Poland: President must veto legal amendments to safeguard independence of judiciary

President Andrzej Duda must veto amendments adopted by the Polish parliament today which, if signed into law, will effectively subject the judiciary to the political control of the government, Amnesty International said.

Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for Europe, said:

“If approved by the President, these amendments will constitute a near fatal blow for basic freedoms and the protection of human rights in Poland. 

“The Polish public joined mass protests last July to say ‘no’ to such a power grab. President Duda must take stock and veto both amendments.

“Should these amendments enter into force, the European Commission must act urgently to prevent a complete deterioration of the rule of law in Poland while there is still time.”

The amendments grant parliament - dominated by the ruling party - power to appoint judges to the National Council of Judiciary, which is currently a self-regulating body. They also decrease the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65 years, which would require the retirement of about 40% of currently presiding Supreme Court judges. Any Supreme Court judge seeking to continue to work would need to be vetted by the President.

In July 2017, mass protests erupted across Poland when similar amendments were adopted by parliament. Police responded with heavy-handed security measures, and dozens of protesters were charged; many still face criminal proceedings. The President vetoed those amendments.

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