BRUSSELS - The European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday (30 November) decided to waive the diplomatic immunity of its Romanian member, Corneliu Birsan, whose wife is being investigated for corruption.
Following a request from Romanian prosecutors, who had already searched a villa of the Birsan couple, the Strasbourg court decided to split Birsan's immunity and only waive the part that applies to his wife, Gabriela, "to the extent strictly necessary for the conduct of the investigation."
Gabriela Birsan, a judge in Romania's supreme court, is being investigated for allegedly taking bribes, including jewellery and expensive trips abroad, in exchange for favourable verdicts.
Mid-October, prosecutors obtained a waiver of her national immunities from Romania's top magistrate council and subsequently searched one of the Birsans' homes. Her husband promptly invoked his diplomatic status as a judge with the European Court of Human Rights to block the inquiry. The court initially backed him and expressed its "concern" for not having been consulted on waiving his privileges.
The waiver does not apply to the Strasbourg judge himself, nor does it have a "retroactive effect", meaning that evidence gathered during the house search cannot be considered legal. It is unclear whether prosecutors will be able to search any of their joint property or bank accounts.
"We take note of the court's ruling. Our prosecutor dealing with the case is now analysing how to proceed further," a spokeswoman for the Romanian anti-corruption office told this website.
Romania's anti-corruption efforts are being closely monitored by the European Commission. Its report in February on this issue will be the main argument for the Netherlands to keep or lift its veto on Bucharest joining the border-free Schengen area.