Poland Tells its Judges: 'Shh!'
The Polish government wants to tackle corruption. In attempting to do so, lawmakers are favoring increasingly naughty readings of the constitution that are placing the country in an uncomfortably right-wing position within the EU.
The question remains whether Poland will end up leaving the organisation altogether in a Brexit spinoff. ‘Polexit’ seems to have a worryingly good ring about it. Alternatively, perhaps EU leaders may resort to using article 7 to suspend voting rights – a punishment which the other pariah, Hungary, might well receive.
Last week the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatovic urged the Polish Senate, where the opposition party holds a small majority, to reject a bill that would restrict judicial rights.
Some have been quick to label this as an interference in Poland’s internal affairs… which it probably is – if not for a good cause.
In a scene straight out of Assassin’s Creed, hundreds of robed judges from 20 different European countries marched silently through the streets of Warsaw in solemn protest of the proposed changes. Town and gown were united when thousands of concerned EU citizens joined the demonstration.
Since coming to power Poland’s governing ‘Law and Justice’ party (…ironic) have taken an increasingly Al Capone-style approach to the legal system, with Judges ruling on politically sensitive cases facing campaigns of state-led intimidation and harassment.
This latest legal change, dubbed the ‘muzzle law’ is not in fact an EU trade regulation on canine restricting apparatus. It would allow the reigning party to discipline judges who spoke out against future changes to their roles. In other words, it is seen as an attempt to silence judges in defending the rule of law.
However, their most fascistic power-grab came in 2015 when the formerly independent National Council of the Judiciary that determines appointments and promotion was taken over by the government and filled with pro-party stooges.
This latest development is seen by many as another step in Poland’s slow plod towards authoritarianism. In 2017 the EU issued a firm slap to the hand of the Polish government as it reached even further right when it launched unprecedented legal proceedings against them over ‘systemic threats’ to the rule of law.
The Deputy PM of Poland has asserted that ‘these are not issues governed by European law’ which since the 2015 changes they indeed haven’t been funnily enough…