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Polish parliament backs law allowing government to punish judges

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Polish parliament backs law allowing government to punish judges

People wave national flags during a demonstration in front of Polish parliament against judicial reform pushed by lawmakers of the ruling Law and Justice party PiS on January 23, 2020 [Janek Skarzynski/AFP] Poland’s lawmakers gave their final approval on Thursday to legislation that will allow politicians to fire judges who criticise their decisions, a change that European legal experts warn will undermine judicial independence.

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The legislation passed in the lower house of parliament, the Sejm. It goes next to President Andrzej Duda, who has expressed his support for the legislation and is expected to sign it into law.

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More:  EU seeks to suspend chamber disciplining Polish judges European judges join Polish peers in protest against ‘muzzle law’ ‘A well-planned battle for control of Poland’s judiciary’ Proposed by Poland’s right-wing ruling party, which seeks more control over the judiciary, the law has been condemned by the European Union, the United Nations and other international bodies, as well as by Polish legal experts and Poland’s opposition

They say it violates European Union principles and the democratic separation of powers

Further aggravating the conflict, Poland’s Justice Ministry said on Thursday that it would not recognise a resolution by the Supreme Court which said earlier in the day that some of its newest judges were unlawfully appointed, since they were designated by a new judicial body that is considered to be politically controlled by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party

The bill about firing judges was rejected by the Senate last week. The lower house of Poland’s parliament, which is controlled by the ruling Law and Justice party, as expected, gave its final approval in Thursday‘s vote

The party has argued the law is needed to prevent “anarchy” among judges, some of whom are critical of the party’s policies

The law would prohibit judges from engaging in any public activities that could be seen as politically motivated

It curbs the right of judges to form independent judicial bodies and requires them to declare all group affiliations, including any political affiliation from Poland’s pre-1989 communist era

The legislation also bans judges from evaluating or criticising new judicial appointments or powers of state authorities. The punishment for non-compliance ranges from fines to dismissal

The law is part of changes the ruling party has made to the judiciary since it came to power in 2015

PiS argues the judicial system needs to be made more efficient. Critics agree improvement is needed but say the changes amount to putting judges under political control

SOURCE: AP news agency