Human Rights First released a new report documenting the Polish government’s escalating assault on the country’s legal system. “Justice Purged: Poland Politicizes its Judiciary” is based on research conducted in Poland and draws on interviews with activists, journalists, international observers, and legal experts. The report comes one week before a new law goes into effect that will severely curtail the independence of Poland’s judiciary.
“Poland is in a tailspin. The rule of law is one of the pillars of a free, democratic society. The new law, which goes into effect next week, is yet another attempt to tear that pillar down,” said Melissa Hooper, author of today’s report. “If the current government’s assault on the legal system continues, it won’t be long before that pillar falls.”
The Law on the Supreme Court will, among other things, create a new governmental body staffed by political appointees that will have the power to review and re-decide nearly any court case from the past 20 years, force the retirement of Supreme Court judges over the age of 65, and allow political appointees to discipline judges.
Since assuming power in 2015, Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party has undermined the country’s Constitutional Tribunal, taken steps to control public media, discredit independent journalists, increase police power and surveillance, and characterize refugees as terrorists. In August 2017, Human Rights First released “Poland’s New Front: A Government’s War Against Civil Society,” a report detailing the Polish government’s undermining of the country’s democratic values.
“In the span of just a few years, Poland has turned from Europe’s preeminent post-communist success story to a country known for having dismantled its institutional checks and balances,” added Hooper. “Given Poland’s close relationship with the United States and position as a critical NATO ally, the United States has a major stake in Poland remaining fully democratic. The Trump Administration needs to stop turning a blind eye as a vital-partner self-destructs.”
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