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Depersonalisation of Judgments in Public Discussions at the Ministry of Justice

10 March 2017
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On Friday, 10 March, the Ministry of Justice held public consultations that focused on protection of personal data through the prism of depersonalisation of court judgments and lack of possibility to search files by the name and surname of the parties involved. According to the journalists who participated in the discussion, depersonalisation of court judgments does not allow informing citizens about acts of corruption, and such actions result in limiting of access to data of public interest.

In the opening speech, representatives of the Ministry of Justice presented examples of 10 EU countries that have resorted to depersonalise court judgments. In their turn, media representatives claimed that there are many countries in the EU that provide all data about the parties involved in a lawsuit and that the example of the European Court of Human Rights, which does not limit access to such data, is much more eloquent.

Eduard Raducan, Director of the Centre for Protection of Personal Data, mentioned that his institution made repeated appeals to the Superior Council of Magistracy (SCM), arguing for the need to depersonalise court judgments and referring to legal provisions in this regard, but only in 2016 the SCM partially acted on these appeals.

Although the SCM Regulation, adopted in 2016, stipulates that court judgments should be depersonalised, SCM Member Vera Toma said that the institution created a working group that will analyse the current regulation and will decide whether it needs to be amended, according to the legislation on protection of personal data. Vera Toma underlined that “the balance between privacy and access to information” is a subtle matter.

Alina Radu, Director of “Ziarul de Gardă” newspaper, expressed trenchantly the position of the journalists who participated in consultations: “We suspect that there is ill intention, so that journalists and civil society could not find case files involving politicians, members of parliament and government, judges, prosecutors, police officers, other public figures involved in acts of corruption, money laundering, crimes against the state and society,” she said.

Other participants in public consultations also pleaded against limiting access to information. Nina Lozan, President of the Lawyers’ Union, drew attention to the fact that when journalists want to go to a court hearing, they need to know the details of the case in advance. And since a person is part of a court case, they already are a public subject, so the publication of their names is not a violation of their privacy. “File search by name and surname, according to lawyers, is not a violation of the law on protection of personal data,” said Nina Lozan.

At the consultations, Minister Vladimir Cebotari explained the safest, in his opinion, mechanism to avoid restricting access to personal data: “First, we created the Electronic Case File module. Second, we ask that all participants in the act of justice have the option to register in that module and have access to the electronic case files. Third, this tool will provide a search engine on all case files. And four, if a person wants to access personal data from any lawsuit in any court, the person that is not registered in the module has only to register as an operator at the National Centre for Protection of Personal Data, and there will be no limitation,” the Minister of Justice explained.

It was the first round of public discussions on this topic. For 15 days, interested persons can come up with more proposals of solutions to this problem and send them to the Ministry of Justice. Then, there will be a second round of consultations, debating those proposals and reaching a consensus among all interested parties.