Romania's DNA claims justice ministry destroyed documents criticising controversial decree

By bne IntelliNews February 27, 2017

Romania’s Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) claimed on February 27 that the justice ministry destroyed an official document containing comments and proposals that would have blocked the adoption of a controversial emergency decree partly decriminalising abuse of office.

The decree - which had since been revoked - resulted in the largest protests Romania has seen after the fall of communism. Hundreds of thousands of Romanians took to the streets asking for the withdrawal of the decree, which would have helped many politicians evade justice and would have put at risk the country’s drive to eradicate corruption. 

The DNA said in a statement that it has been notified about possible corrupt acts in the adoption of the decree. It is sending the case to the prosecutor’s office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice as the alleged crimes identified during its investigations are not within its sphere of competence.

Anticorruption prosecutors have identified five possible crimes in the process of adopting the decree: favouring a perpetrator, the presentation in bad faith of inaccurate data to the parliament or the president related to the activity of the government or a ministry, theft or destruction of documents, theft or destruction of evidence or documents, and forgery.

In its statement, the DNA reconstructs the chronology of events on January 31, when the ordinance was secretly adopted at a late night government meeting.

According to the DNA, on the evening of January 31 the justice ministry received only two notices on the planned emergency decree, from the interior ministry and the legislative council, out of the five needed. The foreign affairs ministry did not send an official notice on the ordinance, but Foreign Minister Teodor Meleșcanu gave his approval “on the spot” on the evening of January 31 by signing the document at the government’s headquarters.

However, the most striking information to emerge is the disappearance of documents that would have blocked the emergency ordinance. The DNA claims that the ministry for relations with the parliament initially sent a note to the justice ministry containing comments and proposals on the decree. 

According to official procedures, the emergency decree should have been either amended according to the proposals made by the ministry for relations with the parliament, or turned into a draft bill and sent to the parliament. Specifically, the ministry’s note criticised the decision to use an emergency decree to change criminal legislation.

However, following “tense discussions” between representatives of the justice ministry and the ministry for relations with the parliament, the latter were persuaded to change the initial note. Shortly afterwards, a favourable note was issued and sent to the justice ministry.

The DNA claims that the initial note sent by fax to the justice ministry was destroyed. In addition, the original version of the initial note, which was handed to justice ministry representatives, has reportedly been stolen.

Moreover, during the government meeting on January 31, justice ministry representatives attached to the decree a negative note from the National Magistrates Council, which had been issued for a previous version of the decree.

In addition, specialists from the justice ministry have issued six notes criticising the planned decree and the decision to adopt the changes by emergency decree. 

Under pressure from the street and criticism from Romania’s external partners, the government repealed the ordinance on February 5, and Justice Minister Florin Iordache resigned, a move which was not enough for the thousands of people who have continued to protest, asking for all those responsible for the decree to leave their posts.

 

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