Poland's president announces retirement of Supreme Court chief

Pauline Gross
July 6, 2018

She said that the constitution states she should serve a six-year term, ending in 2020.

The Wednesday edition of leading liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza ran an editorial calling the retirement law a "Rape of the Supreme Court".

On Tuesday evening the three biggest opposition parties had organized protests "In Defense of the Supreme Court" in Warsaw and other major cities.

Surrounded by supporters she said her presence was not about politics but she was there to protect the rule of law.

Gersdorf, 65, said she would go to work on Wednesday and "later I am going to go on vacation".

Critics allege the changes were unconstitutional and stacked the court with PiS allies.

"If these protest continue, I will come to join you now and then", he said.

The Supreme Court shake-up represents the culmination of a comprehensive overhaul of Poland's justice system that gives the right-wing ruling party new powers over the courts.

Sixteen judges have made requests, according to Polish media reports.

Poland's top judge has refused a government order for her to retire, provoking a stand-off between Warsaw and the European Union.

Under the new rules, which came into effect at midnight, up to a third of Supreme Court judges including 65-year-old Gersdorf could be forced to retire unless they are granted an extension by President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally.

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The Warsaw government says the reforms are necessary to improve the accountability of a system that dates back to communist times.

Polish authorities need to address key concerns of the Commission over the independence of the country's judiciary by the end of the month, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans told the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg on Wednesday (13 June).

According to Amnesty International, judges in Poland are "experiencing political pressure" in connection with the PiS judicial reforms that critics insist pose a threat to the separation of powers that is key to democracy. "With no guarantees of basic freedoms, the fundamental rights of Polish citizens will be destroyed sooner or later".

JANEK SKARZYNSKI via Getty Images European Union officials said they might be forced to bring the matter before the European Court of Justice.

Legendary anti-Communist dissident Lech Walesa is among the leaders of the movement protesting the reforms.

"I'm not a replacement for, nor the successor of, the Supreme Court chief justice".

Iwulski himself confirmed this on Wednesday saying: "I only fill in if she (Gersdorf) is absent".

The European Commission, which polices compliance with EU laws, opened an infringement procedure Monday against Poland over the Supreme Court law. They accused Law and Justice, whose acronym in Polish is PIS, of dictatorial tendencies.

In December, Brussels triggered article seven proceedings against Poland over "systemic threats" to the rule of law.

European Union ministers held the first-ever Article 7 hearing in Luxembourg on Tuesday (June 26) to determine the state of play in the rule of law dispute between Brussels and Poland.

Other reports by GizPress

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