Venice Commission: The independence of the judiciary could be undermined. Chisinau is exposed to all the risks

The Council of Europe issued a statement mentioning the high appreciation by the Venice Commission of the effort of the Moldovan executive in combating high-level corruption through justice reform. However, the draft laws must respect the Constitution in force, the Europeans said.

In a joint presentation, along with the Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law, the Venice Commission expressed its understanding of the effort made by Moldovan authorities in order to create a judicial system dedicated to justice and professionalism.

The statement said that it is up to the Moldovan authorities to decide whether the situation created in the judicial system provides sufficient grounds to subject all the Supreme Court judges to an extraordinary assessment, as provided by the draft law. It raises serious concerns that this assessment overlaps with the reform of the Supreme Court of Justice, aimed at replacing the current Court with a court with another jurisdiction and a smaller number of judges.

The importance of the justification increases because the assessment in question can create a dangerous precedent, which would lead to the expectation that a re-evaluation scheme will be applied at every change of government, which will undermine the motivation of the judicial authority and undermine its independence, the experts conclude.

Additionally, the statement holds recommendations. The draft law must be in accordance with the Constitution and all decisions regarding the transfer, promotion of service and dismissal of judges must be taken by the Superior Council of Magistracy. Thus, the Superior Council must have the capacity to make decisions based on the recommendations of the Evaluation Committee. The decision of the Superior Council must be public, totally transparent and must be automatically passed into the Evaluation Committee report. At the same time, the preliminary evaluation of the members of the Superior Council of Magistracy could be provided.

The draft law must contain the possibility of legal appeal of the decision of the Superior Council of Magistracy. The judicial body in question must be created outside the composition of the judges of the Supreme Court. The criteria for selecting its members and how they operate must be determined by law.

The evaluation criteria applied in the extraordinary reassessment regarding the honesty, professionalism and way of life of the judges must be formulated clearly and exhaustively in the draft law and the criteria must be identical to those applied in the case of disciplinary penalties.

The number of members of the evaluation committee with judicial experience (former magistrates or judges of the Constitutional Court) must be increased in such a way that a considerable part (if not half) of them has judicial experience.

The judge who did not pass the integrity test shall not be offered any judicial function, even in the lower court, but shall be subject to disciplinary sanctions, proportional with the seriousness of the contravention. Different penalties should apply in case of professional evaluation failure.

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