On Saturday, judges and lawyers from at least 14 countries will march in Warsaw in defence of human rights and the rule of law in Poland, as the Polish Senate considers a law which would further erode judicial independence. Ahead of the protest, Draginja Nadaždin, Director of Amnesty International Poland, said:
“This unprecedented display of solidarity with Polish judges is a response to the growing severity of the crisis facing the country’s judiciary. We stand in solidarity with all those who are marching on Saturday in defence of human rights, the rule of law and the independence of Poland’s judiciary.”
“Judges, lawyers and civil society from many countries are coming together to protest the Polish authorities’ plans to impose severe restrictions on judges’ rights to freedom of expression and association. The changes would bring the remaining free elements of the Polish courts under the political control of the executive branch, spelling the end of the separation of powers in Poland.”
In response to the escalation of abuse of disciplinary proceedings to silence judges, dozens of organisations and academics from Poland and abroad sent an open letter to the European Commission, calling for interim measures to halt the devastation of the rule of law.
The concerned law is currently being debated in the Senate and will be voted upon next week.
Judges are expected to join the march from Ireland, the Netherlands Austria, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Portugal, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Romania and Estonia. Following an urgent request from the Polish Senate, a delegation of the Venice Commission will visit Warsaw on 9 and 10 January 2020 to meet with the authorities and other interlocutors.
Since late 2015, the Polish government has adopted and implemented a set of legislative and policy measures that have undermined the independence of the judiciary. These include politicising judicial appointments, giving the Minister of Justice exclusive power to dismiss and appoint Presidents and Vice-Presidents of Courts, and forcing Supreme Court judges to retire. The government has also weaponised disciplinary proceedings, using them against judges who have spoken out against the ‘reforms’ and placing some of them at risk of losing their jobs.