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Polish Supreme Court under fire for 'suspension' of new law

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 03.08.2018 10:14
The Polish Supreme Court has said it will suspend a new law lowering the retirement age for judges, but its decision has been slammed by top officials as “unconstitutional” and having “no legal basis”.
Poland's Supreme Court. Photo: Darwinek/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)Poland's Supreme Court. Photo: Darwinek/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Court of Justice of the European Union whether the new law violated the Polish constitution, which states that judges are “selected for an indefinite period” and “shall not be removed”.

The Polish court also asked if the new law breached the European Union’s anti-discrimination rules.

And it asked if the law’s requirement for retirement-aged judges to request approval from the Polish president to continue serving as a Supreme Court judge undermined the independence of the judiciary.

At the same time, the Polish court said it would “suspend the application” of the new rules, citing provisions in the civil code that allow courts to suspend the execution of a law when it could prejudice a judicial appeal process.

But the Polish president’s office said there was “no legal basis” for the Supreme Court's move, while the head of the Constitutional Tribunal said it was “against the constitution”.

Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party previously said that “deep” reforms were needed to change an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system tainted by the communist past, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

But opponents have accused Law and Justice of aiming to stack courts with its own candidates and to dismantle the rule of law.

The new Supreme Court law has sparked street protests in Poland.

It has also drawn criticism from the European Commission, which last month launched a new procedure against Warsaw over its reform of the Supreme Court amid an ongoing row over an alleged threat to the rule of law in Poland.

In response, the Polish foreign ministry said on Thursday that, under the European Union's rules, "the organisation of the justice system is the exclusive competence of the Member States" and that "Poland is not in breach of the general provisions of EU law when it determines the retirement age of Supreme Court judges".

It also said that the new retirement age for judges would not affect the independence of the judiciary.

Brussels previously took the unprecedented step of triggering Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland, stepping up pressure on Warsaw over judicial reforms.

That move could pave the way for sanctions being imposed on Poland, for example suspending its voting rights in the European Union. But penalties on Warsaw would have to be backed unanimously by EU member states, while Hungary has said it would not support sanctions. (vb/pk)

Source: PAP, IAR

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