140092 2/5/2008 15:29 08BUCHAREST97 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO9908 PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0097/01 0361529 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 051529Z FEB 08 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7859 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000097
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE AARON JENSEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2018 TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, RO SUBJECT: CONSTITUTIONAL COURT DECLARES LUSTRATION LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Classified By: Pol Counselor Ted Tanoue for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary. The process of lustrating communist-era collaborators received an unexpected blow January 31 when the Constitutional Court ruled that the law establishing the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS) is unconstitutional. The CNSAS had been a controversial body from the start, with critics attacking its quasi-judicial character and political influence on its decisionmaking. Others defended the organization, noting that it had become increasingly effective in disclosing the shady Securitate ties of many senior politicians, civil servants, religious leaders--and even members of the Constitutional Court itself. Parliament can rewrite the current law within a 45 day period, and Prime Minister Tariceanu has declared that Romania must continue to follow in the footsteps of other former communist states in exposing the abuses of the past. Both the future of the CNSAS and the fate of a separate draft law on lustration are hanging in the balance. End Summary.
2. (SBU) In a press release January 31, the Constitutional Court announced that its members voted unanimously to declare the provisions of a 1999 law providing "access to personal files and disclosure of communist political police activities" as unconstitutional. (note: According to the Romanian Constitution, any laws found unconstitutional are suspended until the Parliament rewrites--within a 45 days time period--the law to take into account the court's objections. If the Parliament takes no action, the law ceases to have "legal effect.") In its judgment, the court noted that the CNSAS law gave the body a quasi-judicial character that attaches a "collective moral and judicial blame" on individuals associated with the intelligence services, without specific findings of guilt or evidence of infringements of human rights or fundamental liberties. The court also noted that the Romanian constitution also expressly forbids the creation of "extraordinary" courts.
3. (C) Many high-profile politicians, including Conservative Party leader Dan Voiculescu (who was officially declared a Securitate collaborator in 2007) and leaders of the main opposition Social-Democratic Party (PSD) and right-extremist Greater Romania party (PRM), have hailed the decision. They claimed that the CNSAS was a quasi-judicial organ that meted out "parallel Justice" and verdicts that infringed on fundamental human rights. Voiculescu said that the CNSAS should henceforth restrict its activities to administration of the Securitate archives only. The President of the Supreme Council of Magistracy (CSM), Lidia Barbulescu also welcomed the decision, noting that the Constitutional Court decision effectively "nullifies" all the verdicts given by the CNSAS since its establishment in 2000. She asserted that there were other existing institutions whose basis was equally unconstitutional (note: she did not specify futher) and predicted that they will face a similar fate as the CNSAS.
4. (C) Critics of the decision have questioned the motivation for the Constitutional Court. They argue, for example, that while the Constitutional Court's original remit was to analyze only a limited number of specific provisions of the law, it had not been expected that the court would issue a far-reaching decision that has undercut the very legitimacy of the CNSAS. They also point out that the decision reverses several prior Constitutional Court rulings upholding the constitutionality of the CNSAS law. CNSAS board members Mircea Dinescu and Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu reacted publicly by remarking that this decision came at the start of an electoral year and during a period when the CNSAS was involved in investigating a number of high-ranking magistrates, including the members of the Constitutional Court. Dinescu also emphasized that the court decision gave a blank check to many controversial politicians who can now compete in upcoming local and legislative elections with little fear that their pasts will be revealed by the CNSAS. They added that politicians were increasingly concerned about the CNSAS because the Council currently has access to over 2 million Securitate files, compared to 2004 when they had access to only 7000 files. A coalition of 23 NGOs staged a protest action February 3, and called on the CNSAS to "urgently disclose" any derogatory information it might have before the organization might be disbanded.
5. (C) Another member of the CNSAS board, Dragos Petrescu, told Poloffs that the Court decision was tantamount to a "counter-revolution" on the part of a tainted political class. Petrescu opined that the dissolution of the CNSAS should be viewed as the "suspension of the process of democratic consolidation in Romania" as the move allowed perpetrators of crimes during the communist regime to
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continue to thrive in a democratic Romania. Noting the unusual length of the argumentation for the Court's decision--some 27 pages--Petrescu remarked on the "premeditated" character of the decision. He suggested that this was evidence that the political and judicial class were beginning to feel the heat, as many magistrates have recently been exposed as collaborators with the communist-era secret police. Petrescu insisted that the damage is far greater than it might appear on the surface, as the decision underscored the continuing power that communist-period collaborators still held over Romanian judicial and political life. He concluded that the decision signaled the abrupt termination of clean-up efforts that had just barely begun.
6. (SBU) Prime Minister Tariceanu announced that his government will continue to support the process of lustration in Romania. On February 4, he paid a visit to the CNSAS headquarters and pledged that his government will find a solution to ensure that the organization had the necessary legal framework to continue its activities, and--during a subsequent press conference--praised the CNSAS and insisted that citizens and researchers alike need to continue to have access to the Securitate files. Tariceanu also said that Romania will follow the footsteps of other post-communist countries in exposing the activities of the state intelligence services and pledged that the Securitate archives must remain in the custody of a public institution rather than be placed back in the hands of the intelligence services. Democratic-Liberal party leader Emil Boc was more circumspect, urging Tariceanu to assume responsibility and issue an emergency ordinance at the same time that the Constitutional Court decision is published in the Official Gazette (e.g., when it takes effect) in order to ensure that the CNSAS continued to exist. Boc remarked, however, that the CNSAS needed to be stripped of its power to issue verdicts on the status of politicians and senior office holders, but should continue to disclose the "criminal" activities of the Securitate.
7. (C) Comment: The CNSAS has been a controversial organ from the start, not least because the structure of the CNSAS board directly mirrored the relative number of seats of the political parties in parliament. This led to accusations that it was a politicized body that essentially followed the political agendas of the various political parties. The 2006 "outing" of then-popular PNL legislator Mona Musca as a Securitate collaborator, which many saw as the use of the lustration process to conduct a drive-by political shooting. That said, the CNSAS has been one of the few organs active in efforts to lift the veil of secrecy from the vast network of former communist nomenklatura members, former collaborators and Securitate officers active in key sectors of Romanian public life (including politics, economy, justice, public administration and even the Orthodox church). These efforts were given new life by President Basescu, who in 2006 managed to take the bulk of the Securitate archives from the hands of the intelligence agencies and put them into the custody of the CNSAS. Since then, the CNSAS has steadily disclosed the past histories of a number of high-profile politicians, magistrates and leading figures of the clergy. During elections last fall for the new Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the CNSAS investigated many high-ranking priests. Recently, the CNSAS shifted its focus to the pasts of Romania's top magistrates, including the members of the Constitutional Court. This decision of the Constitutional Court could now bring the lustration process to a halt, no doubt to the relief of many in political and government circles. End Comment. TAPLIN