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The Warsaw Voice » Law » December 11, 2017
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Venice Commission strongly against Polish reforms
December 11, 2017   
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The Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law concludes that the cumulative effect of proposed reforms to two laws and recently adopted amendments to a third law “puts at serious risk the independence of “all parts” of the Polish judiciary.
The Commission opinion concerns two drafts recently submitted by the President to the Sejm, which propose to amend the Act on the National Council of the Judiciary and the Act on the Supreme Court, as well as recently already adopted amendments to the Act on Ordinary Courts.
The Venice Commission intended to visit Poland in November, but the Polish authorities proposed to postpone the visit until after the December Plenary Session. Such postponement would delay the adoption of the opinion until March. Given that the reform is now being considered by Parliament, the Venice Commission decided to proceed with the adoption of the opinion in December without the visit.
The legal experts found some – quite limited - improvement in the two draft acts proposed by the President, if compared to the initial proposals discussed in July this year.
Among issues concerning the Draft Act on the Supreme Court, the Venice Commission determines that the creation of two new chambers within the Supreme Court – the Disciplinary Chamber and Extraordinary Chamber – is “ill advised” in that it is composed of newly appointed judges, entrusted with special powers that put these chambers far above the others.
The experts also call on Polish authorities to allow Supreme Court justices – including the First President – to serve until the currently existing retirement age. The draft act, by calling for the early removal of a large number of Supreme Court judges due to the lowering of the retirement age, with immediate effect, “violates [the judges’] individual rights” and also “jeopardizes the independence of the judiciary as a whole”, the Commission stresses.
The Venice Commission welcomes the fact that Polish authorities are open to dialogue. It calls on the Parliament to start a dialogue before the procedure of legislation continues and to reconsider the recent amendments to the Act on Ordinary Courts, along the lines indicated in the opinion.
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