Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled on July 29 that controversial changes to the country’s criminal code were unconstitutional. The court’s ruling follows street protests on July 27 by thousands of Romanians angry at the failure of the country’s authorities to prevent the brutal rape and murder of a teenage girl.
Protesters argued that the apparent mishandling of the case showed that changes to judicial legislation had weakened the state’s ability to fight crime.
The changes, made by the ruling PSD, included shortening the statute of limitations for corruption offences and some other crimes, a move that would automatically shut down a number of corruption cases, shorten prison terms, and decriminalise negligence in the workplace.
The changes have been opposed by EU, the US state department and thousands of local magistrates in Romania.
[…] This crackdown on the rule of law resulted in an all-time low in relations with not just Brussels, but other partners. “We are deeply concerned about the integrity of Romania’s justice system, which has been buffeted by unpredictable modifications that do not further Romania’s efforts to consolidate judicial progress,” the embassies of Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the US said in a joint statement on April 4, with the European Commission also threatening Article 7 procedures, something that would have been an unprecedented step taken against a country holding the EU presidency. Despite the criticism, pro-government MPs approved the bill, later vetoed by the country’s constitutional court. […]