Polish Senate approves controversial Supreme Court reform bill

Marsha Scott
July 23, 2017

The reform of the Supreme Court, which supervises lower courts, still needs to be signed by President Andrzej Duda, himself from the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, to become law.

"Its leaders say the measure - which among other things, ousts the current Supreme Court judges - is aimed at reforming the judicial system and to ensure any vestiges of communism are purged".

Thousands have taken took to the streets in opposition to the proposed judicial changes in Poland, accusing Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law.

The measures require the signature of President Andrzej Duda, whose veto is becoming the last hope for opponents of the legislation.

If the new regulations come into law, they will force all of the Supreme Court's judges into retirement and give the president powers to choose who to reinstate.

Critics say the law kills judicial independence and threatens the rule of law.

Opposition supporters shout slogans and raise candles as they protest in front of the Supreme Court, seen in the background, against a law on court control in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, July 21, 2017.

European Union officials disagree, and if the Supreme Court measure goes into effect, it could trigger an effort in Brussels to strip Poland of its voting rights in decisions of the bloc - a never-invoked nuclear option.

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WARSAW-Poland is giving the government sweeping powers over its judiciary, a move that is rattling European Union leaders and USA diplomats but hasn't shifted voters much at home. The EU has criticized the legislation and has threatened to impose sanctions on Poland. Poland faces serious global consequences for politicizing courts, though nobody in Brussels wants to "assault" the country, he said when asked if the European Union is likely to impose sanctions.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo says the legislation is an internal matter and the government will not bow to any foreign pressure.

In addition to several thousand protesters across Poland, human rights groups and leaders in Europe condemned the recent moves by PiS to consolidate control as anti-democratic.

Tusk, former Polish prime minister, wrote in a statement Thursday that "Subjecting the court to one ruling party in the way that Law and Justice has proposed it will ruin already strained opinion on Poland's democracy". The bill passed 235-192 with 23 abstentions.

Poland's upper house of Parliament on Saturday passed a sweeping and controversial judicial bill despite massive nationwide protests and the threat of European Union sanctions.

The threat to the independence of the Supreme Court is the latest maneuver by the right-wing party, which gained power in 2015, to bring the judiciary under its control.

Public protests are planned for Thursday evening.

He said asked Duda for a meeting even before Thursday's vote and urged him to find "serious means and serious partners" in trying to solve the situation.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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