Agnès Buzyn, predecessor of Olivier Véran at the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, was summoned Friday, September 10 by the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR). At the end of this hearing, the former minister was indicted by magistrates of the CJR for “endangering the lives of others”, for his role at the head of the ministry until February 2020.
The first personality to be implicated in this vast case, Mr.me Buzyn was also placed under the more favorable status of assisted witness for “Voluntary abstention from fighting a disaster”.
What is Agnès Buzyn criticized for?
In July 2020, the Court opened an investigation into the government’s management of the health crisis after having found nine complaints against it admissible. The administration’s lack of anticipation when Ms Buzyn was Minister of Health, from May 2017 to February 2020, is mainly questioned. The indictment of the former minister was envisaged for two reasons: “Voluntary abstention from fighting a disaster” and “endangering the life of others”. This last ground of accusation is based on Decree 2017-1076 “relating to the powers of the Minister of Solidarity and Health”, signed by Mme Buzyn on May 24, 2017.
He is pointing out that “The Minister of Solidarity and Health develops and implements (…) the rules relating to the health protection policy against the various risks likely to affect it ”. Wanting precisely to determine through its investigation whether the minister had knowingly concealed the shortage of masks, the Court of Justice of the Republic has accumulated more than sixty volumes of documents on the action of the administration of Mme Buzyn facing the arrival of the pandemic. This one had a time declared that the wearing of the mask was “Totally unnecessary” for non-contaminated.
Agnès Buzyn left her post on February 16, 2020 to begin her electoral campaign in the municipal elections in Paris, knowing of the deplorable health situation in the country. In interviews given to Figaro and at France Inter at the same period, the former minister had denied being aware of the dangerousness of Covid-19. She expressed that she had only one “Intuition” the seriousness of the virus, adding that at one week before the municipal elections, “All the experts we heard on the sets were still saying that it was going to be a grippette”. A false claim, the major world medical authorities having alerted governments in January 2020.
Investigation against Olivier Véran and Edouard Philippe
The reason for the accusation of “voluntary abstention from fighting a disaster” also targets the former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, and the current Minister of Solidarity and Health, Olivier Véran. For the latter, who should be summoned in the coming weeks, the CJR is investigating to determine whether, as for his predecessor, he knowingly concealed the shortage of masks. He also said that the masks were not essential and that only health professionals should equip them.
Since the opening of the investigation in July 2020, more than 14,500 complaints have been filed. Some of these complaints were deemed admissible and joined to the investigation, according to François Molins, attorney general near the Court of Cassation.
For his part, Edouard Philippe had defended himself from accusations accusing him of having underestimated the danger. “If we had not taken this health event seriously, I would not have organized a meeting in January” or “Made heavy decisions”, he had declared in March on the set of France 2.
What is the Court of Justice of the Republic?
Created following the constitutional law of July 27, 1993 under François Mitterrand, the CJR is the only competent body to investigate acts committed by ministers and secretaries of state during their mandate and the exercise of their functions. Its creation was intended, through a wanted justice as “Impartial”, to fill the loopholes of the High Court, then composed of parliamentarians and considered too lax with regard to members of the government.
The CJR is made up of fifteen judges: twelve parliamentarians, six elected by the National Assembly and six elected by the Senate as well as three magistrates sitting at the Court of Cassation. It is one of these three who chairs the CJR. It can be seized by any person, whether French or foreign, who considers himself the victim of a crime or an offense committed by a member of the government during the exercise of his functions.
Since its creation, the body has pronounced judgment against eight ministers and two secretaries of state. She notably distinguished herself by condemning, in 2004, Michel Gillibert, who was Secretary of State for the Disabled between 1988 and 1993, to three years’ suspended imprisonment, a fine of 20,000 euros and a five-year ban on voting rights and eligibility for “fraud to the detriment of the State”.
More recently, in March 2021, the former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur was acquitted of the charges of concealment of misuse of corporate assets, in the case of the secret financing of his presidential campaign of 1995. On the other hand, she condemned, in the same case, François Léotard, then minister of defense, to two years suspended sentence and 100,000 euros fine for complicity.
In addition to the investigation into the management of the health crisis, the current Keeper of the Seals, Eric Dupond-Moretti, was indicted by the Court of Justice of the Republic for illegal taking of interests, a first in France for a minister of justice.
However, the body is now facing the same criticism as the High Court, its ancestor. Apart from the slowness of its procedures, its decisions are considered unconvincing and the convictions too weak. If the ministers are tried by the CJR, their advisers are judged by ordinary justice, giving rise to two-tier justice. Its removal has been mentioned many times. François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron both wanted to remove it, arguing that these facts should be judged by ordinary criminal courts.