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Poland: Thousands protest controversial judicial reform

17 Jul 2017 | By Anupama Vijayakumar
Poland's judicial reform: Is judicial independence at stake?

Thousands of protesters participated in rallies held in Warsaw and other cities of Poland against a controversial bill, which allows judges to be appointed by the MPs and the Justice Minister and not in consultation with the judiciary.

While the government says that the move is essential to uproot corruption and elitism from the judiciary, protesters argue that the bill would undermine judicial independence.

In context: Poland's judicial reform: Is judicial independence at stake?

17 Jul 2017Poland: Thousands protest controversial judicial reform

ContextWhy is this being done?

The conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) has pushed for numerous controversial reforms since coming to power in 2015, often fuelling mass protests. Prior to judicial reform the government has moved to control media and civil services.

PiS leaders maintain that the reforms are required as current system is corrupt, undemocratic and caters to elites.

Amid protests, many Poles also agree with the government.

AboutProtests against the new judicial reform

Around 4500 people participated in the Warsaw protests including human rights activists; smaller turnouts could be noted in cities including Krakow and Katowice.

Opposition leaders including Grzegorz Schetyna, former Foreign Minister and Modern Party's Ryszard Petru were seen occupying a centre stage in Warsaw.

Addressing the crowds, Schetyna urged them to fight the great fight against the government.

Another controversial bill on its way

A separate bill introduced in the Polish Parliament calls for the Justice Minister to be given powers to remove all of its Supreme Court judges and make new appointments. The bill introduced at midnight in the Parliament is under discussion and could trigger fresh controversy.

ConclusionWhat does this mean?

While the existing system may have been corrupt, Polish Parliament's latest move is in direct contradiction to separation of powers and could affect judicial independence.

Control over judicial appointments further increases politicization in the judiciary.

Nils Muiznieks, Human Rights Commissioner, Council of Europe notes that the new reforms are a "major setback for judicial independence", signalling EU's irk with the new reforms.