Poland: Bill allowing judges to be punished signed into law

International

Andrzej Duda, President of Poland, speaks about the challenges of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (Alessandro della Valle/Keystone via AP)

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed into law much-criticized legislation that gives politicians the power to fine and fire judges whose actions and decisions they consider harmful.

The legislation has drawn condemnation from the European Union and international human rights organizations as well as from Poland’s opposition and some judges. They say it violates the basic democratic values of judicial independence and the system of checks and balances and puts judges under political control.

The legislation bans judges from questioning judicial appointments made by the president, limits their self-government rights and bans them from political activity. The ruling Law and Justice party has been making reforms to the judiciary since winning power in 2015.

Deputy Justice Minister said the law, which takes effect in a matter of days, means the “triumph of democracy, there will be no ‘judgecracy’ (judges’ rule).”

Opposition parties decried the legislation, which they call the “muzzle law.”

“This is a very sad day for Poland: the president has sealed an attack on the independent justice system,” said Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, who is the opposition’s candidate in the presidential election expected in May.

“Poland is starting on its way of leaving the EU’s legal system,” she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who was on a visit to Poland Monday and Tuesday, has spoken out against changes that Poland’s right-wing ruling party is making to the judiciary.

Also Tuesday, the new Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled to suspend Judge Pawel Juszczyszyn, who— acting on a decision by the European Court of Justice— has raised questions about some recent politicized judicial appointments, and stripped him of 40% of his earnings, as a fine. The legality of the chamber itself has been questioned because it was appointed by a politicized body.

Some European legal scholars warn that the developments in Poland threaten the entire EU legal system. National courts in the 28 EU member countries recognize the decisions of courts in the other nations on everything from European arrest warrants, child custody issues and commercial law.

In line with the ruling party, which proposed the legislation, Duda has spoken in its favor, saying it should prevent bad practices among judges. The ruling Law and Justice party says it’s aiming to prevent “anarchy” among judges and has the right to reorganize Poland’s justice system.

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