The ICJ said today in an new report that Moldova remained a significant way from having a functionally independent judiciary, which is an indispensable element in the country’s capacity to deliver justice for its people and institutions.
The report ”Only an empty shell” – The undelivered promise of an independent judiciary in Moldova sets out a number of specific recommendations for reform which with a view to achieving a fully independent judiciary and effective justice system.
“While many significant legislative reforms have been undertaken, judicial independence is far from being achieved in Moldova,” said Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser for the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme,
“Reforms are needed in the law, but more than that a change is needed the mindset and working culture of many judges themselves that must protect and promote judicial independence in all of their work,” he added.
The ICJ acknowledged that important progress had been achieved in many areas, including in efforts to secure audio-recordings of all court hearings, the introduction of a system of random allocation of cases, and staff and salary increases for all judges.
However, the ICJ has concluded that the implementation of the most crucial legal reforms is significantly lagging behind and often lacks political will and conviction.
A culture of excessive hierarchy in the judiciary and of the judge remained prevalent among judges.
The ICJ is concerned at reports that the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM) – a judicial self-governance body – instead of playing its crucial role of defending the independence of the judiciary, institutionally and in respect of individual judges, has become an instrument of pressure on individual judges and a threat to their independence.
“During our mission, we were presented with witness statements and stories of judges living often in a condition of fear: fear to express their opinions on the situation of the judiciary; and fear of criminal prosecution solely for issuing a decision contrary to the requests of the prosecutor’s office or of other powerful interests,” said Massimo Frigo.
Achieving judicial independence requires a change of attitude towards the judiciary from the executive and other sources of State and private power, but most importantly from the judiciary itself.
Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser, Europe and Central Asia Programme, International Commission of Jurists, firstname.lastname@example.org
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