Polish government brings forward plans to assert control over judges (The Guardian)

The Polish Supreme Court. Photograph: Darwinek via Creative Commons

The Polish government has brought forward its attempts to assert political control over the country’s judicial system, after thousands of Poles took to the streets in cities across the country.

Demonstrations took place at the weekend to protest against a series of moves by the ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) to assume power over the appointments of judges and members of the country’s supreme court.

On Sunday, protesters held a rally outside the Polish parliament, followed by a candlelight vigil outside the supreme court. Gathered on Krasiński Square, at the same spot where the US president, Donald Trump, gave a controversial speech to pro-government crowds earlier this month, protesters projected “This is our court” on to the court building as the music of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin played in the background.

The government describes the moves as a necessary means to speed up the process of issuing judgments and to break what it describes as the grip of a “privileged caste” of lawyers and judges.

Parliament is considering legislation that if enacted would instantly terminate the appointments of all 83 judges sitting on the country’s supreme court, except for those kept on by the minister of justice.

It follows the passage of legislation last week that gives parliament control over a hitherto autonomous body charged with the appointment of Polish judges. The legislation also gives the minister of justice the power to dismiss and appoint court presidents, who decide which judges sit on which cases.

My report for the Guardian can be found here.

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