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Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

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Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  Lamplighter on Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:17 pm

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish lawmakers voted Thursday to approve a contentious law that gives control of the nation's Supreme Court to the president instead of to judges, sparking new protests outside parliament in Warsaw.

The bill on the Supreme Court has drawn condemnation from the European Union and has led to street protests. Critics say it kills judicial independence and violates the rule of law. The new law, proposed by the ruling populist Law and Justice party, gives the nation's president the power to influence the court's work and to appoint its judges. It calls for the dismissal of the court's current judges, except for those chosen by the president. It rearranges the court's structure and adds a Disciplinary Chamber that would handle breaches of rules or ethics in the justice system.

The vote Thursday was 235-192 with 23 abstentions. It came after a parliamentary commission summarily rejected 1,300 opposition amendments. European Union president, Donald Tusk, Poland's former prime minister, has appealed to President Andrzej Duda for a meeting to seek ways out of the situation that, he said, goes against EU values and is destructive to Poland's international image.

The bill still needs to win approval from the Senate, which is expected to be granted at a session Friday, and from Duda, who has so far followed the ruling party line. Protesters in Warsaw on Thursday kicked the metal barriers that separate them from the parliament, chanting "Shame!" Some carried banners urging Duda to veto the bill. More at link.

https://www.mail.com/int/news/europe/5371490-poland-oks-law-that-puts-top-court-under-political.html#.1258-stage-hero1-3
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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  bb1 on Thu Jul 20, 2017 9:14 pm

Hmmm, don't like the sound of that.

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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Jul 22, 2017 7:25 am

Poland's senators approve contentious court overhaul

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's Senate approved a contentious law on Saturday that gives politicians substantial influence over the Supreme Court, in defiance of European Union criticism. The bill proposed by the populist ruling party only needs the signature of President Andrzej Duda to become binding. Duda has so far followed the ruling party line.

The vote was 55-23 with two abstentions. It was met with boos from protesters gathered in front of the Senate building. EU leaders say the bill would kill judicial independence and threaten the rule of law in the EU's largest member in Central and Eastern Europe. The U.S. Department of State voiced concern on Friday.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party, contends the judiciary still works along a communist-era model and harbors many judges from that time. Communist rule ended in 1989. He says the justice system needs "radical changes" to become efficient and reliable.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo says the legislation is an internal matter and the government will not bow to any foreign pressure. The legislation calls for firing current Supreme Court judges, except those chosen by the justice minister and approved by the president. It gives the president the power to issue regulations for the court's work. It also introduces a disciplinary chamber that, on a motion from the justice minister, would handle suspected breaches of regulations or ethics.

In anticipation of the vote, crowds gathered Friday night for yet another protest in front of the Supreme Court building in Warsaw and in some other cities. About 200 protesters also gathered in front of Duda's vacation home in Jurata, on the Baltic coast, to demand that he doesn't sign the bill.

The president has 21 days to sign it, and is not expected to do it before his meeting Monday with the head of the court, Malgorzata Gersdorf. Two other bills on a key judicial body and on regular courts also await Duda's signature.

Duda won election as a Law and Justice member but has left the party in accord with Poland's tradition of a nonpartisan presidency. He is expected to sign the legislation. The U.S. Department of State on Friday urged all sides to "ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland's constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers," and urged dialogue.

Duda has so far not accepted an invitation for talks on the issue from European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister. Speaking to Poland's TVN24, Tusk repeated his readiness for talks and said he was a "little disappointed" there has been no meeting.

"Poland's president should be concerned about a situation that is, let's say, serious," Tusk said. Tusk said the steps the Polish government is taking toward the judiciary would allow it to limit social freedoms if it wants. He said they are in conflict with the EU's principles and are damaging to Poland's international standing.

But he conceded that, during his seven years as Poland's prime minister, he did encounter some resistance against judicial reform. "The price for judicial independence, which is a value, was a lack of compulsory reform," Tusk said.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has warned that Poland could face a proceeding under Article 7 of the EU treaty, which makes possible sanctions in case of a "serious and persistent" breach of the EU's basic values. In theory, Poland could be deprived of its vote in the EU's council of governments, but such a move would have to be unanimous.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said his government would never support sanctions against Poland.
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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  bb1 on Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:06 am

IMO, Tusk and co should butt out, they've done enough damage already with their endless bullying and meddling. All they are doing is hardening people's position, as no-one likes a bully.

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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Jul 22, 2017 3:12 pm

Walesa supports Poland's new political struggle.

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish democracy icon and ex-President Lech Walesa has told a large crowd of anti-government protesters in Gdansk that he will always support their struggle.

Walesa's address in Gdansk came amid mass nationwide protests over a plan by the ruling conservative Law and Justice party that would put the Supreme Court and the rest of the judicial system under political control.

The 73-year-old Walesa recalled the democratic changes he helped usher in more than 25 years ago, and said the separation of powers into three branches was the most important achievement of his Solidarity movement. He said the Law and Justice party had no right to destroy that achievement.

Walesa told the young people in the crowd: "You must use all means to take back what we achieved for you."
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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  Lamplighter on Sat Jul 22, 2017 3:15 pm

Polish president sees flaws in contentious law on top court.

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's president sees flaws in contentious legislation adopted by the Senate that gives politicians significant influence over the nation's Supreme Court, his spokesman said Saturday.

President Andrzej Duda's spokesman, Andrzej Lapinski, stopped short of saying whether the president would reject the bill or seek the opinion of a special court, the Constitutional Tribunal. The tribunal has already been put under the influence of the ruling conservative party. Duda has 21 days to sign it into law.

The legislation, approved by the Senate early Saturday, has drawn condemnation from European Union leaders and has led to major protests across Poland. The lower house approved it Thursday. A new round of nationwide protests is expected Saturday across Poland that will urge Duda not to sign the legislation into law.

Proposed by the populist ruling Law and Justice party, the bill gives the justice minister and the president the power to appoint and assess Supreme Court judges. Critics say that will kill off judicial independence.

Lapinski said that Duda sees inconsistency between two articles regarding the appointment of the court's head. One article says the court's head needs to be chosen from among five candidates, while the other says that it needs to be from among three candidates.

Defying protests, the ruling party rushed the legislation through parliament in just 10 days. The speed of the procedure has also raised questions about the quality of the law. A pro-democracy movement in Poland said that former President and democracy icon Lech Walesa will join a protest they are holding against the law in his hometown of Gdansk on the Baltic coast. Opponents say the legislation will destroy judicial independence and violate the rule of law.

Tens of thousands of people have been holding peaceful but noisy protests across the nation this week. In addition to the Gdansk demonstration, another protest is expected outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Saturday.
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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  Lamplighter on Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:47 am

Polish president to veto 2 bills seen as moves on judiciary.

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's president announced Monday that he will veto two contentious bills seen as assaults on the independence of the judicial system by the ruling party and which have sparked days of nationwide protests.

The decision marks the first time that Andrzej Duda has broken openly with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice party. Duda was hand-picked by Kaczynski as the party's presidential candidate in 2015 and has loyally supported the party's conservative nationalist agenda, not vetoing any of its laws until now.

Duda said he would veto the two controversial bills of three recently passed by lawmakers aimed at overhauling the judicial system. One would have put the Supreme Court under the political control of the ruling party, giving the justice minister, who is also prosecutor general, power to appoint judges.

Duda said that the country's justice system as it works now is in need of reform, but he said that the changes that lawmakers had proposed threaten to create an oppressive system and that the protests of recent days show that the changes would divide society.

He said that there is no tradition in Poland for a prosecutor general to have such large powers and he would not agree to that now. He also said that he consulted many experts before making his decision, including lawyers, sociologists, politicians and even philosophers. But he said the person who influenced him the most was Zofia Romaszewska, a leading anti-Communist dissident in the 1970s and 1980s.

He said Romaszewska told him: "Mr. President, I lived in a state where the prosecutors general had an unbelievably powerful position and could practically do everything. I would not like to go back to such a state."

Duda said he was also vetoing a bill changing the functioning of the National Council of the Judiciary. The change, among other things, would have given lawmakers the power to appoint judges, politicizing the courts.

However, he said he was going to sign a third bill that reorganizes the functioning of local courts. Duda's step won the praise of members of the political opposition who had been urging him to veto the bills, seen by many Poles and the European Union as attacks on the separation of powers in the young democracy.

Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, a leading member of the opposition party Modern, called it a step in the right direction and an "act of courage." She said Duda's decision also shows the power of civic protests.
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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  Lamplighter on Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:17 pm

Ukraine, Lithuania protest proposed Polish passport images

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Ukraine and Lithuania are protesting a proposal by Poland's nationalist government to include images in Polish passports of landmarks in formerly Polish cities that are now within the borders of those neighboring countries.

The Polish proposal appears to break a longstanding practice of not making any claim, even symbolic, in former Polish territories lost in the redrawing of borders during the 20th century. The matter threatens to strain ties with both Lithuania, an ally in NATO and the European Union, and Ukraine, a neighbor that Warsaw has for years supported in its struggle for greater Western integration.

The new passports are to be introduced in 2018 as part of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence after more than a century of foreign rule. The pages will include background images of 13 national symbols that have already been chosen and 13 others which Poles have been asked to vote on.

Among those that have been chosen already is a Polish military cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine, while the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, Lithuania, is among those Poles can pick. The voting runs through Sept. 10.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said late Monday it had summoned the Polish ambassador, calling the inclusion of the Lviv cemetery "an unfriendly step that will have a negative impact on the development of the Ukraine-Polish strategic partnership."

The ministry urged Poland to refrain from "politicizing certain facts of history." The step follows a similar move last week in Lithuania, where the Foreign Ministry summoned Poland's interim ambassador.

"We explained the situation and told him that it is not the way things should be moving. We are watching the situation closely and have already informed Poles about our attitude regarding this episode," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters last week.

Some Polish commentators also criticized the proposals, saying it would be as if the German state in its official documents used symbols of previously German cities that were given to Poland in the redrawing of borders that followed World War II.
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Re: Poland OKs law that puts top court under political control

Post  bb1 on Tue Aug 08, 2017 7:17 pm

Oh. that's definitely a bit naughty...

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