Bucharest, Romania: Hundreds of Romanian judges demonstrated in major cities on Friday, and prosecutor’s offices decided to suspend work to protest against a government decree they say threatens judicial independence.
Around 200 prosecutors and judges were applauded in Bucharest as they walked in silence to the Court of Appeals, with onlookers calling out, “We support you” and “Don’t give in.”
The movement was triggered by a decree adopted Monday by the Social-Democratic (PSD) government that changes rules for nominating various categories of judges and reinforces a new disciplinary jurisdiction.
“The rule of law is more than threatened, it is at risk of collapsing,” prosecutor Radu Budurica from Caras-Severin, southwestern Romania said.
The new decree could “paralyse prosecutor’s work, and that is unacceptable,” Bucharest judge Georgiana Flutus told AFP.
Several prosecutor’s offices said they would suspend work starting Monday for three to seven days.
The government has also clashed several times in recent months with EU officials who are alarmed by what they see as repeated attempts to undermine the independence of the Romanian judiciary.
PSD lawmakers have tried for two years to overhaul the judiciary, citing “abuses” by magistrates.
The decree also puts pressure on center-right Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to name Adina Florea as head of the National Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (DNA) in place of Laura Codruta Kovesi, who was dismissed from the post in July.
Under Kovesi’s watch, hundreds of elected officials were convicted of corruption offences, earning her the enmity of many in Romania’s political class and criticism that she had overstepped her mandate.
On his Facebook account, President Iohannis said the government was “obsessed (about) weakening the justice system until it is no longer effective.”
Romania should not be allowed to be run by people “who want to place justice under political control”, he added.
The judges also called for the suspension of a special panel of magistrates set up just four months ago despite fierce criticism by EU experts.
The panel has opened an investigation of Kovesi and launched a probe against the EU Commission’s deputy president Frans Timmermans and Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova for alleged abuse of office and making false statements about Romania.
Image: Magistrates protest as they stand in front of the Court of Appeal, on February 22, 2019, in Bucharest, Romania.