Judiciary compromised by executive interference and corruption

A return to the old practice of exerting insidious political influence over the judiciary, compounded by ill-considered legislation, threatens to undermine the gains of Moldova’s legal and judicial reform process.

This was stated by ICJ experts concluding their week-long visit to the country.

During the visit, Government officials and non-governmental representatives acknowledged that financial corruption in the Moldovan judicial system is a matter of considerable concern and especially prevalent in cases involving substantial economic interests. However, the mission concluded that Executive interference in judicial matters is of even greater significance, a point borne out by members of the legal community. Following recent amendments to the Law “On the Status of Judges” increasing the President’s influence over judicial appointments and re-appointments, the power of the Executive and the politically powerful to exert personalized influence over judges in controversial cases has grown.

“While we are not talking of physical violence, arrests or imprisonment of judges and lawyers, we have discovered a regression to former practices which are incompatible with the rule of law or access to justice” stated former ICJ President Claire L’Heureux-Dubé.

Significant progress has been made – on paper at least – since Moldova’s independence and membership of the Council of Europe, especially given the country’s difficult economic climate. While the enactment of new Criminal and Civil Procedural Codes in 2003 clearly reflects this progress, the mission confirmed claims made in a series of recent reports that the Office of the Parliamentary Advocates is ineffective in protecting individual’s rights or in providing access to justice.

The ICJ experts welcomed the efforts made by Moldovan advocates to provide access to justice in adverse conditions. Twice in 2003, advocates went on strike to obtain the payment of arrears stemming from representing legal aid clients.

Ms. L’Heureux-Dubé, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, headed the ICJ mission, which also included Bill Bowring, an English Barrister and Professor of Human Rights at London Metropolitan University and an ICJ Legal Adviser.

Further findings and a full report of the ICJ fact-finding mission to Moldova will be released soon.

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