Romania's National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) reacted on Thursday to proposals submitted by the governing PSD-ALDE coalition to change the criminal procedure code. The planned changes "would have a devastating effect on criminal inquiries as they eliminate indispensablelegal means by which investigating bodies can pursue criminal inquiries", a DNA press release says. It says a EU directive aimed at strengthening the rules on presumption of innocence, which is used as an argument to introduce the changes, is "just a pretense to eliminate the ability of criminal inquiry bodies to uncover and prove crimes and the purpose of the changes has nothing to do with the presumption of innocence".
DNA head Laura Codruta Kovesi warned in a statement for Digi 24 channel on Thursday that if applied, the planned changes would leade to the closure of the DNA. "They wouldn't allow us to investigate corruption", she said.
- The DNA reacted after a special parliamentary commission put up by the governing coalition to change the rules of justice in Romania announced plans on Wednesday to discuss amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code on Thursday. The head of the commission eventually announced on Thursday morning that the issue would be postponed until Monday. The move came as the same commission has already adopted a series of major changes to the legislation regulating the Romanian judiciary, passing them for vote in the house, despite massive criticism that they are an attempt to subdue the judiciary politically.
To support the changes to the criminal codes, the commission invoked a EU directive calling for a series of measures to improve the record on the presumption of innocence in EU member states. But many of the amendments of the codes, submitted mostly by the governing coalition parties, but also by the opposition Liberals, have nothing to do with the presumption of innocence - read more on the issue here.
The DNA says in the press release that all the guarantees regarding the presumption of innocence, as called for in the EU directive, are already applied within the national legislation.
It points out, among others, that:
- one proposed change would force prosecutors, shortly after a complaint regarding a determined person is registered, to inform that person and allow their participation to procedures. That would prevent the use of means of evidence involving confidentiality, such as phone or ambiental recordings, house or IT searches or attempts to catch one in the act
- another change allowing the suspect or defendant to assist in witness hearings would make criminal inquiries difficult as in many instances the witnesses would be intimidated, especially when in a relation of subordination to the defendant, as cases related to corruption or abuse in office. The current law permits the lawyer of the defendant to assist witness hearings
- another change would remove a key tool for prosecutors in the investigation of crimes, that is, a quick access to information.
- another change decriminalises false witness accounts and would make finding the truth an extremely difficult, maybe impossible endeavour as witnesses would know they can lie with impunity.
- other changes put pressure on magistrates
- another change make it impossible to sentence a person in absentia
- another chance would make it impossible to re-open a case six months after its initial closure, even if new evidence arises proving that person did make a criminal act for which they were investigated
- another change would eliminate the option of preventive arrest for people investigated for corruption, tax evasion, money laundering. Preventive arrest would also be not applicable to people investigated for crimes against Romania's defence capacity, for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, if the specific crimes do not involve violence.
- another change would eliminate recordings as a means of evidence
- another change would make it impossible to use in a case the results of a cyber search from another case, making it more difficult to prove crimes with no objective argument
- another change introduces discrimination between the authors of crimes and the right of the public to have access to public interest information, which comes against OECD jurisprudence and recommendations of the Council of Europe.