Polish Supreme Court slams ‘unconstitutional’ PiS reforms

A view at the sheet of paper with an inscription 'Free Courts' in Sejm (lower house) in Warsaw, Poland, 8 December 2017. [Bartolomjei Zborowski/EPA/EFE]

Poland’s Supreme Court justices yesterday (16 January) denounced the right-wing government’s controversial judicial reforms as “unconstitutional”, adding their voice to a chorus of criticism at home and abroad.

The reforms introduced by the Law and Justice (PiS) party had already led the European Commission to launch unprecedented disciplinary proceedings against Warsaw over what it sees as systemic threats to the independence of the Polish judiciary.

Many of the new legal provisions “go against the standards of the Polish constitution, in addition to violating the principle of separation of powers, the independence of the courts and judges and the security of tenure of judges,” the Supreme Court said on its website.

The statement was adopted by the general assembly of the court’s justices. Sixty-nine of the judges endorsed the text, three voted against and three others abstained.

One of the new laws approved last month by President Andrzej Duda ends the mandates of nearly half the Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, who denounced the legislation as a “coup”.

Polish president vetoes controversial court reforms

Poland’s president on Monday (24 July) vetoed controversial judicial reforms that had prompted huge street protests and threats of unprecedented EU sanctions.

Another reform has given parliament the power to choose members of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), whose task is to oversee judicial impartiality. Critics say this change risks reducing the body’s independence.

KRS president Dariusz Zawistowski resigned this week “as a sign of protest”.

Last month, the European Commission triggered article seven of the EU treaty against Warsaw, which could eventually lead to the “nuclear option” of the suspension of Poland’s voting rights within the bloc.

Brussels triggers unprecedented action against Poland

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans announced with a 04:13am tweet that the EU executive had activated Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty against Poland, due to “a risk of serious breach of of the rule of law”.

Poland’s new Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who was chosen as part of the governing party’s quest to mend strained ties with the EU, said last week that he hoped to explain the basis for the reforms to Brussels without having to make concessions.

Polish PM sacks key ministers, holds ‘friendly’ meeting with Juncker

Poland’s new right-wing Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki sacked his defence and foreign ministers in a major cabinet reshuffle yesterday (9 January), as he seeks to mend strained ties with the country’s EU partners.

The PiS government began making the changes after coming to power in late 2015 and says the reforms are needed to combat corruption and overhaul the judicial system still haunted by the communist era.

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