Romania’s Ombudsman attacks Government’s justice ordinance at the Constitutional Court

Romania’s Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea announced on Friday that he would notify the Constitutional Court about unconstitutional provisions included in the Government’s emergency ordinance that changes the Penal Codes.

Among other reasons for his decision, Victor Ciorbea also mentioned the fact that the urgency of this bill was not justified.

“The Government said that the emergency ordinance was necessary to transpose a EU directive but, while checking that directive, I found that the deadline for implementation is April 1, 2018. Therefore, there is enough time to debate it in the Parliament, based on a draft bill. The adoption of the emergency ordinance is not justified,” Ciorbea said.

Ciorbea also mentioned some provisions in the ordinance that were inconsistent with the Constitution. One of these provisions is that it limits the abuse of office definition only to breaking the laws or the Government’s ordinances. This means that breaking other normative acts, such as Government decisions, minister orders, local council decisions would not be considered abuse of office, the Ombudsman explained.

The Ombudsman’s decision to attack the emergency ordinance at the Constitutional Court is very important, because he was the only one who can challenge the ordinance itself.

President Klaus Iohannis and the Superior Council of Magistracy also notified the Constitutional Court, but their notification refers to the conflict between the Judiciary and the Executive, not the content of the ordinance itself.

On Thursday, the General Prosecutor’s Office requested the Ombudsman to notify the Constitutional Court on the emergency ordinance adopted this week by the Government, citing violations of several articles of the Constitution. President Iohannis also had a talk with Victor Ciorbea earlier this week, asking him to consider challenging this justice initiative.

Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar announced on Friday morning that he would challenge the ordinance in court. The National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) also started an investigation in this case.

The Romanian Government’s emergency ordinance to change the Penal Code decriminalizes or and reduces the criminal punishments for corruption offences such as abuse of office, conflict of interest, and negligence at work. Its adoption triggered massive protests across the country, as well as negative reactions from political and justice officials.

However, Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu announced on Thursday that the Government wouldn’t withdraw the ordinance.

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Irina Popescu, [email protected]