International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Women Committed to Ending Impunity in Post-Soviet Romania

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Laura Codruta Kovesi, the chief prosecutor of Romania’s anti-corruption authority, the DNA, speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Bucharest, Romania.

This past year, an astonishing number of young female judges and prosecutors have come together to right a past wrong: the communist-era Romanian justice system. According to the Associated Press, it “was a man’s domain—which shielded fellow men in the ruling elite” from prosecution. Turning a blind eye caused Romania to become a hotbed of “corruption and patronage.”

However, following the emergence of capitalism and democracy in the 1990s, these gender roles began to switch. Instead of continuing to work “poorly paid” government jobs, men began to gravitate towards more lucrative careers in business. As a result, currently “60% of Romania’s prosecutor’s and judges are women.”

This movement, deemed the “feminization of the justice system,” started with the appointment of Laura Codruta Kovesi to prosecutor general in 2006. She is responsible for “spearheading [the] anti-corruption fight that fearlessly goes after some of Romania’s most powerful figures.” As a result, the anti-corruption office has announced a record of 1,051 convictions, including various corrupt government officials and former commanders, who committed war crimes. In the past nine years, women like Kovesi that have only started to address the impunity problems that, according to the article, went hand-in-hand with the masculine, communist society.

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2 responses to “Women Committed to Ending Impunity in Post-Soviet Romania

  1. samdawg94 April 22, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    The fact that 60% of women hold judicial positions in Romania after a male-dominated justice system in the Communist era is truly astounding. It is interesting, and logical, that to fight the impunity problem in Romania, the country replaced many of its top judicial officials with women (presumably not the perpetrators). This relates to our discussion in class about ways to stop impunity, and one of the ways to do this is to remove perpetrators from the political discussion altogether. Laura Codruta, the prosecutor general, seems to be very aware of this tactic. It is intentional.

    My initial reaction to the fact that women so quickly took over power in the judicial system was the question: is the stark transition from the male justice system to the “feminization of the justice system” a form of symbolic reparation? It seemed to be too quick and too sweeping of a change. Yet the country is now recognizing that the Communist regime was also very misogynistic, and this was no coincidence.

    Although the “feminization of the justice system” was intentional and arguably very intelligent, this a rare occurrence. In many of the cases we have studied in class, impunity remained a problem in the country because perpetrators stayed in command. For example, in Rwanda, the Tutsis are in control of the government. Although they were technically “victims” of the genocide, it is undeniable that Tutsis and the government committed crimes, and should probably be prosecuted for them. Yet this almost certainly will not transpire, for the Tutsi government would neither prosecute their own people nor risk instability in the country. The uniqueness of the change in Romania makes it very intriguing and impressive.

  2. daniel2533 April 26, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    The argument that the feminization of the justice system in Romania can serve as a form of reparation is intriguing, to be sure. I wonder, however, whether reparations should necessarily seek to amend a wrong caused by an extremity of opinion or worldview by substituting another extremity in its place. Should reparations not seek an equilibrium?

    To be clear, it is certainly astounding that 60% of Romania’s prosecutors and judges are women. This is astounding in the historical and cultural sense, but should not necessarily be cause for celebration in the judicial sense. A judiciary should, like all forms and branches of legitimate government, reflect the diversity of a populace. If men where shielded from prosecution in the past, it need not be the job of women and it need not take a “feminization of the justice system” to fight such a systemic and rampant acceptance of impunity. The key to fighting impunity in Romania is not genderizing the judiciary in one way or another–such a notion is surely an extrapolation of liberalism that should have no place in discussions of justice. What Romania should focus on is the pool of candidates from which seats in the judiciary are filled–it should focus on education of past wrongs and the proper education of those aiming to be judges and prosecutors. It should not focus on strange and simple solutions like genderization that do not reflect society as a whole.

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