BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to Romania on Monday issued a stark warning to the country, claiming its justice system is being "dismantled" by lawmakers with "vested interests."
Hans G. Klemm told law students that magistrates were being intimidated and "increasingly targeted politically, and in the media for court decisions and public opinions that political leaders see as endangering their private interests."
Romanians have staged regular protests against legislative changes initiated by the left-wing government after they won election in 2016, saying they will make it harder to prosecute high-level corruption.
Klemm said the contentious judicial overhaul risked turning back the clock "to the early 2000s, when the Romanian judiciary was plagued by corruption and political influence."
He said if the laws go through, it would make prosecution of crimes such as murder and complex organized crime much harder and "significantly reduce" international law enforcement cooperation meaning "less accountability, more criminality."
He said criminal code and criminal procedure code amendments passed by Parliament this summer "cloaked in the mantle of concern for due process and human rights" also undermined earlier progress.
There was no immediate government reaction to Klemm's comments, but members of Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party say judges and prosecutors have too much power and claim there are instances of people illegally convicted on false evidence.
Monday's comments are the latest expression of concern from Romania's Western allies. The European Parliament will discuss the country's latest judicial reforms on Wednesday in the presence of Romanian Premier Viorica Dancila. Parliament will then vote on a resolution on Nov. 1.
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