the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, especially over the last three years. As a result, we are aware that there is now no need for a new judicial reform, but for an incremental improvement of the organization of the justice system in order to make it more efficient. However, such adjustments must be discussed in substantive terms with magistrates and civil society. Romanian society is the ultimate recipient of the act of justice.
In relation to the project posted on the website of the Ministry of Justice, the signatory organizations cannot agree with provisions allowing the magistrates to be controlled by bodies placed under political authority, strengthening the Minister’s position in the political decision on the career of top prosecutors at the Public Ministry, the National Anti-corruption Directorate and the Directorate for Investigating Organised Crime and Terrorism, leading to the creation of distinct structures for the prosecution of magistrates only, or precluding the young people from starting a career in the judiciary. Romania needs institutional stability of its judicial system. However, we believe that the proposed changes actually express the intentions of the Ministry of Justice to re-create levers of control over the judiciary, which brings about major vulnerabilities to the whole project.
Given that the Superior Council of Magistracy has reacted negatively to this draft law and nearly 4,000 magistrates have nominally called for the project to be withdrawn, we believe that it is imperative that the Government listen to the expert opinions and that substantiate debates be held on the issues to be promoted.
Moreover, considering the high interest shown by the civil society in the functioning of the judiciary, we believe that, prior of any structural change, extensive discussions are needed in particular with organizations active in the areas of judicial reform and human rights. Any intended changes must lead to strengthening the independence of the judiciary and to a continuation of the fight against corruption, on the lines of the reform started in 2004-2005,” the letter addressed to PM Mihai Tudose and Justice Minister Tudorel Toader concludes.