Fight for independent courts in Poland

We may be witnessing a new revolution of solidarity. After a week of protests in dozens Polish cities, and growing pressure from the international community, Polish President Andrzej Duda has announced he is vetoing two key judicial system laws earlier passed by the parliament. The third law - on the system of common courts – was signed today. The judges lose their autonomy and become subjects to the Minister of Justice.

One of them is to replace Supreme Court judges with government nominees. The other - the law of the National Council of Judiciary - presumed interruption of the term of office of judges of the National Court Register and the election of new - not by the judicial self but by the parliamentary majority (controlled by ruling party).

Three key judicial reforms have been speedily passed by both houses of Poland's parliament last week, prompting waves of demonstrations across the country. Before they became law, they require approval by the president. The protesters urged the president to “show guts” and oppose the three laws passed by parliament.

For seven nights, every night, at 9 pm, thousands of angered residents have been gathering in front of the seat of regional courts in Gdansk to protest these laws. They were bound to limit and dwarf our new, only 28-years-old democracy.

People protesting in Gdansk. Photo: D. Paszlinski
People protesting in Gdansk. Photo: D. Paszlinski

Historically, Gdansk has been leading the way to democratic changes in our part of Europe. On Thursday I recalled the shipyard strike of 1980, which brought to life the biggest freedom movement in modern Europe - Solidarity. Peaceful, pluralistic and democratic, it triggered the fall of Berlin wall and eventually of communism. It was here, on our coast of the Baltic Sea, that the method was devised how to peacefully abolish totalitarian regimes. Today we must return to our method. We need to let go of the authoritarian-like regime in Warsaw, using non-violent means.

It is not going to be easy. We know that thera people who are afraid of the Kaczynski government. We must not ostracise them, but encourage them to be brave. I think that we may be witnessing a new revolution of solidarity.

Although we won the battle, we are far away from winning the war. The President signed the third law - an amendment to the bill on the system of common courts. Announcing his decision to sign, he practically delivered a verdict on court judges across the country. From now on, they lose their autonomy and become subjects to the Minister of Justice. The government of Beata Szydlo and Jaroslaw Kaczynski will be able to conduct purges and exert influence on them.

We won’t lay down arms! We meet tonight at 9 pm again!

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