Romania will ask the Venice Commission to remove a former justice minister as a member of the institution after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Romania’s former anti-graft chief had been wrongly dismissed.
The justice ministry said Tuesday that the former minister, Tudorel Toader, who engineered the dismissal of Laura Codruta Kovesi, should no longer be a member of the commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body which help states wishing to bring their legal and institutional structures into line with European standards.
The European court said the Kovesi’s dismissal in 2018 had „defeated the very purpose of maintaining judicial independence” and must have had „a chilling effect” on the ability of magistrates to engage in public debate on legislative reforms.
Romania’s justice ministry said “taking into account the credibility of the government’s commitment to the independence of prosecutors and the respect for the rule of law, the justice ministry will ask the prime minister to ask the Venice Commission to,” remove Toader as a member.
Orban said Tuesday that the ruling had compromised the credibility of Romania’s top court.
Toader, a judge at the Constitutional Court, is one of Romania’s two members at the Venice Commission.
Reacting to the European court’s ruling, Toader said that he had merely carried out a job performance review and proposed Kovesi’s dismissal. Critics however said Toader was politically motivated and acted as a tool of the then ruling Social Democrats who opposed her anti-corruption drive.
Toader distanced himself from her actual firing, saying that the Constitutional Court had ruled that she be removed and President Klaus Iohannis had signed off on the court’s ruling, BZI reported.
Orban hit out at the Constitutional Court Tuesday, saying it had “compromised itself” in a ruling that violated the European Convention of Human Rights.
“This (ruling) gravely affects the credibility of of one of the most important Romanian institutions,” Orban said accusing the court of bowing to pressure from the Social Democrats who disapproved of Kovesi’s efforts to root out high-level corruption.
Judicial groups heralded Tuesday’s ruling. The Forum for Romanian Judges and the Initiative for Justice called it “historic.”
“It serves the purpose of strengthening the independence of prosecutors and the justice system. The ruling encourages magistrates to participate in debates on modernizing justice in Romania.”
The prosecutors’ department at the Superior Council of Magistrates, the top body for justice officials, said the ruling exposed a “regrettable” flaw in the way Romanian law allows for a top prosecutor to be removed, and said the law should be changed.