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New Justice Decrees Reignite Romania’s Anti-Corruption Protests

Photo: Alexandru Busca/Inquam Photos

New Justice Decrees Reignite Romania’s Anti-Corruption Protests

New government decrees that pose a threat to institutions investigating corruption brought thousands of Romanians onto the streets on Sunday.

Romanians took to the streets in several cities across the country on Sunday evening to protest against new justice decrees passed by the Social Democrat-led government that they say undermine several anti-corruption institutions.

Under the name “Repeal it and leave!”, the protests took place in the capital, Bucharest, but also in the towns of Cluj, Sibiu, Timisoara, Brasov and others.


Photo: Alexandru Busca/Inquam Photos


Photo: George Calin/Inquam Photos

Several politicians from the newly formed opposition alliance, comprising the Save Romania Union and former prime minister Dacian Ciolos’ PLUS, also joined the protest.

Romanians took to the streets again after Justice Minister Tudorel Toader last Tuesday announced a new decree changing the rules on naming top prosecutors.

It also boosted the power of a newly established special department that investigates magistrates, widely seen as subordinated to the ruling party.


Photo: George Calin/Inquam Photos


Photo: Alexandru Busca/Inquam Photos

The decree, which had not been flagged on the cabinet meeting agenda, has outraged magistrates, concerned that many important investigations will be blocked, but also the Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis.

The European Commission has said in a statement that it is following developments with concern.

On Friday hundreds of prosecutors protested in front of courts across the country.


Photo: Alexandru Busca/Inquam Photos

They also announced that they plan to suspend their legal activity next week, and will follow the Polish protest model and only attend trials for urgent cases which involve arrests.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Toader on Thursday night said he plans to start procedures to replace Attorney General Augustin Lazar, whose mandate ends in April.

Toader asked the President in September 2018 to fire Lazar, seen as an obstacle to the current government, accusing him of abuse of office based on an internal investigation conducted by the ministry. President Iohannis refused to dismiss Lazar.


Photo: Alexandru Busca/Inquam Photos

Since it came to power in December 2016, Romania’s Social Democrat-led government has been targeting institutions deemed central to the fight against corruption in the country, including the powerful National Anti-Corruption Directorate.

In July 2018, the President was obliged by the Constitutional Court to fire the well regarded chief anti-graft prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi, despite being a symbol of the fight against corruption in the country.

During her tenure, since 2012, the anti-corruption agency prosecuted hundreds of politicians, business people, local officials, and even former prime minister Victor Ponta.


A group of protesters holding a “Thank you” banner, as magistrates stage a silent protest at the Bucharest court house on Friday, February 22, 2019. Photo: Octav Ganea/Inquam Photos

Many members of the ruling Social Democrat Party, including its chief Liviu Dragnea, received sentences for corruption offences.

The push by the Social Democrats to bring down Kovesi and her agency, as well as to change justice laws and weaken the powers of the prosecutors, have triggered the country’s largest protests since the fall of the communist regime.

Ana Maria Luca