Romania: Parliament Exempts Members from Corruption Charges
The Romanian parliament has exempted certain members of parliament and other high-ranking government figures from graft and corruption charges, drawing criticism from international organizations and embassies, reports HotNews.ro
According to the EUobserver, the new amendments will prevent senators, members of parliament, the Romanian president, and lawyers from facing charges of bribery, conflict of interest, abuse of office and other corruption charges by no longer defining these figures as "public officials." Members of government who have already been convicted of corruption charges could be exonerated.
Citing the Council of Europe’s 2002 Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and the 2004 United Nations' Convention on Corruption, the Romanian anti-corruption prosecutor's office said that the proposed changes in Romanian law are “in flagrant contradiction with the international agreements Romania has ratified.”
The conventions require signatories to define and explicitly address corruption among public figures, reports the EUobserver.
According to the EUobserver, the changes in the law were also “snap amendments, voted without parliamentary debate.”
The United States embassy in Romania criticized the amendments, which they said were a step back for Romanian transparency and rule of law. The embassy added, “It is very discouraging that these revisions were passed with no consultation, no debate, and no opportunity for judicial authorities or civil society to respond to the proposed amendments,” reports HotNews.ro.
According to EUobserver, Romanian president Traian Basescu has also expressed concern over the amendments, saying they are regressive. Noting that they would also apply to him, he remarked, "I thank them for thinking about me, but I don't need it."
The proposed changes would, according to Romania’s ethics board for judges and prosecutors, "basically exonerate" the president from criminal charges.
The amendments still need to be signed by the Romanian president to become enacted law, and Basescu has said he would send them back to parliament for revision. However, Basescu can only contest the law once and parliament is not obligated to heed his challenge, reports the EUobserver.
According to HotNews.ro, media outlets marked Tuesday, the day the amendments were passed by parliament, "The Black Tuesday" of Romanian democracy.