Polish Senate approves controversial Supreme Court reform bill

Tricia Pearson
July 23, 2017

The bill proposed by the populist ruling party only needs the signature of President Andrzej Duda to become binding.

Fifty-five senators voted for the new measures while 23 voted against.

The European Commission on Wednesday said it was ready to take action against Poland for violating EU laws, warning that the controversial overhaul of the country's judicial system threatens the independence of courts. The U.S. Department of State voiced concern on Friday. He said the Law and Justice party had no right to destroy that achievement.

The Polish government has continued to pursue legislation that appears to undermine judicial independence and weaken the rule of law in Poland.

The parliament pushed through the change to the Supreme Court, which gives the government power to select candidates for the court, despite protests by thousands of people and criticisms from the EU.

Even before the Senate voted on the measure, Duda posted a tweet announcing that he'll meet with the president of the Supreme Court, Malgorzata Gersdorf, on Monday at 11 a.m. 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.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have descended into the streets across the country in recent days to protest the proposed law.

They want President Andrzej Duda to veto a bill adopted by lawmakers on Thursday that gives the president the power to regulate the work of the Supreme Court and to appoint its judges. "What is going on with the Polish, but also with the Hungarian and Turkish court systems clearly shows that the rule of law isn't self-evident, and that standing up for it is always relevant", Pikamäe said. He is expected to sign the legislation. We urge all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland's constitution or worldwide legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers.

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Tusk repeated his readiness for talks and said he was a "little disappointed" there has been no meeting.

Tusk said in a statement that the PiS moves on courts were backwards, went "against European standards and values", harmed Poland's reputation and risked marginalising the country.

Critics say the bill kills judicial independence and puts judges under political control.

If the PiS government does not back down, Poland could face fines and even a suspension of its voting rights, although other eurosceptic European Union governments, notably Hungary, are likely to veto strict punishments.

The PiS, which began making judiciary changes after coming to power in late 2015, has argued resistance to the initiatives is a case of the elite defending their privileges.

"We urge all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland's constitution or global legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers", it said in a statement.

WARSAW-Poland is giving the government sweeping powers over its judiciary, a move that is rattling European Union leaders and US diplomats but hasn't shifted voters much at home.

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