Published: Sat, July 07, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Polish Chief Justice Defies Government's Supreme Court Overhaul

Polish Chief Justice Defies Government's Supreme Court Overhaul

An outspoken critic of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Gersdorf has branded the reforms requiring judges to retire at 65 instead of 70, a "purge".

Gersdorf, 65, thanked the crowd and said she was acting to protect Poland's constitution and the rule of law.

"I want to show that the constitution and the violation of the constitution are two different things", Malgorzata Gersdorf told crowds of protesters, The Associated Press reported.

Presidential adviser Pawel Mucha said Tuesday that the chief justice's failure to apply for an extension prevents her from remaining on the bench.

Poland's justice minister insisted Thursday that Supreme Court chief Malgorzata Gersdorf had retired under a law that she has rejected as unconstitutional and the European Union has criticised as a threat to judicial independence. "It is getting serious when they ruin our courts". Yet she said she expects President Andrzej Duda to tell her to step down when they meet later in the day.

Justice Gersdorf, following through on a vow she had made, showed up for work with other justices on Wednesday morning.

"We also support judges who are courageous enough to defend the independence", Sterk said.

Campaigners at the International Bar Association (IBA) highlighted recent reports of intimidation and hate campaigns against judges led by the ruling Law and Justice party.

Democracy champion and Nobel Peace Prize victor Lech Walesa has said he will come to Warsaw from his hometown of Gdansk on Wednesday to defend the Supreme Court.

Mucha also announced that Jozef Iwulski, now the longest-serving Supreme Court judge, will take over Gersdorf's duties as acting 1st President of the court from Wednesday.

Opponents of the reforms planned further demonstrations in Warsaw today. The Polish government has one month to respond to the commission's Letter of Formal Notice, it said.

The Wednesday edition of leading liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza ran an editorial calling the retirement law a "Rape of the Supreme Court". Participants of the picket wanted to draw attention to the false statements of the Polish authorities propagated on the forum of the European Union. Also, according to the reform, the Minister of justice can assign judges and to dismiss.

Warsaw faces the threat of losing its voting rights in the bloc under a procedure launched late a year ago over judiciary reforms.

Mass protests erupted in Poland last summer over new judicial laws, with numerous same Poles who opposed communism three decades ago taking to the streets. All the living former Presidents of Poland have become involved in defending the independence of courts, with Lech Walesa in the forefront, the former Foreign Affairs Ministers and activists of the democratic opposition of the 80-ties and 70'ties. Hungary, also facing criticism over democratic standards, has pledged to block such a move.

Chanting "We are with you!", some 5,000 protesters rallied on Tuesday evening at the Supreme Court's offices in central Warsaw in support of Gersdorf and other judges. "With no guarantees of basic freedoms, the fundamental rights of Polish citizens will be destroyed sooner or later".

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