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Polish Senate approves controversial Supreme Court reform bill

23 July 2017, 12:44 | Katrina Lee

Chief justice: Situation of Polish courts 'extremely worrying'

Polish lawmakers approve law giving control of top court to politicians instead of judges

As previously reported, the Polish ruling party "law and Justice" (PiS) changed three of the law on the Supreme court, the National judicial Council and the courts of General jurisdiction.

Szydlo spoke after lawmakers voted to approve the contentious Supreme Court legislation.

Pikamäe told ERR that the attacks on Poland's court system began immediately after the now governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) took over, throwing the country's constitutional court into crisis.

Critics say the legislation would erode the independence of the courts and defy the principles of the EU.

The ruling populist Law and Justice party says the justice system is inefficient and needs radical reform.

"We are concerned about the Polish government's continued pursuit of legislation that appears to limit the judiciary and potentially weaken the rule of law", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in Washington.

Opponents of the Polish government are protesting in front of the parliament building in Warsaw after the adoption of a bill that gives the president control over the Supreme Court instead of judges. The Supreme Court's tasks include validating elections.

The European Commission warned that the law would undermine...

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If Warsaw's nationalist-minded PiS does not back down, the government could face fines and even a suspension of voting rights, although other eurosceptics in the European Union, notably Hungary, will likely veto strict punishment. The opposition argues the measures amount to a "coup d'etat" but the PiS says the reforms are essential to rationalise the judicial system and fight corruption. The article allows the union to pursue sanctions against a member state if that country is said to be committing fundamental rights violations.

Once the legislation passes in the Senate, where PiS has a majority, the bill will go to President Duda, a PiS ally, for final approval.

Tusk, former Polish prime minister, wrote in a statement Thursday that "Subjecting the court to one ruling party in the way that Law and Justice has proposed it will ruin already strained opinion on Poland's democracy".

Of course, it could be that all the fearsome pronouncements by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and EU Council President Donald Tusk - a bitter political rival of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski - are merely a melange of hot air and blether.

Since being elected in 2015, PiS has sought to tighten government control over the courts, brought prosecutors and state media under direct government control. Only the country's president now stands in the way of what critics have called a move to authoritarianism.

The second bill was approved by the lower chamber of Parliament Thursday-triggering the pro-democracy protests-but still must be approved by the upper house, then signed by Duda, to take effect.

He said asked Duda for a meeting even before Thursday's vote and urged him to find "serious means and serious partners" in trying to solve the situation.

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