In a preliminary opinion published today and requested in May this year by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission commented on three legislative drafts amending existing judiciary legislation:
Draft law amending Law 303/2004 on the statute of judges and prosecutors,
Draft Law amending Law no. 304/2004 on judicial organization,
Draft Law amending Law no. 317/2004 on the Superior Council of Magistracy.
According to the Romanian authorities, these drafts aim to increase judicial efficiency and accountability and to strengthen the independence of judges, by separating judges’ and prosecutors’ careers.
But following a visit to Bucharest last month by a Venice Commission delegation – which met with the Romanian President, government officials, members of different parties of the Romanian parliament, professional associations of judges and civil society representatives – the legal experts say that the “cumulative effect” of the drafts would “likely undermine” the independence of Romanian judges and prosecutors – and public confidence in the judiciary.
The preliminary opinion takes note of the current “tense political climate, strongly impacted by the results of the country’s efforts to fight corruption”. The Venice Commission notes pressure on and intimidation of judges and prosecutors, including by high-ranking politicians and through media campaigns. The expert body acknowledges, too, alleged cases of misuse of power by Romanian magistrates, in particular prosecutors, leading to doubts about methods used to fight corruption as well as concerns about links between judicial institutions and the intelligence services.