12 partner countries of Romania, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States released a joint statement on Thursday, calling that the rule of law should not be weakened by the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code’s amendments.
„We, Romania’s international partners and allies, call on all parties involved in amending Romania’s criminal and criminal procedure codes to avoid changes that would weaken the rule of law or Romania’s ability to fight crime or corruption. Romania has shown considerable progress in combatting corruption and building effective rule of law. We encourage Romanians to continue on this path. EU partners also recall the Council conclusions on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism of 12 December 2017 calling on Romania to focus its efforts on further consolidating progress made, avoid taking any steps backwards, and safeguard the independence of judges and prosecutors,” reads the statement issued by the US Embassy in Bucharest.
The 12 partner countries advise Romanian authorities to take into account the feedback by legal experts and to seek support from the Venice Commission.
„We are following closely the changes to the criminal codes and remain concerned that several are likely to impede international law enforcement cooperation and negatively impact the fight against violent crime, transnational organized crime, financial crimes, and drug and human trafficking. We encourage all parties involved to reconsider feedback provided by domestic legal experts such as the Superior Council of Magistracy, and to seek support from international legal experts such as the Group of States Against Corruption and the Venice Commission,” the release concludes.
The Chamber of Deputies adopted last week the draft law on the Criminal Procedure Code, whereby prosecutors will be prohibited from giving information during criminal prosecution, on the same day the committee on the laws of justice gave a favourable opinion to this initiative.
The draft law amending and supplementing Law no.135 / 2010 on the Criminal Procedure Code was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies by 175 votes in favour, 78 votes against and one abstention.
USR and PNL have challenged the amendments to the Constitutional Court.
The Public Ministry has analysed the amendments to the draft bill to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and has identified 33 articles with elements of unconstitutionality.
President Iohannis: They are absolutely right
President Klaus Iohannis has also taken stand, stating from Brussels that the warning issued by the 12 partner states on the criminal codes amendments is entitled.
“They are absolutely right, it is the same thing I have been telling for a long time, the justice laws can be amended, but amendments must improve the efficiency of the judiciary system. I have been saying that for a long time, and many Romanians have, too. I hope PSD will hear as well,” the head of state commented.
MFA: State institutions have a permanent, transparent dialogue with international bodies on the Justice laws
The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) told a press release that it had taken note of the statement issued by those 12 countries, stating that “the state institutions have a permanent, transparent dialogue with the European and international bodies, including on the Justice Laws topic, in the view of enabling an efficient international cooperation and of Romania’s observing all commitments at international level”.
“The legislation amendment process on criminal laws represents an attribute of the Parliament, as granted by the Constitution, and the stages of this process are observed, including by public consultation and dialogue with the citizens. We reiterate that the amending procedure is under way and these laws are to come into effect only after the Parliament adopts them and the Romanian President promulgates them“, says the MFA, while adding that “strengthening the rule of law and the fight against corruption are part of the priorities assumed by the 2018-202 ruling programme.”
PSD retorts: It’s the right of the Parliament to legislate
PSD senator Claudiu Manda retorted to the warning launched by the 12 states, saying it is the right of the Parliament to legislate and that the criminal law amendments had taken into account the Constitutional Court’s rulings and the provisions of the Venice Commission.
Asked to comment the fact that the embassies are asking for a point of view from GRECO, from the Venice Commission, Manda replied:
“Still, we are the Romanian Parliament, we are voted by Romania’s citizens: it is the right of the Parliament to legislate. I am sure that the amendments to the Criminal Code, to the Criminal Procedure Code and to the other justice laws have taken into account the rulings by the Constitutional Court and the decisions of the Venice Commission and when there have been articles where a provision has been broken, they have been brought before the Court and the Court has voiced its stance.”
On the other hand, the leader of the Social Democrat senators, Serban Nicolae, stated that the call of the 12 countries on the justice law amendments is coming from some representatives of the embassies whom he doesn’t know, and not on behalf of the chiefs of the diplomatic missions that represent those states in Bucharest.
“I don’t know who these representatives are, what is their statute so that we could have a dialogue. If we are talking of some walls, we’ll see if we could send them a message on behalf of the Parliament’s building. Otherwise, I’ve had enough with this arrogant form of communication of some officials, uncertain and anonymous representatives. I don’t recall any US government sitting chaired by President Donald Trump that should discuss such a matter, that should deliver an official point of view in the name of the United States. Anyway, I don’t think they would do such a thing, for there is no rule saying that any state can interfere in the legislative procedure in Romania, regardless of the partner/non-partner state, strategic or non-strategic. I don’t anything to comment, walls should talk to walls,” Nicolae said on Thursday.