Poland's senate approves contentious court bill

Protests

To become law, the bill must be signed by President Andrzej Duda.

Critics say the Supreme Court legislation and two earlier bills destroy judicial independence and threaten democracy.

Poland's Senate approved the legislation early on July 22.

Law & Justice has been rushing through its reform, which would force into immediate retirement all Supreme Court judges with little or no debate and without consulting the judiciary. The head of state has 21 days to sign the document, veto it, or, if in doubt, submit it to the constitutional court.

Poland's lawmakers on Thursday approved a law that gives the president, not judges, the power to regulate the work of the Supreme Court and to appoint its judges.

Huge protests were witnessed in Warsaw and cities across Poland against the draft bill as the senate debated it late into the night.

European Union officials disagree, and if the Supreme Court measure goes into effect, it could trigger an effort in Brussels to strip Poland of its voting rights in decisions of the bloc - a never-invoked nuclear option.

If Warsaw's nationalist-minded PiS does not back down, the government could face fines and even a suspension of voting rights, although other eurosceptics in the European Union, notably Hungary, will likely veto strict punishment. Thus, the government wants to get rid of the pathologies in the judicial system of the country.

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Her comments appeared to refer to warnings from the European Union of sanctions against Poland, including the possibility of stripping Warsaw of its EU voting rights.

European Union president, Donald Tusk, Poland's former prime minister, has appealed to President Andrzej Duda for a meeting to seek ways out of the situation that, he said, goes against EU values and is destructive to Poland's worldwide image.

In addition to several thousand protesters across Poland, human rights groups and leaders in Europe condemned the recent moves by PiS to consolidate control as anti-democratic. "We will not be intimidated by Polish and foreign defenders of the interests of the elite".

Last week, parliament passed another bill that ends the terms of current members of the National Council of the Judiciary, one of the main judicial bodies, and gives parliament the power to choose 15 of its 25 members.

Duda has so far not accepted an invitation for talks on the issue from European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

The bill, passed Thursday by the lower house of parliament, still needs approval from Poland's upper house, the Senate and from Duda, before it takes effect.

Opponents of the move argue that it will demolish judicial independence and separation of powers in the country, marking a major shift for a ruling government that has already been accused of pursuing an illiberal agenda. The poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, amid large street protests against the party's plan for the judiciary.

"Poland's president should be concerned about a situation that is, let's say, serious", Tusk said.

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