Poland’s govt seeks right to fire judges who question court reforms

WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish judges could be sacked if they question the legitimacy of judicial reforms, under draft legislation that the nationalist government has introduced, in a move set to deepen a row between Brussels and Warsaw over democratic standards.

People take part in an anti-government protest in support of free judiciary in Poznan, Poland, December 1, 2019. The banner reads ‘We, the nation, support the judges.’ Agencja Gazeta/Lukasz Cynalewski/via REUTERS

The EU has accused the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party of politicizing the judiciary ever since it came to power in 2015. PiS argues that the reforms are necessary to make Poland’s courts more efficient.

PiS wants to prevent judges from ruling that peers nominated by a panel set up under new rules drawn up by parliament are not independent.

The EU’s top court said last month it was up to Poland’s Supreme Court to decide whether the panel was independent, and the Supreme Court has ruled that in its view the panel was neither impartial nor independent.

“(We are taking) action aimed at banning challenging he status of other judges, which may lead to anarchy,” government spokesman Piotr Muller told public TV.

“We have a disciplinary responsibility here, and finally even (the possibility of) removing judges from their posts,” he said, commenting on the bill posted on parliament’s website late on Thursday.

The legislation, which parliament will discuss next week, also stipulates that judges must inform their superiors of past membership of political parties and of their activity in non-governmental organizations and on social media.

“There is one aim: to eliminate judges from the public debate. This is a bill to silence those judges who … think some solutions infringe the rule of law,” Supreme Court spokesman judge Michal Laskowski told private radio TOK FM.

“If those changes were to come into effect, we would not have Belarus here, but Turkey,” judge Igor Tuleya, one of the most outspoken critics of PiS reforms, told private broadcaster TVN24.

Moves by Hungary and Poland to bring their courts and media under tighter state control have led the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, to begin rule-of-law investigations that could in theory lead to a suspension of their EU voting rights.

Brussels is considering tying adherence to the rule of law and democratic standards with access to EU budget funds.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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