Iran Press TV

Poland presses ahead with judicial overhaul despite opposition

Iran Press TV

Sun Jul 23, 2017 7:43AM

Poland's ruling party has approved a controversial overhaul of the country's Supreme Court despite mass protests at home and mounting pressure from its Western allies against the move.

On Saturday, senators from the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party approved a bill that would give the justice minister the power to appoint all the judges at the Supreme Court.

The reform bill now needs to be signed by President Andrzej Duda.

The development came amid mass protest rallies across the country coupled with objections by the European Union (EU) and the United States.

Critics say the reforms, which they claim is in violation of the Polish constitution, will undermine the independence of the Supreme Court.

The PiS's plans to overhaul the Supreme Court and judiciary and further plans to expand its powers in other areas such as the media have sparked one of the biggest political conflicts and provoked a crisis in its international relations.

Opposition at home

Tens of thousands of protesters across Poland have held candle-lit vigils daily since Wednesday, demanding that President Duda reject the bill.

Peaceful demonstrations against the bill continued on Saturday evening in dozens of cities, including the capital, Warsaw, Krakow, and Poznan.

Hundreds of protesters also gathered near the Warsaw villa of PiS head Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Opposition abroad

The EU's executive branch on Wednesday gave Poland a week to shelve the judicial reforms – which Brussels says would put courts under direct government control – or risk sanctions.

"Today, the strategic direction toward the West that we had chosen is being reversed," said European Council President Donald Tusk, who is himself a Polish and a former prime minister of Poland.

The US State Department said in a statement that Poland had to ensure that reforms did not violate its constitution and "respect the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers."

In neighboring Germany, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the independence of Poland's judiciary was at risk, adding that he welcomed the consideration of sanctions by the European Commission.

"Those who show so little respect for the rule of law run the risk of isolating themselves politically," he warned in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

So far, only Poland's fellow eurosceptic government in Hungary has said that it will stand by Warsaw against the threat of EU sanctions.

The PiS says the changes are needed to ensure that courts serve all Poles, not just "elites."

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