Romania’s Chamber of Deputies adopted on Wednesday, April 24, two sets of changes to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code that raised many controversies in the last year.
Some of the most important changes voted by the MPs include lower penalties for abuse of office, total disincrimination for negligence in office, and lower prescription periods for some offenses, according to Digi24.ro. Another change is that people with knowledge of a crime can only make denouncements within a year while currently there is no time limit for denouncing a crime.
The voted amendments also forbid public communication related to ongoing investigations and trials. This change would ban local media from informing the public about investigations targeting public officials and the charges against them. Moreover, representatives of the public authorities will no longer be allowed to refer to suspects or indicted people as if they were guilty before a final conviction.
The amendments were drafted by a special parliamentary committee led by former justice minister Florin Iordache (PSD). The Senate voted the two bills last week.
The changes to the criminal code and criminal procedure code passed the Chamber of Deputies with 180 votes for and some 80 votes against. The ruling coalition made of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) needed a minimum of 165 votes to pass these bills. They only had 156 votes but most of the MPs representing the Hungarian Democratic Union (UDMR) and national minorities also voted for the two laws.
The main opposition parties, the National Liberal Party (PNL) and Save Romania Union (USR), voted against the bills and announced they would challenge them at the Constitutional Court.
The ruling coalition also passed the two bills changing the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code in 2018 but the Constitutional Court ruled that a significant part of the amendments included in each bill were unconstitutional (read more here and here). The opposition and president Klaus Iohannis urged the ruling parties to take into account the Venice Commission’s opinion on the proposed changes before trying to pass them again.
PSD insisted that the amendments that were not rejected by the Constitutional Court should be passed by emergency ordinance, but justice minister Tudorel Toader refused to promote the ordinances. As a result, PSD withdrew political support for Toader and forced him to resign.
(Photo source: Inquam Photos / George Calin)
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