The Republic of Moldova in 2022 obtained the EU candidate country status and new tasks that refer also to the justice sector reform were this way set. In IPN’s public debate “State of justice sector reform in the Republic of Moldova on the granting of the EU candidate status: Conception, practical actions, effects, general perception”, judge Livia Mitrofan said the reforms in the system were launched in 2009 and really formed part of those groups of actions and they hoped these reforms would improve things in the country.
“The then minister of justice said that 70% of the judges are corrupt and the reform was imminent. The process covered all the segments, the admission and promotion method, system management. There was drafted a new law on disciplinary liability and the penal, civil and other procedures were modified. But we reached 2022 and they continue to discuss the same justice sector reform,” stated the judge.
Iulian Groza, executive director of the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), in the debate said the change in the justice sector for this to be right and really just is not a demand of the European Union and is not made for the EU.
“The citizens, when they look at public institutions, have expectations of the system, of politicians, of the government as these should solve their daily problems. Injustice and impunity have been tolerated too much in the Republic of Moldova and the people surely got angry as these things made the glass full. We practically saw the response in the parliamentary elections of 2021. The people mandated politicians who didn’t necessarily promise a slam dunk, higher salaries and pensions. They mandated new people who would bring justice, would fight corruption. I think this matters a lot,” said Iulian Groza.
Many of the governments followed the same scenario – amendment of laws – but this is not enough, lawyer Andrei Briceac, who heads the Civil Justice Institute, stated in an interview with IPN.
“We follow the path of amendment of laws and this didn’t help much. Also, almost all the governments tried to replace the people. There were particular judges and they substituted these with their judges. So, they do reforms that enable to name convenient judges. That’s why the liquidation of institutions or the replacement of persons does not ensure the justice system will work properly,” said Andrei Briceac.
He noted that many people leave the system and the young people choose to study abroad and then refuse to come and work for institutions in Moldova because the pays are small.
The lack of communication or the absence of stable benchmarks for those who try to do the reform is now one of the serious problems that hamper the implementation of an authentic reform, said the lawyer of Promo LEX Association Vadim Vieru. In a debate at IPN entitled “Justice sector reform: expectations, actions and consequences”, Vadim Vieru said it is now essential to establish a viable mechanism of efficient communication with judges. The Ministry of Justice’s approach to the method of doing the reform is also very important.
“The messages delivered by the representatives of the Government, including the Ministry of Justice, matter a lot. The team of the Ministry and the approach to particular things and reforms are also important. I would yet say only that more intense communication is needed. The judges are not involved in particular working groups, but they should be there as they know the practical aspects,” stated Vadim Vieru.
Lawyer Cristina Ciubotaru, anticorruption expert, in IPN’s public debate “Justice sector reform: expectations, actions and consequences”, said the government should realize that the state consists of three branches and the judiciary is not the third, but one of the three branches and we, as society, experience problems in justice, Government and Parliament. “The state, in general, has integrity, efficiency problems. A dialogue between the branches of power is possible only when the judicial branch is not belittled,” stated Cristina Țărnă.
As regards the integrity, the way in which the Superior Council of Magistracy and the Superior Council of Prosecutors work is important. When the political class struggles to control the Councils, these cannot be trusted as being efficient managers of the integrity processes in justice. The Superior Council of Magistracy has now all the instruments for ensuring a correct climate, for penalizing corrupt and dishonest behavior. But it does not do it because it is politicized. The integrity problem in justice is generated by the political factor that controls the system’s attempts to manage itself, she noted.
Victor Juc, director of the Institute for Legal, Political and Sociological Research, said that when it was in opposition, the current government declared that it would solve the problems of justice in a very short period of time, and many Moldovans gave their votes precisely because they believed in the promises about the judicial reform.
“The government initiated this process being in a bit of a romantic mindset, I would say, because it did not carry out an expert assessment, which would have shown that this process is much more complicated. One thing is when you are in opposition and make a ton of promises, and another when you take power and have to actually implement these promises. So naturally, there are these critical voices in our society saying that the government has not yet fulfilled those commitments”, Victor Juc commented on the progress of the justice reform.
While disagreeing with his fellow panelists that the government is “now bulldozing” through the judicial reform, Victor Juc admitted there is problem with communication and cooperation. According to him, when public consultations are organized with civil society members, their proposals are rarely taken into consideration by the government, leading the number of those interested in such meetings to decrease with every event.
Regarding the bad opinion that many citizens have about the justice system, Victor Juc admitted that there are people in the system who have contributed to such a perception. “But there are two other determining factors. First of all, there is the political-administrative factor, that is, those people who argue the need for reform, claiming that the system is corrupt and ineffective, and here are the solutions”. And the second factor, according to Victor Juc, is the media coverage, because only errors and bad things get to be news.
Concluding on a more optimistic note, Victor Juc mentioned that “steps are being taken” in the justice reform, and for it to be successful, the support and supervision of Moldova’s development partners is needed.
The debates and interviews on issues related to justice, the justice sector reform and observance of human rights conducted by IPN News Agency in 2022 can be found here.