District and appeals courts reforms signed into law amid political storm
PR dla Zagranicy
Polish President Andrzej Duda has signed into law changes to district and appeals courts which had been protested throughout Poland amid a political storm over the country’s judiciary.
Staatspräsident Andrzej DudaBild: Prezydent.pl/Eliza Radzikowska-Białobrzewska/Polskie Radio
Paweł Mucha, deputy head of the president’s office, said the changes were, from the people’s point of view, “most important”, following Duda’s Monday announcement that he would veto two other bills to introduce sweeping changes to the justice system.
The opposition leader had earlier said the president should also veto the district and appeals courts reform.
Thousands took to the streets over the past week and a half in opposition to the conservative government’s planned changes to the justice system, accusing Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law. PiS denies such accusations.
The newly signed law changes the way the heads of district and appeals courts are appointed and dismissed, giving more power to the justice minister, and making the allocation of cases to judges random.
One of the bills vetoed by Duda would have forced the Supreme Court's existing justices into retirement while giving the president powers to choose who to reinstate.
The other would have changed a powerful judges' ethics council. It would have seen 15 of the council’s members who are judges phased out and their successors selected by parliament – rather than by other judges as up to now.
After announcing he would veto the bills, Duda said he would propose his own changes to the Supreme Court and the judges’ council.
Poland’s ruling conservatives have said that sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens. (vb/pk)