The Romanian Justice Minister Florin Iordache made the law on amnesty and pardons a highlight of his first few weeks in office. He pleads for detailed analysis and thorough public discussion on the bill, the foremost argument in favour of which is that it would help reduce overcrowding in the penitentiary system. The Justice Minister together with the Prosecutor General of Romania, Augustin Lazar, and the head of the Anti-Corruption Directorate, Laura Codruta Kovesi, examined the topic.
Here is Florin Iordache, with a statement at the end of that meeting: “Frankly put, when there is not enough room in a house, there are only two solutions: you either build a new house, or kick someone out of the old one. So until we have finalised these talks on whether or not such a law is a good option, it would be nonsensical to talk about whether or not to pass legislation in this respect.”
In turn, the heads of the two judicial institutions were clearly against endorsing a law on amnesty and pardons. Here is Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar: “We are in charge of fighting crime, we have our priorities, such as combating corruption, recovering the proceeds of crime, and so on, which is the very goal of criminal prosecution and is the job that prosecutors are paid for.”
President Klaus Iohannis is on the same side in this debate. Known for his generally balanced views, the President was rather blunt in his statements on this particular topic, made in the presence of Minister Iordache, at a meeting of the Higher Council of Magistrates last week. Iohannis says this law might threaten democracy itself and he will do everything his position allows, to oppose it. According to the head of state, enacting an amnesty and pardon bill would undermine the rule of law and push Romania away from the European and Euro-Atlantic values.
He went even further and said: “Such an endeavour, a law on amnesty and pardons, which would not only clear the records of offenders that might be dangerous for other people and for society at large, but would also allow politicians to get away with breaking the law, would be a disaster for Romanian democracy.”
Many fear that penitentiary overcrowding, a genuine problem in Romania, which is far from meeting the relevant EU standards, is a perfect pretext for setting free influential people, politicians in particular, who were sent behind bars in recent years as a result of a sustained anti-corruption campaign.
(Translated by Ana maria Popescu)