Friday, November 16, 2007

US ambassador to Romania says draft laws would weaken fight against corruption

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 15, 2007

BUCHAREST, Romania: The U.S. ambassador to Romania on Thursday criticized several draft laws that he said would weaken the country's fight against corruption and be a setback for democratic reforms, sentiments British officials in Bucharest said they shared.

Nicholas Taubman, who spoke at a conference dedicated to the strengthening of Romania's civil society, focused his remarks on proposed amendments to the criminal code and the criminal code procedure. The changes would require police to notify a suspect before conducting a search and to set a limit of six months for criminal investigations.

It is a "law that would make it nearly impossible for police to conduct a search without notifying the suspect first, for instance, in a drug case. That is a bad law. ... Few mafia dons would have ever been arrested and convicted under those terms of reference," he told delegates at the conference. No date has been set for the bills to be voted on in parliament.

There has been criticism in the past that criminal investigations can drag on for years without charges being brought, and lawmakers argue that setting a limit would oblige authorities to speed up investigations.

However, Taubman cautioned that "Romanian and international experts have expressed concern that the proposed amendments, if enacted in law, would represent a real setback in Romania's efforts to fight many types of serious crime and corruption," he said. "We share the concerns of the U.S. government.... about the amendments which would diminish the ability of Romanian authorities to investigate people who are suspected of taking part in widespread crime," the British Embassy said in a statement, adding such amendments could harm British-Romanian efforts in cooperating to fight crime.

Romania, which threw off communism in 1989, joined the European Union on Jan. 1. It is ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the bloc, according to anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

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