Polish judges halt cases in protest at changes to courts
PR dla Zagranicy
Judges in Poland on Thursday halted proceedings for 40 minutes in protest at planned reforms of the judiciary by Poland’s ruling conservatives.
Representatives of appeal and district court judges last month passed a motion claiming that the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party aimed to politicize courts and undermine their independence.
Judges in Poland are not allowed to strike and have held back from describing the interruption in proceedings on Thursday as a protest.
Public broadcaster TVP reported that interruptions did not take place in a third of Polish courts.
Deputy Justice Minister Michał Wójcik appealed to judges not to make life difficult for people whose cases were being heard on Thursday.
Wójcik said research showed that only one in three Poles has confidence in the justice system.
"This is very bad," Wójcik said, adding that this was one of the reasons that the Law and Justice party, which came to power in late 2015, wants to reform the courts.
"There is no attack on the independence of the courts -- this is a reform and we will not back down," Wójcik added.
PiS supporters have criticised Polish courts for taking too long to hear cases, and have accused judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.
But former justice minister Borys Budka, from the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, told reporters: "PiS does not understand [the principle of] the separation of powers, PiS does not understand democratic principles. It’s judges who should control us politicians, rather than politicians controlling the justice system.”