[JURIST] Romania’s Superior Magistrates’ Council [official webcite] on Monday rejected 22 proposals that would have made it harder to fight top-level corruption. The proposals, developed by the governing Social Democratic Party [party website, in Romanian], would have changed the law to make it harder to arrest lawmakers for corruption-related offenses including conflict of interest [EFOR backgrounder]. Although the decision is not binding, Justice Minister Robert Cazanciuc [MFA bio] said he intends to recommend that the Romanian Parliament [official website] refuse any such changes. The magistrates’ body’s decision comes in the wake of an announcement ten days ago that prosecutors suspect Premier Victor Ponta [BBC profile] of money laundering, forgery, tax evasion and conflict of interest.
Romania is one of the most corrupt nations in the EU, ranking [TI profile] 69 out of the 177 nations globally according to the watchdog group Transparency International. In April former Senior Judge Stan Mustata was sentenced [JURIST report] to over 10 years in prison for granting favorable verdicts to defendants in exchange for money. In January 2014 the European Commission released [JURIST report] its semi-annual Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report on Romania, warning the nation to end political pressure on the judiciary amid continuing concerns over corruption. In September 2013 Romanian prosecutors charged [JURIST report] Communist-era prison commander Alexander Visinescu with genocide. Visinescu, the former chief of the Ramnicu Sarat prison under Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu faces genocide charges for beating and starving political prisoners between 1956 and 1963, the height of Communist repression against dissidents. In January the Bucharest Appeals Court ruled [JURIST report] that a former Romanian defense ministry official can be extradited to the US on charges of trying to illegally export military equipment to Iran.