To Mr. Klaus Werner Iohannis, President of Romania
To Mr. Ludovic Orban, Prime Minister of the Government
To Mr. Cătălin Predoiu, Minister of Justice
In recent years, Romania has gone through a period of decline, with continuous attacks against the judiciary and the foundations of the rule of law, in all imaginable and unimaginable forms.
We were frequently labelled by the political power at that time as “rats”, “corrupt”, “Stalinists”, “security officers”, “tormentors”, we were promised “street fights” and “all the way” etc., serious and unprecedented threats against the independence of the judiciary in a country under the rule of law.
The changes to the “laws of justice” have incorporated the “visceral hatred” against judges and prosecutors and the desire to fundamentally change the balance that should exist between the powers of a constitutional state.
A special prosecutor’s office division was set up to investigate magistrates exclusively, leaving the impression that judges and prosecutors were the main criminals of Romania, we were imposed barriers to the freedom of expression, heads of the main prosecutor’s offices were removed from their position by the political factor, material liability rules were changed in a way that has shocked the entire civilized world and meritocracy in the judiciary has disappeared.
Neither the real and effective consultation of thousands of magistrates and of the Superior Council of Magistracy, nor the violation of the international commitments of the Romanian State within the European Union or the Council of Europe, nor the constitutional arguments and solutions established in the laws and practice of civilized countries, with solid democracies, have mattered.
As the democracy and fundamental freedoms were in danger, being aware that “the magistrate’s reserve duty has become subsidiary to the indignation obligation” (Declaration on Judicial Ethics, adopted by the General Assembly of the European Network of Judicial Councils, London, 2010), we have not remained indifferent.
It would have been easy to choose passivity, considering that our salaries had increased and the pensions were attractive, even 30% higher than the salaries.
So we froze on the steps of the courts, only for what some people called a “trifle” – respect for the rule of law – tens of times, we have protested in all possible ways, we have interrupted the activity in courts and prosecutor’s offices also for this purpose.
We did not do it for us, but for all the citizens of this country, being aware that its healthy development is not possible in the absence of an independent and effective judicial system.
We have requested you, Mr. President, several times, to notify the Venice Commission in order to prevent a legislative disaster.
We did not give up even when you said that it was too late or when the objections you sent to the Constitutional Court were rejected as being late. It’s true, we requested the same thing to all the internal subjects of referral (presidents of parliamentary chambers, Prime Minister, Minister of Justice), without any result.
At that time, we wrote to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which understood the actual situation and notified the Venice Commission, before any authority in Romania. This is how the opinions of the Venice Commission were issued, followed by the cascade reactions of the European Commission, the Consultative Council of European Judges, the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors and of the whole civilized world, worried and even horrified by the Romanian reality.
It also triggered the need to convene a referendum for the rule of law, whose spirit cannot be denied, together with the will expressed by the overwhelming majority of those who voted to remove without delay the harmful effects of minimum compliance with the requirements of the rule of law.
In such a situation, no one can deny anymore the need for the rapid issuance of a legislative act, by which all recommendations from the relevant international institutions (the Venice Commission, the European Commission, the European Parliament, GRECO, the Consultative Council of European Judges, the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors etc.) be implemented without exception and without artifices affecting their essence.
Behaviours that are against the minimum specific standards of a consolidated democracy (for example, the initiation of procedures for appointing senior prosecutors without making the legal provisions in the field consistent with the international recommendations, without transparency and meritocracy, or maintaining a structure such as the Section for the Investigation of Criminal Offences in the Judiciary etc.) cannot be perpetuated and also, one cannot ignore the negative influence of the Compensatory Appeal Law on the feeling of tranquillity and confidence of the citizens, which is also transposed on the activity of the criminal prosecution bodies and the courts, which must keep crime under control, under the conditions of constant increase in workload and personnel downsizing.
It is unacceptable for Romanian magistrates to recover their independence only by starting tens of disputes at the Court of Justice of the European Union (requests for preliminary ruling) or at the European Court of Human Rights and the Romanian State authorities, which were elected by universal vote, assist passively to the degradation of the requirements of the rule of law.
In the same context, one cannot also ignore the lack of concern of the legislative and executive powers towards the victims of crime, towards the creation of legal means to protect the safety of citizens – avoiding to weaken the State’s ability to fight against the proliferation of crime, especially organized crime – or towards the potential to undermine the domestic capacities in the fight against corruption and crime in general, which may endanger even Romania’s journey as a member of the Council of Europe.
Also, one cannot ignore the lack of concern towards the fulfilment of the necessary requirements for joining the Schengen area – recognized as an area of freedom, security and justice, in which the focus essentially lays on the ability to control external borders – by cancelling the constant efforts of the Romanian authorities to respect the European partners over the last 20 years.
We ask you to not abandon the principles for anodyne and time-consuming conflicts.
We ask you to respect the independence of the judiciary, by not using instruments that are contrary to it, and to find immediate solutions for legislative changes, in consistency with the standards of the rule of law and the spirit in which millions of citizens voted at the referendum in May 2019, in accordance with the recommendations of all relevant international entities.
Your Excellencies, it seems like time no longer has patience and that any delay is detrimental to the interests of an entire nation.
Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.
The Romanian Judges’ Forum Association
Judge Dragoș CĂLIN, Co-President
Judge Lucia ZAHARIA, Co-President
The “Initiative for Justice” Association,
Prosecutor Sorin Marian LIA, Co-President
Prosecutor Bogdan-Ciprian PÎRLOG, Co-President
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