The Romanian Parliament approved changes to the criminal code in unusually swift fashion this week, overhauling abuse-of-power legislation that critics say will have damaging and long-lasting effects on the rule of law in the country, a New York Times comment posted on July 5 reads.
(…) The legislative change comes a little more than a year after the passage of an emergency ordinance that effectively decriminalized low-level corruption, drawing the largest protests in Romania since the fall of Communism in 1989. The government backed down to public pressure then, but it has continued to pursue policies that would rein in the powers of the courts and prosecutors by other means.
Under the new laws, prosecutors would need to prove that defendants abused power for their own benefit, or for that of a close relative. In addition, any case involving less than the equivalent of $475, the minimum monthly wage, would be exempt from criminal prosecution; maximum jail sentences for abuse of office would be lowered to five years from seven; and convicts older than 60 would serve only one-third of their sentences.
Hundreds of abuse-of-office cases, some involving high-ranking politicians, are making their way through Romania’s courts, and they would most likely be affected by the new measures. They could have immediate implications for one case in particular: that of Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the governing Social Democratic Party, and the speaker of the lower house of Parliament.
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