The Romanian Judges’ Forum Association and the Initiative for Justice Association: As long as the Minister of Justice does not publicly apologize and retract his statements from 6 September 2022, the undersigned associations will not participate in any debate in the special committee set up in Parliament for the adoption of new justice laws

The undersigned associations have taken note of the statements made by the Minister of Justice, Mr Predoiu Marian Cătălin, on 6 September 2022, during the debate in the Special Committee set up in Parliament for the adoption of the new justice laws: „Not all magistrates’ associations criticise this project, some of the associations support it (…) Moreover, some criticisms, with all due respect to those who made them, turned at some point into misinformation. (…) So, let’s see to what extremes some criticisms are placed and how many arguments they have behind them and what objectives they have and what they resemble; if I have to put page after page, criticisms from civil society, from magistrates’ associations, some of them and criticisms coming from here in Parliament, too resemble„.

Such a discourse containing unjustified accusations is incompatible with any rule of loyal behaviour and places the professional associations of magistrates in a political game of which they are not part and there is no justification for being part.

The Minister of Justice is using the fact that certain criticisms of the undersigned associations have been taken up by various internal and external observers to his own advantage. The criticisms published by three professional associations on 26 July 2022 were the first analyses of the three draft justice laws, and at that time there was no real public position on the subject. The fact that a public analysis may be agreed by non-governmental organisations or other entities is natural in relation with the role of doctrinal studies in a professional context.

To accuse that some points of view are misinformed or similar and to place professional associations in a political context and in supposed agreements of which they are not part represents a total disregard of the role of magistrates’ associations and an ab initio destruction of any dialogue, which is in any case difficult to achieve between entities with completely different sets of values.

The Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE), in Opinion No. 23 (2020) – The role of judges’ associations in supporting judicial independence, states that the main objectives of judges’ associations – the promotion and defence of the independence of judges and the judiciary, the rule of law and human rights – are in line with the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe and the commitments of its member states (para.78). Judges’ associations and member states should engage in an open and transparent dialogue, based on trust, on all relevant issues concerning the judiciary (para. 81). Politicians should not seek to influence judges or their associations to support party political interests, through threats, unjustified accusations or media campaigns, by providing professional promotions or benefits for the leadership or members of the association or by any other means (para.82).

Therefore, as long as the Minister of Justice does not publicly apologise and retract his statements from 6 September 2022, the undersigned associations will not participate in any debate in the Special Committee set up in Parliament for the adoption of the new justice laws, in order not to be accused, following the same reasoning, of supporting or not supporting any text of law proposed by the coalition of which the Minister is a member or, as the case may be, any amendment proposed/submitted by the opposition.

Also, the timetable set, with amendments that can be tabled until 9 September 2022, is not a natural one, as granting such a short period suggests that the real intention is to simulate a consultation, and the lack of an opinion from the Venice Commission is practically a disregard of consecutive CVM reports that called on Romania to draw on the expertise of this key international body on the rule of law.

We reiterate that, despite the commitments made to the European Commission, almost all the harmful changes criticised by international bodies in recent years, among others, are maintained: promotion competitions at the High Court of Cassation and Justice, as well as in executive positions at the courts of appeal, tribunals and prosecutors’ offices are not meritocratic and remain under the total control of the Section for Judges of the SCM, the Judicial Inspection is minorly embellished, the role of the National Institute of Magistracy, through the Scientific Council, in the appointment of inspectors is totally removed, the freedom of expression of magistrates is seriously affected, the obligation to refrain from „defamatory manifestation or expression in relation to the other powers of the state” is maintained, and the functioning of the SCM essentially in sections violates the constitutional architecture of this collegial authority, in which the Plenary is the appropriate form of organisation. The competition for position of vice-president of the court/deputy prosecutor of the prosecutor’s office is eliminated, which is a step backwards, as this rule aims to create a dependence of those occupying managerial positions in courts/ prosecutor’s offices on the Section of Judges/Prosecutors and on the president of the court/head of the prosecutor’s office, who will propose his deputies. This creates a discretionary, non-competitive system within the judiciary, which is unacceptable because it jeopardises the very independence of the judiciary.

In practice, these laws are an unacceptable step backwards for the judiciary and seriously jeopardise its independence, even though the guarantees of independence for judges provided at the time of accession to the European Union should have remained inviolable after accession, as the CJEU has already ruled in its judgment of 20 April 2021 in Case C-896/19, Repubblika.

Romanian Judges’ Forum Association

Initiative for Justice Association

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