Romanian Gov’t Move Against Prosecutors Draws Criticism

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s government passed an emergency ordinance Monday requiring prosecutors in key agencies to have a greater number of years of professional activity — a move that prosecutors say would hamper current investigations and force some anti-corruption prosecutors from their jobs.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said chief prosecutors for the anti-corruption agency and the agency that investigates organized crime will need a minimum of 15 years’ experience, almost double the current requirement. Regular prosecutors at the agencies will need to have worked for at least 10 years, up from the current eight years. Analysts said some prosecutors will lose their jobs under the new regulation.

General Prosecutor Augustin Lazar said the measure would hamper many ongoing investigations, including a probe into Romania’s bloody 1989 anti-communist revolution and an investigation into the police’s response to an anti-corruption protest in August, which left 450 people needing medical treatment.

“It’s difficult to see how these cases will be finalized,” Lazar said, adding disrupting prosecutions could lead to the European Court of Human Rights making judgments against Romania.

Romania’s justice system remains under special monitoring by the European Union since corruption has been a long-running issue in the country.

The Public Ministry, which has authority over Romania’s courts and prosecutors’ offices, also criticized the measure, saying that it risked “blocking (prosecutions) and making it impossible to finalize very important cases. ”

But Premier Viorica Dancila praised the ordinance by her government, claiming it would make the justice system more efficient.

U.S. Ambassador Hans G. Klemm recently said Romania’s justice system was being “dismantled” by lawmakers with “vested interests.”

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