I had once the opportunity to collaborate directly with Judge Cristi Dănileț, at a debate organized by ELSA, Bucharest: „How do we read the CNSAS documents? Do historians need jurisprudence?”. The debate started with art. 253 paragraph. 1, respectively art. 163-165 of the (old) Penal Code, in particular the case of the conviction of the historian of religions Ioan Petru Culianu in 1974, two years after his leaving the country. We therefore met on 17 December, Stoicescu Hall of the Faculty of Law, University of Bucharest. In fact, the judge contributed a very substantial excursus on the subject. The debate was attended by researchers from the Romanian Academy (Institute of the History of Religions), CNSAS and Cristi Dănileț – judge, at that time member of the CSM [National Council of the Magistracy]. I was trying, at all costs, to understand whether Culianu’s conviction, handed down by a Military Tribunal in 1974, was correct given the Romanian-American trade agreements of 2 April 1974 as well as the agenda of the negotiations, which included humanitarian issues, more related to free movement and migration. The U.S. President called on Congress, and on April 24, 1974 he sent a legislative package that included granting the clause to Romania. In 1975 the US Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment and it was considered as a criterion for granting the clause, but I will not insist on this subject. It was just a pretext to open a debate and an evaluation of a conviction that deeply affected Culianu’s family, even the destiny of the historian of religions. After all, Culianu was assassinated first and foremost for his incisive views in support of an authentic democracy in Romania, not one that kills without legitimacy even its Archons, as he wrote in his essays published in the US exile magazines Agora and Lumea Libera.
Back to our prevailing subject, I first met Judge Dănileț at the Social Dialogue Group (GDS), at a conference, the most long-standing non-governmental organization, of which Ioan Petru Culianu was also an active member in its early days. Not only an NGO dedicated to monitoring democracy in Romania, but also the most serious representative of civil society. Thus, a pro-modernization organization of Romania, pro-civil rights, pro-values of the rule of law. I have never wondered, rightly, why a judge member of the CSM should feel an exception to the rule of law for having participated in the GDS events, given his strong voice to build and rule of law in the young democracy and modernization of the Romanian state. All the while, as a historian, I congratulated him for not remaining silent within the walls of his solicitous and difficult profession and mission at the CSM. After all, there were many of us who looked up to him and others like him, at the time, with the greatest admiration. Even his telephone, I believe, rang incessantly at the time, not to mention the journalists and media who courted him in view of his eloquence and firmness in expressing democratic values combined with justice reform(s). If the CSM was not the reform body and its members, then who could it have been?
Judge Cristi Dănileț was also sympathetic to us because of the idea of a justice disseminated in educational institutions, for several age categories, as he was an excellent communicator of the ideas and principles underlying a justice in the service of the citizen. Altogether, a clear, limpid, non-sophisticated voice, never trivializing the concepts he explained, always explaining what happens in the various stages of the reform process in the Romanian judicial system, both in the various media channels and on the special blog he ran. For those who appreciate learning to think by putting the law to heart, the magistrate also invented an application for young people – Law as a gift (“Lege în dar”) – very intuitive, loaded with basic information as well as a legal dictionary („dicționar de legaleză”), the first application of its kind, always in support of legal education for the younger generations.
Not being a judge, I could never go into the merits of his competence as a magistrate, at least to comment on the inspections to which he is systematically subjected as a judge. Nonetheless, I think that all the public competitions to enter the magistracy, as well as his work as judge enumerate many cases he has resolved. However, civil society looks above all to the widespread of democratic values and that is why we all think that he is being punished today, a real execution given his exclusion from the CSM, twice, for absolutely ridiculous reasons, which could never stand: a recording on TikTok, with no reason to be considered trivial, as well as his recognition by civil society, encouragement at times when colleagues in his own profession are putting him on his knees.
Let us recall the case of Judge Giovanni Falcone, who was totally marginalized by his colleagues, given that he was a candidate for the post of Chief Judge of the Anti-Mafia following the Maxi-trial of the Cosa Nostra, as well as President of the CSM, a post that was refused to him anyway. Because he had been left alone, first by his colleagues and his collaborators in the Anti-Mafia Department, then by the State, the road to his assassination had become open and, in fact, the Capaci massacre, 26 May 1992, followed. The endless amount of TNT on the road heading towards Palermo from the airport got him and his wife killed, along with part of his protection squad. Fifty-two days later, his friend and colleague, Paolo Borsellino, was assassinated in the so-called massacre in Via d’Ameglio, 19 July 1992. Bodies pulverized by TNT, he and his protection squad.
Death is not the same everywhere. One can be killed slowly, a “specialty” of south-eastern Europe: exclusion from the profession, minimizing the person’s activity and slandering the person, the guilty silence of all who know of the judge’s activities, the lack of means of subsistence, threats to the family, indirect invitations to leave the country, just as informally as millions have decided, or have been forced to do so, and so on. Then, it is not only Dănileț, there are others, among the best known being Camelia Bogdan, a judge with remarkable achievements in the judicial system, death threats against journalist Emilia Sercan and many other cases that are before our eyes. Is our democracy really heading in the right direction? Let us look at the various actors with resonant names acquitted, what happens to collaborators of justice in previous periods, what remains from the reform of justice in previous periods, the current appointments to the Constitutional Court and many other marks in the system! These are the elements that will build our history of democracy, alongside many others, of course.