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January 12, 2020

Thousands protest against Poland’s plan to discipline judges

World

 
January 12, 2020

WARSAW: Thousands of people, including judges and lawyers from many EU member states, marched through Warsaw on Saturday to protest against what they say are government attempts to curb the powers of the judiciary in Poland.

Last month Poland’s lower house of parliament approved a draft law that would allow judges who question the government’s reforms to be disciplined.

The European Commission has said the planned legislation would imperil the rule of law, deepening a standoff with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

In 2017 the European Parliament invoked Article 7 of its governing treaty against Poland for persistently flouting democratic rules, the first time it had used the procedure.

The latest legislation was drawn up after some judges questioned the independence of peers nominated by a panel set up by the PiS-dominated parliament after nationalists won the 2015 elections.

PiS says the new law is necessary to make the judiciary more efficient.

But critics say it will curb the judges’ independence, putting pressure on them to rule in favor of government policies. Poland’s Supreme Court said in December Warsaw could end up leaving the EU over the dispute.

Saturday’s protest, tagged as “1,000 Robes March”, was headed by a group of judges wearing robes and carrying banners that read “The right to independence” and “The right to Europe”.

“It is not usual for us to go out in robes to protest against depriving people from their right to courts,” said Krystian Markiewicz, President of the Polish Judges Association Iustitia, one of the march organizers.