March 5, 2019 / 5:16 PM / 2 months ago

Romanian magistrates unsatisfied by partial rollback of judicial changes

BUCHAREST, March 5 (Reuters) - Romanian magistrates who have launched a protest against modifications of the judicial system they say threaten the rule of law dismissed a partial rollback of the changes on Tuesday as insufficient.

Many Romanian magistrates have halted work arguing cases as part of a protest against the changes, which were made by the cabinet in an emergency decree in February that sparked street demonstrations.

The decree altered the way prosecutors are appointed and supervised, part of what critics of the governing Social Democrats say is a two-year campaign to exert pressure on the judicial system, undermining the rule of law.

On Tuesday, the cabinet issued a new decree, rolling back the February decree’s changes to the way chief prosecutors are appointed. But it stopped short of fulfilling another demand of magistrates: to restore the prosecutor general’s oversight of a prosecuting unit tasked with investigating magistrates.

The European Commission and foreign diplomats have said that the unit could be used to intimidate magistrates.

“The Council unanimously gave a negative notice to the draft emergency decree to ... modify some justice laws,” the magistrates’ watchdog, the Superior Magistrates’ Council, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said the changes had been previously discussed with magistrates.

Transparency International ranks Romania as one of the European Union’s most corrupt countries and the European Commission keeps its justice system under special monitoring. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie Editing by Peter Graff)

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