Justice Romanian Style

Addressing corruption in Romania’s legal system should be a condition of the Eastern European country assuming the EU presidency in a years’ time, according to a report published on Monday (22 Jan).

The report on the Romanian Justice System  analyses the reasons why judicial and penal reforms that were required of Romania prior to its EU accession just over ten years ago have still not been fulfilled. 

The report presents case studies to illustrate the politicised nature of the Romanian justice system, and highlights the situation in Romanian prisons.

One such case is that of a 33-year-old handicapped Romanian man who was extradited recently from the UK to Romania on a European Arrest Warrant.

A short time after his detention in a Romanian prison the man died in custody.

The report says that some 88.8 per cent of prisoners who die in Romanian jail do so as a result of a disease or illness which is contracted during their detention. The suicide rate among Romanian prisoners is also four times the national average.

The report says that this case illustrates both the shortcomings of the  a European Arrest Warrant scheme and also the prison system in Romania.

Report author Gary Cartwright, Publisher of EU Today and himself a former staff member of the European Parliament from 2004-2014, said, “This report is a damning indictment both of the EU, for failing to ensure that the reforms required of Romania’s accession have never been fully implemented, and also of the authorities in Romania.”

Cartwright worked on the Moscovici Report on Romania’s EU accession, providing voting recommendations to MEPs at committee and plenary stages

Romania acceded to the EU on January 1 2007 although there were objections from the European Court of Auditors, and outstanding problems recognised by both the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The report, unveiled at a news conference at Brussels Press Club, says that “ever since that date, the penal system in Romania has come under strong criticism from the European Court of Human Rights, and the High Court of England and Wales".

The report concludes that Romania has failed to comply with its obligations, regarding judicial reform and also failed to demonstrate a separation of powers between the executive, law enforcement agencies, and the judiciary:

Romania, it points out, has come under criticism for the treatment of suspects before and during the arrest process.

Bucharest has, according to the report, been the subject of negative judgements from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about the conditions in its jails, and treatment of its prisoners:

 The report makes a number of recommendations, calling for:

  •  A moratorium on extradition to Romania of suspects until such time as the ECHR deems that the Romanian penal system fully meets EU standards.
  • A reassessment at EU and member state level of official responses to European Arrest Warrants initiated in Romania.

 It also suggests that the voting rights of Romania’s 33 MEPs be suspended and its presidency of the EU postponed until it can demonstrate sufficient effort is being made to address the issues raised in the report.

Another proposal is that Romania is denied entry to the Schengen travel free zone, a move it is pressing the commission to sanction in time for the start of its EU presidency.

The report discusses the issue of the judicial and penal reforms that were required of Romania prior to accession but which, it says, “have never in reality happened.”

It goes on, “As a result that the country is still blighted with a corrupt and partisan system which is largely the domain of an intelligence service that maintains the networks and practices of the Soviet era, as well as a corrupt judiciary, and prison conditions that defy comparison with those of any other developed nation in the 21st century".

On December 3 2004 the report by Moscovici, now an EU commissioner, stated that “further efforts are needed, especially in the sphere of justice and home aff airs with a view to combatting corruption and organised crime”.

The impartiality of the courts was also highlighted, as Moscovici expressed “disquiet at the Commission fi nding referring to official surveys which confirm that the executive continues to influence the outcome of judicial proceedings”.

It also voices concern about the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), the country’s main domestic intelligence service. Its remit is to gather information relevant to national security and hand it over to relevant institutions, such as the Romanian Government, the presidency and law enforcement departments and agencies.

"Even here (in the European Parliament) we are careful what we say in front of other Romanians, as anybody may be an agent or an informer,” one European Parliament official told Cartwight on condition of anonymity.

The SRI is widely alleged to have undue infl uence over the both the DNA, the anti corruption directorate, and the judiciary. It acts in such a way that it initiates investigations on behalf of the DNA, and carries out telephone intercepts on their behalf.

“Against this background and despite Romania making little tangible progress beyond the cosmetic, accession went ahead, and on January 1 2007 the country became a full member of the European Union.”

The report is as critical of the EU as Romania, saying Brussels had “systematically failed” to ensure the conditions required of its accession had been met.

Cartwright says, “This is not an old story or something that just happened in the past. It is a major problem right now and needs addressing.”

The EU Today report Justice Romanian Style: Corrupt, Politicised, Unreformed was presented today at the Press Club, Brussels.

The report is available online here: https://issuu.com/me76878/docs...

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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