Poland's senate approves contentious court bill

Lucy Bush
July 23, 2017

Poland's president sees flaws in contentious legislation adopted by the Senate that gives politicians significant influence over the nation's Supreme Court, his spokesman said yesterday.

Poland's Supreme Court, its former presidents, the ombudsman, the Polish associations of judges have all denounced the bill as unconstitutional.

Two other bills on a key judicial body and on regular courts also await Duda's signature.

People protest against the proposed judicial legislation in Warsaw on July 20.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, contends the judiciary still works along a communist-era model and harbors many judges from that time.

An opinion poll for private television TVN showed on Friday that 55 percent of respondents said President Andrzej Duda should veto the overhaul of the judiciary, 29 percent said he should not veto it.

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European Union leaders have criticized the bill for impairing judicial independence and threatening the rule of law.

Poles took to the streets for another protest with parliament set to defy worldwide allies and mass opposition protests by pressing ahead with legislation giving the government more sway over the judiciary.

In anticipation of the vote, crowds gathered Friday night for yet another protest in front of the Supreme Court building in Warsaw and in some other cities.

This in turn could lead to Poland losing its voting rights in various European Union institutions. Thus, the government wants to get rid of the pathologies in the judicial system of the country. The article allows the union to pursue sanctions against a member state if that country is said to be committing fundamental rights violations. The bill was not subject to any public consultation and was passed by the lower chamber just nine days after it was first submitted.

Once the legislation passes in the Senate, where PiS has a majority, the bill will go to President Duda, a PiS ally, for final approval.

Duda won election as a Law and Justice member but has left the party in accord with Poland's tradition of a nonpartisan presidency.

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After more than 15 hours of debate, the upper house of the Polish parliament approved its judicial reform bill which Brussels has warned might cost Warsaw certain rights in the European Council.

A senior aide to Duda, Krzysztof Szczerski, said Tusk should instead focus on explaining Poland's stance in Brussels. Only the country's president now stands in the way of what critics have called a move to authoritarianism.

We remain confident about the strength of Poland's democracy and the ability of Poles to address these issues through dialogue and compromise to ensure Poland's democratic institutions and system of checks and balances are fully functioning and respected.

Since coming into power in 2015, the PiS has sought to tighten government influence over courts, and brought prosecutors and state media under direct government control.

Public protests are planned for Thursday evening.

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Other reports by Info About Network

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