Starting in January 2017, the Romanian Parliament initiated public deliberations on Draft Law no. 17/2014 on the amnesty of certain criminal offenses and educational punishments (the "Law"). The Law has the intention of improving the conditions of inmates in Romanian prisons in accordance with the standards imposed by the European Court of Human Rights ("ECHR").
Romania faces fines from the Council of Europe if it does not comply with ECHR Pilot Judgement of 25 April 2017 1 and draft a schedule of proposed measures.
The Law provides that all criminal offences with punishments of up to five years are granted complete amnesty and that criminal offenses carried out by pregnant women or by persons who are the sole guardian of a minor are granted amnesty with half of the applied punishment.
The amnesty, however, does not apply to a wide range of severe criminal offenses such as attempts at a person's life or assets, abuse of office or conflict of interest. Moreover, the Law provides that the amnesty applies only if the criminal offender completely covers the damages caused to the aggrieved party.
The Law raised concerns following highly controversial amendments proposed during deliberations in the Senate; namely attempts to grant amnesty for corruption offenses. However, these amendments have not been approved by the Senate, which passed the Law tacitly according to article 75 (2) of the Romanian Constitution as the deadline of sixty days to decide on the Law had expired. Therefore, the Law has been sent to the Chamber of Deputies for a deciding vote.
The Law has already sparked significant opposition, and received a negative review from the Superior Council of Magistrates. The main critics highlight the fact that no serious impact studies have been conducted to identify alternative ways of improving the conditions in Romanian prisons and that other reeducation methods should be considered.
The actual impact of the Law remains to be determined, although the eagerness of Parliament to promote this debatable law appears to have reduced considerably.