MACIEJ STASINSKI | VARSOVIA, POLONIA. CORRESPONSAL24/12/2019 00:10
The nationalist government has turned a deaf ear to both the massive demonstrations last week against its recent assault on the independence of the courts of justice and to the warnings of the European Union that its conduct jeopardizes the rule of law. On Friday he forced in Sejm (Lower House), without consultation and running over parliamentary regulations, the approval of the judge’s gag.
This action of the Nationalist Law and Justice Party, which has governed Poland since 2005, met yesterday with a limited but very symbolic victory of the opposition and all the Poles who have taken to the streets these days. Popular pressure, to which the Nobel Prize for Literature Olga Tokarczuk has joined, made Judge Pawl Juszczyszyn recover his position at the head of the Olstyn city court. It is significant because the magistrate had criticized the KRS, the new institution that, now dependent on political power, oversees the judiciary. Criticizing it is grounds for termination, as happened to Juszczyszyn.
Popular pressure achieves the restitution of a judge ceased for having criticized the new court order
This restitution does not change, however, that Law and Justice has carried out a reform that it considers necessary to improve the quality of justice and end the vestiges of the communist era (1945-1989).
The KRS is the new Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. It is formed by judges appointed by the Government and under its authority is now the same Supreme Court, formed by career judges. The KRS can punish any magistrate and, given what happened with Juszczyszyn, threatens to plunge the Polish judicial system into chaos, since the dismissals of any critical magistrate can be fulminated.
The Government processed the gag law at five in the morning on Friday, after a long and tumultuous night session, without the opposition being able to establish a debate, a procedure that supposed a clear abuse of power and resulted in a climate of great tension. The final approval came in the afternoon, in the plenary, without any debate.
The Government justifies this abuse of judicial independence with the need to purge the supposed “caste of old communist judges,” that is, those who had exercised before the democratic transition started 30 years ago. The average age of 10,000 judges, however, does not exceed 40 years. Among the more than 80 Supreme judges there are only two or three who exercised before 1989.
Law and Justice argues that reform is necessary to end the vestiges of communism
Law and Justice ignored the reports of the legal experts of Parliament, who criticized the law for contravening the Constitution and colliding with EU legislation. The criticisms of the associations of judges and lawyers were also ignored, as were those of the main universities.
The gag law, which seeks to expel from the profession any judge who criticizes the judicial reform of the Government, tries to apply European jurisprudence or participates in public life, now goes to the Senate, where the opposition has a narrow majority.
The Senate cannot veto the law but amend it, extend the debate and alert public opinion against the authoritarian drift of the Government. However, the last word corresponds to the Chamber of Deputies, where nationalists have a comfortable majority.
The president of the republic, Andrzej Duda, obedient to Law and Justice, advanced on Sunday that he would sign the gag law for being “very prudent” and necessary to “discipline the judges” and put the “post-communist judicial club” at the waist.
Government spokesmen rejected criticism from the vice president of the European Commission, Vera Vourova, who had called on the Polish authorities on Friday to stop the gag law. These spokesmen advised Vourova to take care of the Czech Republic, his country. The president of the table of the Parliament affirmed that the European critics slip to him “because we pass Polish laws”.