Romania’s justice minister moves to dismantle special prosecutors’ unit after Council of Europe recommendation

Foto: INQUAM/Adriana Neagoe

Romania’s Justice Minister Stelian Ion says he will call for a parliament sitting to disband a unit of prosecutors that investigates magistrates,

The announcement comes after the Romanian Government received recommendations about the unit from the Council of Europe’s independent advisory body on constitutional matters. The body is known as the Venice Commission.

The minister said the Commission had recommended that the unit, known as the Special Section, be dismantled. It said future investigations should be carried out by the National Anti-corruption Directorate.

Parliament voted to disband the unit in March. Under new rules, magistrates would have been investigated only with the consent of the Supreme Council of Magistrates.

However, in May, the council voted against shutting it down. The vote was non-binding but gave the unit a boost. Supporters believe magistrates should be made accountable for the sentences they pass.

The European Commission and foreign diplomats have said that the unit could be used to intimidate magistrates.

“The Venice Commission has recommended dismantling (the unit). It’s a long awaited recommendation.  The government’s plan had problems in Parliament as there were conflicting opinions” the minister said on Monday.

“Once the unit has been disbanded, there shouldn’t be other obstacles in the act of justice, and there shouldn’t be institutes that are an impediment to the act of justice”.

The Venice Commission provides legal advice and prepares general texts in the following areas: functioning of democratic institutions and protection of fundamental rights; elections, referendums and political parties, and constitutional justice.

The unit was created in 2018 under the former Social Democrat government.

That government moved to weaken Romania’s anti-corruption fight and undermine the independence of judges and prosecutors in its almost three years in office, critics said.

UPDATE. Romanian magistrates vote to keep special prosecution unit that critics say could intimidate judges




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