Poland's Top Supreme Court Judge Defies Controversial Retirement Law

06 July, 2018, 19:44 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Malgorzata Gersdorf said she was defending the rule of law

The new law lowers the mandatory retirement age from 70 to 65 for the Supreme Court justices.

The protesters accused the right-wing government of violating the country's own constitution by forcing the retirement of First President Malgorzata Gersdorf and other justices, decrying the development as a decisive step in the destruction of Poland's constitutional democracy.

So what's next in the stand-off?

Gersdorf, an outspoken critic of the PiS and its reforms, said in a television interview broadcast on Tuesday that the presidential palace had invited her to a meeting with Duda at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT).

Gersdorf, who has been the president of the Supreme Court since 2014, believes the legislation is unconstitutional and can not be implemented. Of the 73 Supreme Court judges, 27 are 65 or over - though 11 refused to apply to continue their work.

The controversial law is at the center of the storm of Poland's broader constitutional crisis, which is straining its relationship with the European Union.

"If there is a systemic threat to the rule of law, we can not simply turn a blind eye".

The EU accuses Poland's ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) of trying to control the judiciary and subvert democratic standards.

"The constitution obliges me to a six-year term and I must proceed according to the constitution", Gersdorf said in the Sejm.

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

The government insists it is improving Poland's justice system, saying it was inefficient and controlled by an untouchable "caste" of judges.

Duda announced on Tuesday that Supreme Court president Malgorzata Gersdorf, a staunch critic of the reforms, had not asked for an extension and therefore would retire in line with rules introduced by PiS. "The court system.is an entirely internal matter", PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted by the PAP news agency on Tuesday as telling Gazeta Polska newspaper.

Last week, an assembly of Supreme Court justices responded to the pending purge by issuing a series of resolutions highlighting Poland's constitutional guarantee of judicial independence.

The European Union launched legal action against the Polish government earlier this week, saying the legislation undermined judicial independence.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, left, is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on March 8.

He also mentioned the ruling party's transformation of state media into a propaganda tool and the prosecution of peaceful anti-government protesters even as authorities have failed to act against nationalists who had attacked the protests.

Up to 40% of Supreme Court judges will be forced out, as part of changes that the government argues will help fight corruption and replace judges who date back to a communist era.

"I would like my country to be free, democratic and to respect the separation of powers", Warsaw resident Grazyna Kwadrans told AFP at Wednesday's protest.

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