ECtHR: Romanian politician fails in appeal against conviction over judges’ failure to sign judgment
A Romanian politician given a suspended sentence for abuse of authority who challenged the judgment on the basis two of the judges had not signed it and had retired before its reasoning was finalised has failed in his Article 6 appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
In its decision in the case of Dragnea v Romania the court unanimously declared the application inadmissible.
Nicolae-Liviu Dragnea – former president of the Chamber of Deputies and former chair of the Social Democratic Party – objected to the enforcement of a judgment sentencing him to two years’ imprisonment, suspended, for abuse of authority during an election campaign.
In the proceedings before the Romanian High Court, Mr Dragnea lodged an objection to enforcement of the judgment convicting him, on the grounds that two of the five judges of the bench had not signed the judgment and had retired from office before the reasoning of the judgment was finalised.
The president of the High Court had substituted her signature for those of the two judges concerned, in accordance with the country’s code of criminal procedure.
In the European Court proceedings, Mr Dragnea complained of the dismissal by the High Court of his objection to enforcement of the judgment. He relied on Article 6 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court reiterated that the criminal limb of Article 6 was applicable to criminal proceedings concerning remedies that were classified as extraordinary in domestic law where the domestic court was called upon to determine the criminal charge.
It observed that in the present case the examination by the High Court of the applicant’s objection had been confined to establishing whether the fact that two of the five judges of the bench had not signed the judgment convicting him constituted grounds precluding enforcement of the judgment.
Hence, in its judgment of 24 April 2017 the High Court had not determined the “criminal charge” against the applicant, but had simply ruled that the ground relied on by Mr Dragnea in support of his objection did not act as a bar to enforcement of the final judgment of 22 April 2016 convicting him, for the purposes of the country’s criminal code.
The applicant’s complaint was therefore incompatible ratione materiae with Article 6 of the Convention and was rejected.