European Court of Human Rights Decision Upholds Prosecutorial Independence Across the Council of Europe
In an unprecedented decision, the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously ruled that Romania’s 2018 dismissal of Laura Kovesi as the head of Romania’s anti-corruption directorate violated the articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression. The decision is the first to uphold that the executive branch of a national government cannot remove chief prosecutors without independent judicial review.
“This decision matters in countries where authoritarian regimes are eager to attack the independence of prosecutors in order to silence opponents and to ensure the impunity of allies and cronies,” said Maïté De Rue, a policy officer for national criminal justice reform with the Open Society Justice Initiative. “This is a victory for the fight against corruption and the defense of the rule of law in Romania and across the Council of Europe.”
In a written submission to the court, the Justice Initiative argued that the decision to dismiss a chief prosecutor by the executive branch alone would undermine the independence of prosecutors and their ability to carry out their functions fairly and impartially, free from political interference. The court’s decision cited the Justice Initiative’s argument, stating, “Independence of prosecutors is a key element for the maintenance of judicial independence.”
Before her removal in July 2018, Kovesi secured numerous high-profile convictions against elected officials, including 14 Cabinet members, 53 lawmakers, and a Romanian member of the European Parliament. She currently serves as European Union’s first chief public prosecutor.