Poland’s ruling party plans to allow arrests of MPs and judges

Leader of the Polish PiS rulling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski (R), and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, after the announcement of the exit polls of the European elections in Warsaw, on 26 May 2019. [EPA-EFE/Jakub Kaminski POLAND OUT]

Poland’s ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS/ECR) announced its election programme at the weekend, under which there would no longer be immunity for judges and prosecutors and it would be possible to detain parliamentarians at the request of the prosecutor general. EURACTIV Poland reports.

The programme, unveiled on the PiS website ahead of the parliamentary elections on 13 October, is called “Polish model of a welfare state”. Its controversial points include the possibility of arresting an MP upon request of the attorney general (in Poland it is the justice minister) and the regulation of the profession of journalist.

Change the rule

The programme states that PiS would, after obtaining a majority in the 2019-2023 term, “submit a request to amend the content of Article 105 (2-3) and also paragraph 5 of the Polish Constitution in such a way that a deputy or senator will be able to be held criminally responsible, as well as detained or arrested, by a decision taken at the request of the Attorney General, directed to the Supreme Court”.

Currently, a parliamentarian cannot be arrested unless the Sejm (lower house of the Polish parliament) agrees. The Constitution states that “from the day of announcing the election results until the day the mandate expires, a deputy may not be held criminally responsible without the consent of the Sejm”.

What about immunity?

One exception is the situation when a parliamentarian is caught red-handed or his/her detention is necessary for the smooth conduct of an investigation, but even in this case, according to the constitution, “the detention shall be immediately notified to the Marshal of the Sejm, who may order the immediate release of the detainee”.

PiS also announces plans to ask the Sejm to lift the immunity of judges and prosecutors, with the provision that the decision to initiate criminal proceedings in the case of a judge or a prosecutor will be made each time by the attorney general and the temporary arrest warrant issued by the Supreme Court.

Self-government of journalists?

PiS also wants to pass a special law for journalists.

“Due to the responsibility and special trust enjoyed by the journalist’s profession, it would also be necessary to create a completely separate law regulating the status of the profession (the law on the professional status of a journalist). It would introduce solutions similar to those of other professions of public trust, e.g. lawyers or doctors “.

“The main purpose of the change should be the creation of self-government that would care for ethical and professional standards, self-regulate and be responsible for the process of shaping journalism students.”

“It would then be possible to abolish Article 212 CC, because a guarantee would arise of not misusing the media mechanisms in an unethical manner,” the party explained and assures that the law “will not limit the principle of openness of the journalistic profession in any way”.

According to the latest polls, PiS is currently leading with 45% over the European Coalition (PO/EPP), despite being tarnished by local political scandals and an ongoing row with Brussels over the rule of law and migration.

Earlier this month, PiS promised to pay annual cash bonuses to pensioners and almost double the minimum wage for workers and signed into law a tax reduction for young people under the age of 26.

Both PiS and PO are facing criticism for overpromising in their electoral programmes and observers are questioning how either camp intends to finance the promises.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]


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