Protests take place in Romania’s biggest cities against new changes to justice laws

Big protests take place this evening (Sunday, November 5) in Romania’s capital Bucharest and other big cities against a series of new changes to the justice laws.

Thousands have confirmed on Facebook that they would join the protests. The main opposition parties, the National liberal party (PNL) and the Save Romania Union (USR) as well as former prime minister Dacian Ciolos’s Romania 100 civic movement also said they supported the protests and that they would join the protesters in the street.

Hundreds of protesters started gathering in Bucharest’s Victoriei Square, in front of the Government’s building, after 6 PM. At 7 PM, they started marching towards the Constitutiei Square to protests in front of the Parliament’s Palace. Over 12,000 people took part in the march, according to sources from the Romanian Gendarmerie quoted by state news agency Agerpres and public television TVR. Other sources indicated up to 20,000 protesters.

Former PM Dacian Ciolos, former health minister Vlad Voiculescu, and former justice minister Raluca Pruna were spotted among the protesters. Several PNL leaders were also present in the crowd.

The protests were organized under the slogan “We don’t want to be a nation of thieves! (Nu vrem sa fim o natie de hoti!)”.

These new protests come as the Parliament is currently debating a series of new changes to the justice laws, some of which may limit justice independence and impact the fight against corruption.

A draft project sent to the Parliament by justice minister Tudorel Toader aims to remove the President from the appointment of the country’s top prosecutors and to bring the Judicial Inspection, which investigates local magistrates’ misconduct, under the justice minister’s authority.

President Klaus Iohannis, the European Commission as well as thousands of judges and prosecutors in Romania expressed their worries about these changes that may bring justice under political control.

MPs of the governing Social Democratic Party (PSD) said they would bring significant changes to the justice minister’s project. It’s not yet certain what those changes will look like.

Earlier this week, the Senate’s judicial committee issued a negative opinion on a draft law aiming to bar people with criminal convictions from becoming president of Romania.

Meanwhile, former justice minister Florin Iordache, who leads a special parliamentary committee for changing the justice legislation, again stated that he wanted a “modest” threshold under which abuse of office would not be considered a crime.

At the end of January, while he was justice minister, Iordache initiated an emergency ordinance that aimed to change the criminal code and set a RON 200,000 limit under which abuse of office would not be incriminated. The ordinance, which was approved in a late cabinet meeting, triggered the biggest protests in Romania’s recent history. As a result of those protests, the Sorin Grindeanu Government repealed that ordinance and Iordache resigned.

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