Between “Blackmailed. Scared. At times – corrupted” and “I hope that in 2023, in May, we will have a functioning CSM”. Experts’ opinions on justice in Moldova in 2023
Although the pre-vetting commission, which is tasked with assessing the integrity of candidates for membership in the self-administrative bodies of judges and prosecutors – the Superior Council of Magistrates (CSM) and the Superior Council of Prosecutors (CSP), is expected to complete its work by 30 June 2023, some experts contacted by ZdG are not too confident about the reform of the justice system in Moldova.
“Yes, there were hopes, maybe there are still hopes, but let’s be objective, there are not many premises”
Galina Bostan, president of the Centre for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption (CAPC), says that the impact of some of the decisions taken by the current government on justice could be “extremely negative” in the long term. She also points to the risk of the judiciary being influenced by political actors.
“You usually judge the results of a reform by its premises. Now, what are the prerequisites for successful reform? I don’t know what will happen with the Superior Council of Magistracy and whether we will have a functional CSM, given the length of the pre-vetting and everything that is happening. There are things that allow me to doubt that we will have a functional CSM in the near future. Yes, there are some positive things about promoting integrity in the judiciary. But sometimes I have the impression that, in addition to these positive elements, people who are politically loyal are promoted, and this is the worst thing that could happen, because we will have a judiciary that is subservient to politics. It is dangerous, because the moment you enslave it permanently, and there is not even the appearance of independence, this will happen regardless of the government. The legislative acts, which the Parliament is promoting, do not inspire much hope either, for example the bill on taxes, or what is supposed to be the stamp duty (…) In the last bill (on state taxes n.r.) I don’t see much positive aspects, although the authors talk about increasing the revenues to the budget. The negative impact is much greater. (…) It seems that only people who are politically loyal were extended, because among the people who were not extended were honest people, they were just vocal.
(…) I don’t see the premises for something positive to happen. Yes, there were hopes, maybe there are still hopes, but let’s be objective, there are not really premises. The long-term impact of certain decisions taken now could be extremely negative. If before we had at least the appearance of judicial independence, we will not have even the appearance of it. Any government that comes in, even if it is criticised for its lack of independence, will point the finger at the current government. Certain precedents are being set that will have a very negative impact in the future”, said Galina Bostan.
“We should have a reset of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office”
On the other hand, Vladislav Gribincea, acting director of the Justice Programme at the Legal Resources Centre of Moldova (CRJM), says that changes in the justice system will be noticed by citizens in more than a year. In addition, according to the expert, the external evaluation of judges and prosecutors is expected to start in the summer of 2023.
“I hope that in 2023, in May, we will already have a functioning Superior Council of Magistrates, and in June – a functioning Superior Council of Prosecutors. By all estimates, we will probably have a new Supreme Court of Justice by autumn 2023. Also, external evaluation of judges and prosecutors will probably start this summer. It will start already when it is finished – in about two and a half years (…).
We should have a reset of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, as committed by the government. They have to make a decision, who is still the top on investigating grand corruption and what is the link between the National Anti-Corruption Centre and the anti-corruption prosecutors, so that the prosecutors can focus on grand corruption. I think it should happen very quickly, around February-March. I have always said that the expectations of justice reform, that it will happen quickly, are not realistic. The beginning will be, the results – the perception of changes, I think it will come later, in a year, a year and a half,” according to Vladislav Gribincea, who was involved as an expert in the development of the Justice Sector Reform Strategy for 2011-2016, as well as in the reform of the legislation on judicial organisation, civil procedure and criminal procedure.
Lawyer Cristina Ciubotaru, an expert in anti-corruption policies, also believes that the justice system will be “even less independent” in 2023. She notes the “paradoxes” of the system, which she says is both “incapable of opposing the government” and “incapable of pleasing it”.
“What will Moldova’s justice system be like in 2023? Full of the proverbial hope: head bowed – the sword does not cut it off. Left and less independent. Stopped from self-governing other than the executive wants or by someone other than the executive chooses. Further marked by interim terms without mandates. Blackmailed. Scared. At times – corrupt. Full of paradoxes. Unable to stand up to the government (today and tomorrow) on administrative matters. Unable to please the government (of today and tomorrow) in criminal matters. Politically sensitive. Predictive of change. Attentive to changes in poll ratings. Aware of expected solutions on the files regarding the government’s opponents. Hesitant to deliver expected solutions quickly. Terrified that tomorrow they might have to answer to today’s defendants why they didn’t have the courage to proceed legally – whatever that term means for either government. Still docile to today’s power. Already docile to the power of tomorrow. Still silent?! I don’t know,” Cristina Ciubotaru said in a written reply to us.
Five judges, candidates for positions in the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM), did not pass the evaluation of the pre-vetting commission. The members of the Commission announced on Wednesday 4 January that they had completed the evaluation process for five candidates for membership of the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) from among career judges and had forwarded their decisions to the candidates and the institution responsible for organising the competition.
The decisions concern magistrates Iurie Bejenaru and Anatolie Țurcan, from the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), Vitalie Stratan, from the Chisinau Court of Appeals, central seat, Angela Bostan, from the Chisinau Court of Appeals and Vladislav Holban, from the Chisinau Court of Appeals, central seat, who, according to the Commission, “do not meet the integrity criteria and do not pass the evaluation”.
So far, the Pre-Vetting Commission has issued decisions on 13 candidates for CSM positions from among the judges, out of the 28 registered in the competition. As a result, 3 magistrates have passed the Commission’s integrity assessment and 10 have been disqualified by failing the assessment and can no longer participate in the CSM competition.