Crowds Gather in Warsaw to Protest Judicial Reforms

Protests

During the vote, thousands of citizens demonstrated in front of the Senate and the Supreme Court in Warsaw, as well as in other cities of the country, calling on Polish President Andrzej Duda to refuse to ratify the bill and prevent it from entering into force.

Some protesters carried Polish and European Union flags, chanting: "Free courts". The demonstrators sang the national anthem to stress that they are defending Polish values.

The law, among other things, provides for the dismissal of Supreme court judges, except those appointed by the President and gives the President the power to direct the activities of the courts.

After the populist Law and Justice party won power in 2015, it took on the country's system of checks and balances as it sought to cement its power, often passing contentious laws in the middle of the night and without any public consultation.

Under the current system, candidates for the Supreme Court are selected by an independent body consisting mainly of judges but also included a few politicians.

Senior Czech judges denounced the judicial overhaul in Poland as an attack on the rule of law on Friday.

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

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

The Supreme Court bill still needs approval from the Senate and from Duda, who hails from the ruling party.

"Mass protests in Poland in recent days failed to change the minds of the ruling Law and Justice Party", NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin. The speed of the procedure has also raised questions about the quality of the law. The bill passed 235-192 with 23 abstentions. It has drawn condemnation from the European Union and has led to street protests. The head of the European Parliament and president of the European Council expressed concern the bill would erode the independence of courts.

They have started kicking and hitting the metal barriers that separate them from the parliament grounds. Earlier this week it cleared the lower house and will now go to President Andrzej Duda. The article allows the union to pursue sanctions against a member state if that country is said to be committing fundamental rights violations. He says the justice system needs "radical changes" to become efficient and reliable.

A new round of nationwide protests is expected yesterday across Poland that will urge Duda not to sign the legislation into law.

The U.S. Department of State on Friday urged all sides to "ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland's constitution or worldwide legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers", and urged dialogue.

The crowd later moved to the parliament building where a Senate commission was debating the Supreme Court law, ahead of Senate's Friday session.

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