Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Supreme Court shake-up stirs protests in Poland

Poland is on the verge of forcing nearly half its Supreme Court judges out Thousands Protest In Poland Over Supreme Court Purge
Glenn Montgomery | 07 July, 2018, 03:48

Anti-government protesters are rallying in front of Poland's Supreme Court in Warsaw to show support for the rule of law and for the court's president, who is being forced to retire under a new judicial overhaul.

Supreme Court justices last Thursday endorsed Gersdorf's right to keep her post in line with a constitutional provision mandating a six-year term for the chief justice.

Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, in a heated showdown, branded the controversial Supreme Court reform lowering the retirement age of its judges from 70 to 65 as a "purge".

The law, introduced earlier this year by the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS), would not only force the instant dismissal of 27 of the 74 judges, but would also expand the court to 120 judges.

Mass protests erupted in Poland last summer over new judicial laws, with numerous same Poles who opposed communism three decades ago taking to the streets.

Malgorzata Gersdorf insisted Tuesday that her term runs until 2020, as guaranteed by the constitution. The judge, very critical of Government of Law and Justice (PiS), has become a symbol of resistance to rush of executive, says PiS is trying to consecrate a single party government and that is undertaking measures " Frightening "to" intimidate "judges who oppose.

European Union officials and global human rights groups have expressed alarm, alleging the moves represent an erosion of judicial independence that violates Western standards and a reversal for democracy in Poland.

"Each EU state has the right to shape their legal system according to their own traditions", Prime Minister Morawiecki told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

"We're here to express our concerns about the situation, about the independence of judges, independence of the Supreme Court", Sterk told reporters.

In the debate that was to be dedicated to Europe's future, Morawiecki also got support from some who backed Warsaw's arguments that an overreaching European Union was meddling in a sovereign state's internal affairs.

The law is the culmination of the ruling populist Law and Justice party's efforts to put Poland's entire court system under its control, a plan it began almost three years ago.

On Monday, the European Union launched legal action against Poland relating to the law, the latest salvo in a bitter battle over judicial changes critics have decried as unconstitutional.

Warsaw says the changes are needed to free the judiciary of communist-era thinking and practices.

On Monday, the European Commission announced it was formally notifying the Polish government of the launching of a so-called infringement procedure over the mass dismissals. There will be a period of concerted opposition but, as one source told me, the head of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, believes he can live with it.

Judges in Poland are "experiencing political pressure" in connection with the judicial reforms, according to Amnesty International.

Tens of thousands of Poles have protested the judicial reforms and attempts to tighten Poland's already strict abortion law, among other causes.

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