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Romania: UN expert urges Government to postpone the enactment of four new criminal and civil laws until key conditions are in place

BUCHAREST/ GENEVA (24 May 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, called upon the Government of Romania to consider postponing at least for a year the enactment of four new criminal and civil laws planned for October 2011 January 2012.

“Reforming implies changing the status quo. It is therefore a complex process that requires cautious reflection as to advance its future impact,” the independent expert said at the end of her six-day mission* to Romania. “A reform that truly aims to generate positive changes should foresee prior assessments, clear benchmarks and indicators of achievement and broad consultations with all parties involved.”

“During my visit to Romania, a great majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about moving the reform forward too quickly in detriment of the rule of law,” Ms. Knaul noted referring to a major judicial reform due in 2011, after the so-called ‘small reform’ adopted last year. In her view, "several conditions should be in place for the reform to be a success."

The Special Rapporteur stressed that "the Executive should take a number of measures to ensure that key conditions are in place until the adoption of the four new codes". These measures include: “Ensuring adequate financial and human resources for the prosecution service and the courts to assume their new functions; informing the general public on the legal changes that are to be introduced and the expected results on the ground; providing training to all judicial actors so as to ensure a uniform understanding of the reform, and its implications; and the de facto financial independence of the judiciary from the executive”, the Special Rapporteur explained.

“I invite the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, in close consultation with the judiciary, in all regions of the country and at all levels, to undertake a mapping exercise of the current needs of the judiciary and the way as they will be addressed in the reform, including an assessment of the needs of the judiciary in terms of infrastructure, personnel and budget, for the effective implementation of the four future new codes as their contribution to build up a solid and truly independent judiciary in Romania,” Ms. Knaul said.

“I also invite the Executive and the legislature to give serious consideration to such mapping exercise and assessment in the judicial reform process in Romania. For this to be a success, I call upon the Government of Romania to consider postponing at least for a year the enactment of the new four codes,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.
“The reform of the judiciary has been a process of change that has accompanied Romanian efforts to flourish as a democracy,” she said. “As it now stands, its major goal should be to guarantee a system of administration of justice that ensures independence, impartiality, integrity, equality and transparency, all prerequisites for the enjoyment of human rights by all in Romania.

“Keeping this goal in mind,” the expert said, “I invite the Romanian government to adopt a people-centered perspective in its reform efforts and include access to justice and legal aid and counsel as priority areas.”

Ms. Knaul also encouraged the media “to help to bridge understanding of the judicial reform and its expected impact on the ground”, and the general public “to get involved on the judicial reform and help in the construction of a transparent, fair, accessible, solid and independent system of administration of justice that will redound in benefits for the Romanian future generations.”

The Special Rapporteur’s mission took her to Bucharest, Iasi, Cluj Napoca and Pitescu. She hold discussions with representatives of the Government, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academia, judges, lawyers, bailiffs and others involved in issues related to her mandate and will present her findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012.

The UN expert’s mission to Romania was preceded by a visit to Bulgaria, from 9 to 16 May 2011.

Gabriela Knaul took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2009. In that capacity, she acts independently from any Government or organization. Ms. Knaul has a long-standing experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice and the administration of judicial systems.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11058&LangID=E

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/judiciary/index.htm

OHCHR Country page – Romania: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/ROIndex.aspx

For media requests, please contact Ms. Cristina Balan, UNIC-Bucharest (Tel.: +40 21 201 78 77 / Mob.: +40 75 683 28 78 / email: cristina.balan@unic.org) or Ms. Mireya Maritza Peña Guzmán, OHCHR (Mob.: +41 79 20 10 119 / email: mpena@ohchr.org)