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Poland passes judiciary control bill

December 20, 2019

Poland's parliament has passed a bill that would allow the government to punish judges critical of controversial court reforms. The measure may lead to Poland being penalized by the EU.

Poland judges
Image: imago images/ZUMA Press/P. Twardysko

Poland's parliament passed a bill on Friday that would grant the government powers to punish judges despite criticism that it could imperil the independence of the judiciary. 

The bill has been widely criticized by the European Union and the United Nations, with threats being made that, if it becomes law, Poland may lose its voting rights in the EU.

The bill was approved by Poland's lower house and will now face a vote in the Senate before being signed off by the president, who is in favor of it. 

Read more: What are Poland's controversial judicial reforms?

If made into law, it will give the government power to fire and control judges. The law would directly violate EU legislation on the judicial system.

The bill could "result in judges being dismissed if they question the government's judicial reform" and infringe on the judges' freedoms of expression and association, UN Human Rights Office spokesman Rupert Colville said on Thursday.

Friday's vote was held after two days of emotional debate, with government supporters defending it as a way of bringing order to what they argue is a "chaotic" justice system and opposition lawmakers saying it threatens democracy.

The legislation was slightly amended after protesters took to the streets, but in the latest version judges could still lose their jobs at the government's whim.

The EU formally called on Poland to suspend the legislation earlier on Friday. European Commission Vice-President for Transparency and Values Vera Jourava tweeted that she did not want Polish lawmakers to advance the measure.

The bill passed with 233 lawmakers voting in favor and 205 against, after it was hastily presented following criticism from the EU.

The fall of the Iron Curtain - Poland

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ed/cw (dpa, AP, AFP)