Poland wants to put its courts on trial / Is Polish justice getting too close to government? / EU remains silent as Poland’s government assaults top court / Poland’s government seeks total control of the court system

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details 21.06.17
Publication Date 15/07/2017
Content Type

Feature argues that the Polish government was taking aim at the country’s justice system, intent on pushing through reforms in 2017 that critics warned could threaten the separation of powers between politicans and the judiciary.

In July 2017 Euro|Topics reported that thanks to the votes of the ruling PiS party Poland's parliament approved the controversial judicial reform on the 12 July 2017. It suggested that many saw this as an attempt by the government to influence the selection of judges. The Senate (upper house) voted to accept these reforms on the 14 July 2017. The bill only now needed the signature by the president in order to become law.

Poland's press was divided about whether this was a long overdue measure or a threat to democracy.

Dmonstration against the changes took place in Warsaw and other Polish cities on the 16 July 2017.

Under the amendment adopted by the lower house on the 12 July 2017, the members of the National Council of the Judiciary of Poland (NCJ / KRS), the constitutional organ safeguarding the independence of courts and judges, would be elected by parliament. Out of a total 25 members of the council, 15 members would be judges chosen by the lower chamber of parliament.

Another amendment adopted on 12 July 2017 involved the law on Common Courts and changed the nominations of the presidents and vice-presidents of the common courts. The decisive role in this process would now be with the Minister of Justice.

The Law and Justice (PiS) government argued that changes were vital to reform what it claimed was an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system in Poland.

However, several international organisations, including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE and the Consultative Council of European Judges, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, warned against the adoption of the amendment.

The European Commission announced on the 14 July 2017 that it would debate the situation in Poland at its weekly meeting on the 19 July 2017 at the request of President Jean-Claude Juncker.

A further linked but separate development took place on the 13 July 2017 when the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) tabled a new bill in parliament which would subjugate the country’s Supreme Court to executive political power. All judges of the existing Supreme Court would be retired except for those personally nominated by the justice minister.

The announcement of the new legislation would be remembered 'as a black Wednesday for the country', said Małgorzata Gersdorf, President of the Supreme Court.

PiS had 'crushed the judicial system in Poland', said Ewa Łętowska of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

In a surprise move in the row over the PiS's proposed judicial reforms, Poland's President Duda threatened on the 18 July 2017 to use his power of veto. The president let it be known that he would only sign the law on the nomination of judges to Poland's Supreme Court if his amendment was accepted. Commentators in European news sources noted that the fight over the independence of the Polish judiciary was entering the next round.

Source Link http://p.dw.com/p/2f7Un
Related Links
Blog: Verfassungsblog, 23.06.17: How to Demolish an Independent Judiciary with the Help of a Constitutional Court http://verfassungsblog.de/how-to-demolish-an-independent-judiciary-with-the-help-of-a-constitutional-court/
ESO: Background information: Shadow tactics:What the opposition in Poland needs to do to beat the ruling Law and Justice party at the next election http://www.europeansources.info/record/shadow-tactics-what-the-opposition-in-poland-needs-to-do-to-beat-the-ruling-law-and-justice-party-at-the-next-election/
ESO: Background information: Senate approves merger of minister and state prosecutor http://www.europeansources.info/record/senate-approves-merger-of-minister-and-state-prosecutor/
Euro|Topics: Debates, July 2017: Is Polish justice getting too close to government? / Resistance to Polish justice reform / Warsaw adamant about contentious judicial reforms / Judicial reforms in Poland: Resistance from Duda http://www.eurotopics.net/en/182470/warsaw-adamant-about-contentious-judicial-reforms
Amnesty International: News, 12.07.17: Poland: New law undermines the independence of the judiciary https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/07/poland-new-law-undermines-the-independence-of-the-judiciary/
EUObserver, 13.07.17: Poland 'leaving EU community of values' https://euobserver.com/political/138525
EurActiv, 14.07.17: EU remains silent as Poland’s government assaults top court http://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/eu-remains-silent-as-polands-government-takes-supreme-court-by-assault/
Radio Poland, 14.07.17: Polish political storm over proposed Supreme Court reform http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/316252,Polish-political-storm-over-proposed-Supreme-Court-reform
Politico, 13.07.17: Polish government moves to take control of top court http://www.politico.eu/article/polish-government-moves-to-take-control-of-top-court/
Deutsche Welle, 14.07.17: Poland's government seeks total control of the court system http://p.dw.com/p/2gaLb
Radio Poland, 14.07.17: Poland’s ruling conservatives defend court reforms, EU concerned http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/316344,Poland%E2%80%99s-ruling-conservatives-defend-court-reforms-EU-concerned
BBC News, 15.07.17: Poland MPs back controversial judiciary bill http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40617406
Politico, 14-15.07.17: [Opinion]: Poland’s point of no return http://www.politico.eu/article/pis-polands-point-of-no-return/
Politico, 15-16.07.17: Polish opposition calls for international oversight of judiciary vote http://www.politico.eu/article/polish-opposition-calls-for-international-oversight-of-judiciary-vote/
Blog: Verfassungsblog, 13.07.17: Statement by the former presidents of the Constitutional Tribunal: Andrzej Rzepliński, Marek Safjan, Jerzy Stępień, Bohdan Zdziennicki and Andrzej Zoll http://verfassungsblog.de/statement-by-the-former-presidents-of-the-constitutional-tribunal-andrzej-rzeplinski-marek-safjan-jerzy-stepien-bohdan-zdziennicki-and-andrzej-zoll/
Radio Poland, 16.07.17: Protest in Warsaw over planned judicial reform http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/316578,Protest-in-Warsaw-over-planned-judicial-reform
Deutsche Welle, 16.07.17: Thousands protest judicial reforms in Poland http://p.dw.com/p/2gdBB
EurActiv, 17.07.17: State-controlled Polish TV instigated hate against Brussels journalist http://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/state-controlled-polish-tv-instigated-hate-against-brussels-journalist/
EurActiv, 17.07.17: Thousands protest ‘coup against constitution’ in Poland http://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/thousands-protest-coup-against-constitution-in-poland/
Deutsche Welle, 17.07.17: Poland's new judicial reform 'drops any democratic pretense' http://p.dw.com/p/2ghCO
EUObserver, 17.07.17: 'Survival of democracy' at stake in Poland, say top MEPs https://euobserver.com/justice/138553
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 18.07.17: Poland’s Drift Away From Democracy http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/71568?lang=en
Radio Poland, 20.07.17: Polish president steps in amid tensions over judicial changes http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/316908,Polish-president-steps-in-amid-tensions-over-judicial-changes

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