The ECHR has ruled in favor of Laura Codruta Kovesi, who had been dismissed from her position as chief of the Romanian Anti-Corruption Directorate.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled in favour of Laura Codruţa Kövesi, head of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, regarding her dismissal in July 2018 from her position as Chief Prosecutor of the Romanian National Anti-Corruption Directorate. In a ruling delivered on May 5 by an unanimous vote of the judges, the Court concluded that the dismissal of Ms. Kovesi before the end of her second term as Romanian chief anti-graft prosecutor, violated her human rights.
Moreover, the Court said her dismissal was abusive and that she was denied freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial to contest her ousting. Kovesi took her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg arguing that when she was dismissed as head of the Anti-Corruption Directorate, in July 2018, by a decree of President Klaus Iohannis, following a decision of the Constitutional Court, two of her fundamental rights had been infringed. These are the right to a fair trial, as she could not defend her case in court, and the right to freedom of expression, given that her dismissal, based on an evaluation of former justice minister Tudorel Toader, was decided after she had publicly criticized a series of legislative changes that were affecting the legal system.
Laura Codruta Kovesi, who is now the first chief prosecutor of the European Union, has said the ECHR ruling will help strengthen judicial independence across the continent and that Romania’s Constitutional Court should rule based on principles and not on persons. Moreover, she has said the European Court’s ruling is a victory of all those who have supported justice in the past years.
President Klaus Iohannis has said that the European Court’s decision was unprecedented and that Romania’s Constitutional Court must immediately revise not only the decision regarding Kovesi’s revocation but also all other decisions they based on mere political declarations. In his opinion, the credibility of Romania’s Constitutional Court has been seriously shaken. In his turn, the Constitutional Court President, Valer Dorneanu, has said that those who want to objectively read the ECHR ruling will see there is no criticism leveled against the institution he represents. Liberal Prime Minister Ludovic Orban believes that the Constitutional Court has been compromised by the ECHR ruling and that there is the need to reassess the way in which Romania’s Constitutional Court works. Lucian Romascanu, the spokesman for the Social Democratic Party (PSD) which had initiated Kovesi’s ousting, says the ECHR sanctions a procedure that has to do with rights and liberties and that PSD is not to blame.
Laura Codruta Kovesi’s case also made headlines in the international media. New York Times writes that the European Union's chief prosecutor was wrongly removed from her previous job as head of Romania's anti-corruption agency. “Her removal was the culmination of moves by the then Social Democrat government to change judicial legislation and replace chief prosecutors, which led to street protests and alarmed the European Commission, the EU's executive arm,” the paper says.
At the same time, the publication Emerging Europe, which a few days before designated Kovesi Emerging Europe’s Public Figure of the Year, in an article entitled “Victory at ECHR for anti-corruption hero places Romania’s constitutional court in unwanted spotlight” says that Kovesi did not ask for damages, “although the ruling of the ECHR is likely to have a heavy cost for Romania’s constitutional court (CCR), over whose independence and credibility a huge question mark now hangs.” (Translated by Elena Enache)