Thousands protest judiciary reforms in Poland

Thousands of protesters took to the streets on Sunday to protest the latest reforms to the judiciary system.

“We, the citizens, are defending the rule of law, we are on the side of the law,” said Władysław Frasyniuk, a top pro-democracy activist in the 1980s.

The main opposition party’s leader and a former foreign minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, warned that the ruling party may use the new regulations to manipulate electoral returns.

“Shame, shame,” chanted protesters gathered in Warsaw, and called Jarosław Kaczyński, the chairman of Law and Justice (PiS), a “dictator.”

The new law will terminate the terms of the current National Council of the Judiciary (KRS) members and allow the parliament to select 15 of its 25 representatives. The Council has powers to nominate judges, who are later appointed by the president. Its members are currently mostly selected by the judges themselves for four-year terms, the parliament has a right to choose four of them. Another bill gives the justice minister right to nominate judges to district and appeals court.

Threatening to take Poland to court, the European Union executive has said these measures undermine democratic checks and balances, a charge PiS denies.

The senate, the upper house of parliament, passed both bills late on Saturday without amendments. They now go to President Andrzej Duda before being signed into law. Another draft law calls for the retirement of all Supreme Court judges and new appointments to be made by the justice minister. Among the court’s tasks is confirming the validity of elections.

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