Thousands Protest In Poland Over Supreme Court Purge
07 July, 2018, 03:49
The standoff over Poland'sSupreme Court intensified Thursday as the president insisted its chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf must retire under a law she has rejected as unconstitutional and the European Union has criticised as a threat to judicial independence.
Gersdorf thanked the crowd and said she was acting to protect Poland's rule of law.
The judge, who is also a professor at university, is 65 years old, new compulsory retirement age, according to reform of justice; The limit was before 70. The law is forcing the chief justice and as many as one-third of the court's sitting judges to step down.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said the law was binding and "for the time being our stance is that we are right".
But even as the Tuesday deadline for the 27 judges to hand in their resignations came and past, none came and on Wednesday hundreds of supportive protesters swarmed chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf as she returned to work.
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.
The legislation would "undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges", it said in a statement.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, speaking at the European Parliament on Wednesday, defended the new laws and expanded on the criticism of the bloc. "It's not just crucial for my colleagues and me from the Supreme Court.It's vital for citizens that judges are independent".
The EU on Monday launched legal action against Poland over the Supreme Court reforms that critics have decried as unconstitutional.
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On the eve of the changes, Supreme Court spokesman, judge Michal Laskowski, said it was not yet clear if the president would use his power to immediately force the retirement of the judges, including the court president Malgorzata Gersdorf.
Organisers say the street demonstrations are gathering momentum in the conflict between Warsaw's ruling Law and Justice party and the judiciary.
Under Article 7, the most serious punishment that could be inflicted would be the removal of Poland's voting rights in European Union institutions.
About 5,000 protesters chanting "we are with you" rallied on Tuesday night outside the supreme court in Warsaw in support of Gersdorf and other judges affected by the law.
The PiS insists that reform of Supreme Court is absolutely necessary to combat corruption of judicial system and end with a "caste" of magistrates who "believe above law".
Anti-government protests have broken out in Warsaw and several other Polish cities in defense of the country's constitution, judicial independence and the rule of law.
The European Commission, which polices compliance with EU laws, opened an "infringement procedure" Monday over the Supreme Court law.
Judges in Poland are "experiencing political pressure" in connection with the judicial reforms, according to Amnesty International.
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