Court says revising Constitution to prohibit pardons and amnesty for corruption crimes is unconstitutional
On May 26, a large majority of Romanians voted to ban amnesty and pardon for corruption offences, and to deny the government the right to issue emergency orders in the field of the judiciary. On the same occasion, they agreed to allow other institutions apart from the Ombudsman to challenge the constitutionality of such emergency orders. The referendum in which citizens were asked for their view on these matters had been called by President Klaus Iohannis, who sought to put an end to what he called the offensive of the ruling coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats against the judicial system.
Following the referendum, political parties, both in power and in opposition, came up with bills revising the Constitution as desired by the people. But on Thursday, the Constitutional Court dealt a heavy blow to these attempts to alter the fundamental law. Although it had ruled that the referendum on this topic was constitutional, the Court now found that proposals to prohibit amnesty and pardon for corruption offences are unconstitutional. The Court says the measure comes against the principle of equality before the law and would amount to a violation of human dignity. Decisions with respect to amnesty and collective or individual pardons should remain in the hands of parliament and of the president of the country, respectively, and a comprehensive and permanent prohibition from granting amnesty and pardon for certain crimes cannot be introduced, the judges claimed.
On the other hand, other proposals included in the bills tabled by Power and Opposition are within constitutional limits, the Court says. These include a provision under which citizens serving final sentences for offences committed knowingly and willfully are not allowed to run in parliamentary, local, presidential and European elections. Also, the excessive resort to emergency government orders can be prevented, with such orders subject to constitutionality checks at the request of the president of the country, of the supreme court, of 50 Deputies or 25 Senators or of the Ombudsman.
The National Liberal Party in Opposition sees these Constitutional Court rulings as surprising, given that millions of Romanians voted to prohibit amnesty and pardons for corruption offences on May 26. The Liberal leader Ludovic Orban advised the ruling coalition not to take political advantage of the Court’s decision. On the contrary, the head of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Calin Popescu Tariceanu says Thursday’s decision of the Constitutional Court invalidates the President’s move to make amnesty and pardon for corruption crimes illegal, and urged Klaus Iohannis to resign immediately and unconditionally, on grounds that he lured citizens into a reckless exploit.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)