Romanian President Klaus Iohannis yesterday fired the National Anticorruption Directorate’s chief prosecutor Laura Codruţa Kovesi under intense, unrelenting pressure from the parliamentary majority. Although article 133 of the Romanian Constitution protects public prosecutors from parliamentary whims, in a head-scratching decision May 30 Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled that the president must heed a directive by the Justice Minister ordering him to fire Kovesi. Iohanis had initially resisted, but the parliamentary majority demanded he obey the Justice Minister’s directive — even after citizens demonstrated in Kovesi’s favor and the European Union signaled its support for her. Indeed, in recent days the majority made it clear that if Iohannis refused to obey the order, it would impeach him. Iohanis relented early Monday morning, July 9, signing a decree terminating Codruţa Kovesi.
Codruţa Kovesi issued a statement later in the day defending her agency’s record combating corruption, voicing the concerns of many that her dismissal will undermine the fight against corruption by subordinating prosecutors to parliament, and urging all Romanians not to give up the struggle against corruption. The full text of her remarks (her own English version) are below.
As you know, the President of Romania has issued the dismissal decree from the position as chief prosecutor of the National Anticorruption Directorate, therefore, my mandate ceases today.
I have been the Chief Prosecutor of DNA for the last five years and everything that was accomplished or that was not accomplished during this mandate, can be found in a short report that will be published on DNA’s website.
Regardless of what I say or what others say about DNA, regardless of what the figures say and figures never lie, it is really important that the DNA has proven that no one is above the law.
As regards the dismissal procedure of the Chief Prosecutor of DNA, I would like to remind you that the dismissal procedure did not meet the conditions provided by law. The Superior Council of Magistracy issued a negative opinion. I proved in from of the Section for prosecutors that the reasons for the dismissal proposal were in part unreal and in part groundless.
The dismissal decree issued by the President of Romania leaves room to a very important question: Will there be a discretionary subordination of the Chief Prosecutors to the Minister of Justice?
I do not comment on the decision issued by the Constitutional Court. I just show that the reasoning suggests that prosecutors might become politically subordinated and it is still necessary to have clarifications in this respect.
What I can tell you about myself is that I took note of the dismissal decree from the position as Chief Prosecutor of DNA and starting today, I shall stop working within DNA. I shall continue to be a prosecutor.
I would like to address a message to my DNA colleagues with whom I have been working and whom I have represented for the last five years. And also, to the other Romanian prosecutors with whom I worked for six years as General Prosecutor.
Thank you all for your courage, for your professionalism. For the resistance and commitment you have shown in going forward, regardless of the fact that we have been unjustly attacked, humiliated in front of the society and our families, dragged into the mud, unable to respond in any other way than to request the Superior Council of Magistracy to defend the truth.
We all know that for the last five years, DNA has also obtained other results, which are not shown in statistics:
- DNA has proved thatthe law is equal for everybodyand that nobody is too strong to evade the law. Independent prosecutors have conducted investigations against people who seemed untouchable, regardless of their positions or wealth.
- Our investigationshave contributed to raising the awareness of the Romanian society regarding the seriousness of the corruption phenomenon.
And what we have succeeded, first of all, esteemed colleagues, was to show that the Romanian institutions can work efficiently, legally, and above all, we have shown that YES, corruption can be defeated!
No, today’s episode is NOT a defeat. The brutal methods that have been used for some time in order to force the change of the legislation show us all that they want protection for the past, the present and the future. Now, the Romanian society knows this from you, those from DNA.
My leaving from a position means a little as long as neither I, nor you abandon the fight.
After six years as General Prosecutor of Romania and five years, one month and 24 days as Head of DNA, I can tell you that nothing is as important as continuing this fight, because,it is a fight to defendant the society from dangerous criminals.
Yes, the justice system goes through a difficult time. We all know this, since we have all seen what will remain from the criminal laws of the country. We have seen the texts passed by the Parliament, we have reacted, we have drawn up observations and the same did the High Court, the Superior Council of Magistracy, the General Prosecutor’s Office, but beyond any professional opinions, it is common sense to understand that now the political will is not to have an efficient justice, but to obstruct the investigations and the justice system.
We, as prosecutors, cannot take part in a political fight. It is forbidden by law. Our plea is for a stable legislation. Our plea is for a legislation allowing prosecutors to be independent.
The prosecutors’ independence is an incorruptible value.
DNA is a mature institution, which fulfilled its role to fight high level corruption.Therefore, DO NOT abandon. Keep doing your job.
I thank all those who supported our activity. I thank those from the judiciary, I thank our institutional collaborators from Romania or institutional partners.
Last but not least, I have a message for the Romanian society, for our citizens:
Corruption can be defeated! Do not abandon!
Thank you for your attention!