Observers Grow Worried at Poland’s Targeting of Judiciary

Observers Grow Worried at Poland’s Targeting of Judiciary

The upper chamber of the Polish Parliament agreed Saturday on legislation that critics assert will destroy the independent judiciary in the country. The legislation was a priority of the right wing Law and Justice Party, with Jaroslaw Kacynski, a co-founder and head of the party, stating that “the issue of courts must be completed” before a summer recess.

The act had already receive approval in the lower house of Poland’s Parliament.

Under the new legislation, lawmakers appoint members of the National Council of the Judiciary, which draws up and enforces ethical guidelines for judges, reviews judicial candidates and seeks opinions on new rules and regulations to ensure they are constitutional.

Another draft law calls for the retirement of all Supreme Court judges and new appointments to be made by the justice minister, and reorganization of its work. Among the court’s tasks is confirming the validity of elections and ruling on especially difficult cases.

Five former presidents of the Constitutional Court now warn that the adoption of the laws will abolish the independence of the courts and ” permanently destroy the status of the Republic of Poland as a democratic state.” The Supreme Court is the last influential, still independent institution of the judiciary. At the beginning of 2017, President Małgorzata Gersdorf called on all Polish judges to oppose unlawful action by the government and President Andrzej Duda.

Since its inception, the Pis government has issued a number of legally questionable or unconstitutional laws, such as the removal of the independence of a National Media Council, the interception of police and secret services, changes in criminal law, and the Constitutional Court. The law on the transformation of the judiciary and the draft Supreme Court are, according to experts, not only contrary to the constitutional law of the Poland, but also contradict international law.

From December 2015 to August 2016 , the Constitutional Court declared several of the new government’s laws unconstitutional. But Prime Minister Beata Szydło refused to publish these judgments in the bill – a constitutional break that no one dared to do since the founding of the Polish Constitutional Court in 1986 , not even the Communists.

 

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