Poles protest the forced retirements of judges under new law

Jul 07, 2018, 03:49
Poles protest the forced retirements of judges under new law

The head of the Polish supreme court, Małgorzata Gersdorf, has turned up for work in defiance of a retirement law that would force her to step down immediately, which has been pushed through by the rightwing government but criticised by the European Union for undermining judicial independence.

Poland's ruling Law and Justice Party instituted a mandatory retirement age of 65 for Supreme Court justices earlier this year.

The Polish Constitutional Court also underwent controversial reforms in 2016 that critics alleged was unconstitutional and stacked it with PiS allies.

Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, who has vowed not to leave her post, did not comment on the decision after meeting President Andrzej Duda, but her spokesman said she meant to return to court on Wednesday.

"The constitution obliges me to a six-year term and I must proceed according to the constitution", she was quoted as saying by the Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Tuesday. The new law, which is being made effective this midnight and by which Brussels has opened a dossier to Poland for undermining independence of judiciary, may be forced departure of 27 of 72 judges before end of his term. According to the Supreme Court, 16 of them did so.

Deputy foreign minister Konrad Szymanski said Monday the government would answer "in detail" within 30 days and warned that the ECJ would face a "very hard task".

We can not simply say: "this is a purely national issue", Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the European 'Commission and Commissioner for the Eurozone and Social Dialogue said.

Poland's government says the new rules are necessary and will help strengthen democracy.

Besides the dismissal of the 27 judges, the National Judiciary Council - which following reforms a year ago is controlled by the ruling party - can also now nominate more than 50 new judges, Buras said.

Thousands of people gathered Tuesday night in front of the Supreme Court building, where they shouted "Free courts!" and "Down with dictatorship!"

Opponents of the reforms planned further demonstrations in Warsaw today.

The European commission said the changes would undermine "the irremovability of judges" and judicial independence in Poland, breaching the country's obligations under EU law.

Warsaw has one month to respond to the EU's challenge to this reform before the next stage can be triggered.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Poland on Tuesday night as the government prepared to carry out a radical revamping of the country's Supreme Court.

This could mean Warsaw's European Union voting rights might be suspended. She said once a government violates the constitution, "anything can happen".

Signed by President Andrzej Duda, the law provides for the sending of retirement of all judges of the Supreme machine who has attained the age of 65, which would entail the dismissal of about 40% of existing judges. Hungary, also facing criticism over democratic standards, has pledged to block such a move.

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