Friday, July 6, 2018

Civil war in Poland?

[Protesters demonstrate in support of the sacked Supreme Court judges.Photo: Getty] Photo: Getty
 "On Monday, the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, referred the case to Europe’s highest court, but Poland has a month to respond, and any ruling might come too late to stop the overhaul.
When [the] Law and Justice [party] came to power, it campaigned against what it saw as a corrupt bureaucracy, calling for Poland to “get up from its knees”. But for Mr Kaczynski, transforming the courts was always a central goal.
When his party was in power from 2005 to 2007, many of its legislative efforts were blocked by judges. He came to believe that the transition to democracy that started in 1989 was flawed because many former communists were allowed to hold on to their positions. Although the number of people from the communist era still in judicial positions has dwindled, the party says that communist thinking still infects the system.
So when the party returned to power in 2015, it moved swiftly to rebuild the judicial system. It stacked the Constitutional Court, which decides if legislation violates the constitution. Once that court was under the party’s control, its lawmakers passed a series of measures aimed at other parts of the court system.
But their first effort to reshape the Supreme Court, a year ago, was met with widespread protests. The government backed down.
Last winter, it proposed new measures, slightly watered down, that critics said would have the same effect — turning the Supreme Court into an instrument of the party.
In December, after a devastating report by the Venice Commission, which monitors rule-of-law issues for the European Union, the bloc of nations invoked Article 7 of its founding treaty to take action against Poland. It became the first country in the history of the union to be threatened with losing its voting rights.
This time, however, the government would not be deterred.
Under the legislation, Mr Duda can grant exemptions to the mandatory retirement age, but judges must ask him to do so. The president did so for Mr Iwulski on Tuesday.
Ms Gersdorf and many colleagues refused, setting the stage for the standoff on Wednesday morning.
The country’s deputy minister of justice, Michal Wojcik, told the Polish Press Agency that Ms Gersdorf had been allowed into the court because no citizen is barred entry, but he said she would not be allowed to rule on cases."
– New York Times  [sourced from The New Daily here.]

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