Romania’s government moves to scrap contentious justice laws

Inquam Photos / Ilona Andrei

Romania’s government plans to undo the changes made to the justice system carried out by the previous government that were singled out for criticism as a threat to judicial independence in the EU report on the rule of law.

Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu on Wednesday presented draft legislation that would reverse the judicial reforms put in place by the  Social Democrat government that was in office from 2016 to 2019.

The proposals were unveiled the same day as the European Commission released its first EU Rule of Law Report on all 27 member states.

In the  report on Romania, the Commission criticized judicial reforms passed through emergency decrees by the Social Democrats as a major concern for judicial independence and the rule of law.

The draft legislation will be open to public debate until March 31, 2021, when the minority Liberal government hopes to have a majority following legislative elections in December.

The proposed modifications include dismantling a special department tasked with investigating wrongdoing of magistrates and prosecutors.

Judges’ associations and the European Commission say it can be used as a tool to put political pressure on the justice system.

The draft legislation also reinstates the president’s authority to veto the appointment of senior  prosecutors, which was scrapped by the previous government.

Prosecutors will also have the right to appeal their dismissal under the proposed changes.

The European Court of Human Rights censured Romania for dismissing chief prosecutor of National Anti-Corruption Directorate, Laura Codruta Kovesi who was critical of moves to undermine the justice system.

Hundreds of thousands of Romanians, the EU and the U.S> State Department protested the previous measures as a dilution of effort to fight graft.

Social Democrat chairman was sentenced to 3 ½ years in prison in May 2019 for official misconduct and in October the government was ousted in a no-confidence vote.


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