Thursday

26th May 2016

Romanian judges report death threats

  • The late, Communist-ear leader Ceaucescu's palace in Bucharest (Photo: steve_lynx)

The European Commission has expressed concerns that threats made against judges in Romania's constitutional court could undermine its independence.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding reassured Augustin Zegrean, the president of the court, that all political parties and government authorities are required to respect the independence of the judiciary.

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"Let me recall that politicians must not try to intimidate judges ahead of decisions to be taken, nor attack judges when they take decisions they do not like," said Reding in a letter addressed to Zegrean on Tuesday (7 August).

Zegrean had told Reding in a previous letter on 3 August that a judge had complained about receiving death threats, targeting both the judge and the judge's family.

The court is to decide by 31 August whether a referendum, called by Prime Minister Victor Ponta, on ousting President Traian Basescu, was valid or not.

Aspazia Cojocaru, one of five judges at the court, also received death threats in early July ahead of another ruling.

Cojocaru filed a complaint about the threats at the prosecutor's office on 27 July.

The same day, the court adopted three decisions which Ponta did not like. The minister of justice then tried to get the judges kicked out.

The leader of the National Liberal Party, a Ponta coalition member, had also said in July the court is a sham and that parliamentary should throw out its members.

"Threats of removal and any other form of political pressure from the government can seriously affect the activity of the judges and of the Constitutional Court as a whole," wrote Zegrean in his letter to Reding.

The Venice Commission - an advisory body of the Council of Europe on constitutional matters - is following developments in the country and will adopt an opinion in October.

On Tuesday, commission chairman Gianni Buquicchio said he was "shocked" by the events.

The dispute comes despite promises by Ponta to Brussels to respect the rule of law. The European Commission will issue an updated progress report on Romania before the end of the year.

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