On January 18th 2017, the Romanian Government tried to approve two emergency ordinances: a) National Collective Pardon Law; b) Changes to the Criminal Law.
a) Pardon Law:
– The sentence to be reduced by half for any convicts over 60 years old or parent of a child under 5 years old, no matter of the felony: murder, rape, child abuse, crimes against humanity, corruption etc.
– It would have granted a pardon even for those not executing the sentence in prison.
b) Changes to the Criminal Law:
– Public servants can make any abuse, if the damage is under 200.000RON (45.000EUR) for each individual act, it is not considered a crime.
– A public servant can be prosecuted only if there is a complaint from the victim – in case of an abuse made by a mayor the victim can be the city hall which is represented by the mayor, therefore the mayor should make a self-denunciation
– very unlikely to happen. Furthermore, the complaint shall be made within 6 months thus blocking any criminal investigation older than that.
– The punishment for such crimes was to be reduced from 2- 7 years to 6 months- 3 years.
Abuse of Power with Emergency Ordinances
The Government can approve at any moment emergency ordinances that may alter the subject of almost any law. Such an ordinance has the force of law as of the time when it is published in the Official Gazette; even if this happens for only some minutes, the emergency ordinance will take effect.
The European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission) already stated that abuses are made in Romania by using emergency ordinances in situations that do not require any urgency – hundreds of emergency ordinances are approved every year.
One of the famous examples is emergency ordinance 5/28.08.2014 which granted 45 days to any mayor to leave the political party that helped him win the elections and join another party.
Of course the ordinance was declared unconstitutional three months later but while it was in effect many mayors switched parties joining mostly the party on power without any consequence.
Now, the Government tried to make a similar kind of abuse but with much more severe consequences by trying to approve the two emergency ordinances.
Using Obvious Lies as Reasons
For the Pardon Law the main reason invoked was that Romania will have to pay 80 million EUR / year after a decision of the European Court of Human Rights due to bad conditions in prisons. It is obvious that this is a lie because:
– such a decision does not exist and ECHR has declared no intention to issue one;
– pardoning those not executing the sentence in prison has absolutely no effect.
For the changes on the Penal Codes the reasoning was based on the requirements of the Constitutional Court, requirements that were much simpler and require much fewer changes than the actual project.
Ignoring other Institutions of the State
There were several official positions and declarations from other institutions that should have banned these two laws:
– On the 18th of January 2017 the President, Mr. Klaus Werner Iohannis, attended the Government meeting and was promised by the Prime Minister, Mr. Sorin Grindeanu, that the two laws will not be approved overnight or without prior notice and debate.
– The Superior Council of Magistracy gave negative notices for both laws. The notice is required by law.
– The National Anti-corruption Division made a very comprehensive announcement explaining all the disadvantages for the justice and how much money will be lost if these two laws will be approved.
Ignoring Required Social Measures
Obviously any Pardon Law requires active social measures to make sure the released prisoners will not break the law again thus making the pardon useless. Previous collective pardons showed that about 60% of the released prisoners will go back to prison in the following 6 months.
But there were no measures taken nor even planned to prevent this. Therefore one effect of this law would have been the exposure of the population to a certain wave of felony.
Ignoring the Public Opinion
After large protests occurred in January in all major cities across Romania against these two laws, the Ministry of Justice finally decided to put the two laws under public debate on 26th of January. During the debate most of the people present there asked the Minister of Justice to cancel the two projects or at least to make substantial changes and send them to the Parliament to be voted as regular laws.
In addition, many experts gave public statements explaining the disadvantages of these two projects of law and mass media quoted them. There were no reasonable arguments to sustain these two laws, but still they went ahead and issued them.
#REZIST. What happened?
On January 31st, the Government approved the changes to the criminal law via emergency ordinance. The cabinet led by Sorin Grindeanu met to approve the 2017 budget project at 19:40, when they unexpectedly introduced this ordinance on the meeting’s agenda and adopted it.
The final text of the emergency ordinance wasn’t made public before the Government meeting ended around 22:00. The Government’s emergency ordinance was published in the Official Gazette around 1:00 AM on the 1st of February. The “backdoor” kept by the Government was the ordinance stated that the changes come into force in ten days.
#REZIST. The Pardon Law was sent to the Parliament
As a result we, the simple citizens of Romania, went to protest into what will become the largest peaceful protests in Romania, since 1989. The protests lasted for more than 40 days and are still taking place in 67 cities across Romania. Romanian citizens all over Europe also protested.
There was no political involvement in these protests; it was just a civic movement to protect justice and the rule of law. The number of people protesting simultaneously reached up to 600.000 in the 5th of February.
We also made memorable acts like Romanian and EU flags formed by tens of thousands of people. The people asked for a set of eight measures – The Proclamation Romania 2017+ – to be considered by politicians from now on in order to ensure the safety of the rule of law and democracy.
In the end GEO 13 was repealed. But those members of the Parliament who are supporting the Government are still trying to issue laws against the Rule of Law or against Democracy. Some even said protesters should be imprisoned or shot.
As active measures we would suggest:
● Keep the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism for Romania until there is no doubt about the good intentions of the Parliament and Government regarding justice.
● The EU should also consult with representatives of the citizens when taking any decision regarding Romania. The actual Government and their supporting alliance have clearly proven that they cannot be trusted.
● Ask and support Romania on changing the definition of the emergency ordinance, and how it can be used.
● Ask and support Romania to ban convicted felons from taking public positions in institutions as well as other statesman positions. As long as we have felons making the law, there will be a constant attack against the Rule of Law which is a critical principle of any democratic nation. There are several convicted felons in the Parliament including Mr. Liviu Dragnea, the President of the Chamber of Deputies.