Tag Archives: European Union

Poland/EU: EU and Poland In Fight Over ‘Heart and Soul’ of Europe

September 19, 2018

In Poland, demonstrators are dressing famous statues in a white T-shirt with a single word emblazoned on them: “Constitution.”

It’s a protest that goes to the heart of a deepening constitutional conflict in Poland, where the ruling nationalist right-wing party is accused of tightening an authoritarian grip on the country’s judicial system while also stifling dissenting voices and fomenting far-right nationalism.

The battle over the direction of Poland and its legal system is now at the center of European Union politics too.

“I think this is a fight about the heart and soul of Europe,” said Frans Timmermans, a top EU commissioner, late Tuesday at a news conference in Brussels.

“The fundamental question is [whether] the rule of law [is] a fundamental principle of how this union is organized – yes or no?” he told reporters.

This fight has been in the making since 2015 when the Law and Justice party won Polish elections, and became the first government with a clear parliamentary majority in post-communist Poland.

Since its victory, the party has passed a series of laws and measures that critics say undermine the rule of law and target opposition voices. The government’s supporters say it was necessary to overhaul a flawed justice system ruled by a caste of corrupt judges.

Last December, the European Commission took the unprecedented step to trigger sanctions proceedings against Poland because of these moves. Poland became an EU member in 2004.

After the November 2015 election, the Polish government annulled the appointment of five judges to the constitutional tribunal nominated by the previous legislature. Replacements were then appointed by the new government.

After that, the Polish parliament approved other changes that the EU and the judicial establishment say undermined the independence of the Polish justice system.

The changes have given the government more control of common courts, the constitutional court, the supreme court and the final appeals court for civil and criminal cases.

The most controversial change lowered the retirement age for supreme court judges from 70 to 65. This has had the effect of forcing about 27 the court’s 73 judges into retirement.

https://www.courthousenews.com/eu-and-poland-in-fight-over-heart-and-soul-of-europe/

https://www.ft.com/content/dae7ff64-bcdc-11e8-94b2-17176fbf93f5

https://euobserver.com/political/142880

https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/costantino-grasso/european-court-of-justice-as-bastion-of-democracy-and-rule-of-l

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/polish-judicial-body-suspended-european-network-57887168

http://wbj.pl/poland-under-increased-scrutiny-from-brussels-over-the-rule-of-law/

http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/383076,Poland-will-defend-court-reforms-amid-ruleoflaw-row-top-official

https://www.medelnet.eu/index.php/news/europe/460-medel-statement-on-the-suspension-of-the-polish-judiciary-council-by-the-encj (ENGLISH & FRANCAIS)

https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_etat-de-droit-en-pologne-la-situation-est-plus-urgente-que-jamais-selon-paris-et-berlin?id=10022609 (FRANCAIS)

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Poland/EU: Poland ploughs through with controversial judicial reforms

August 23, 2018

Ignoring objections at home and from the European Union, Poland has decided to go ahead with the appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court.

“We’re speeding things up as much as we can,” judge Leszek Mazur told reporters on August 21.

Mazur is the new head of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a body overseeing judicial impartiality whose composition was changed as part of the reforms.

As reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party had introduced the forced early retirement of judges over the age of 65 as part of a raft of controversial judicial reforms that have drawn concern from Brussels.

The PiS insists the judicial changes tackle corruption and overhaul a judicial system still haunted by Poland’s communist era.

But the opposition, democracy watchdogs and the European Union have warned they undermine judicial independence, the rule of law and democracy.

https://www.europeaninterest.eu/article/poland-ploughs-controversial-judicial-reforms/

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/polish-president-duda-defends-governments-judicial-moves-57326040

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/poland-moves-to-name-new-judges-despite-eu-concerns/articleshow/65506284.cms

https://emerging-europe.com/voices/the-cjeu-is-polands-real-supreme-court/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland-chronology/chronology-poland-clashes-with-eu-over-judicial-reforms-rule-of-law-idUSKBN1JU25U

https://www.actualitesdudroit.fr/browse/penal/international/15262/pologne-nominations-accelerees-de-juges-a-la-cour-supreme-en-depit-d-objections-de-bruxelles (FRANCAIS)

Iran: 60 European MPs Call on President Rouhani to Work For Nasrin Sotoudeh’s Release

August 22, 2018

On August 22, 2018, 60 members of the European Parliament (MEP) called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to “do all within your power to ensure” the “unconditional release” of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. A 2012 recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Sotoudeh has been detained since June 13, 2018. Having formerly served three years in prison for peacefully defending her clients in the Iranian judicial system, Sotoudeh is currently facing many more years behind prison under several national security charges. Following is the letter sent by MEP Marietje Schaake to President Rouhani.

———————————————————————————————————————————–

Brussel, 22 August 2018

Honourable President Rouhani,

We write to express our deep concern about the continued detention of Sakharov laureate Nasrin Sotoudeh. She was arrested in June of this year to serve a five-year prison sentence for previously unreleased charges, apparently solely because of her human rights work.

Last week it was revealed that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing new charges, reportedly including charges of espionage, which is an extremely worrying development. Her case signifies that the Iranian judiciary continues to criminalise legitimate human rights activism.

We urge you to call on the judiciary to respect due process and disclose information about the charges that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing, and we call on you to do all within your power to ensure her unconditional release.

https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2018/08/60-eu-parliamentarians-call-on-president-rouhani-to-work-for-nasrin-sotoudehs-release/

https://women.ncr-iran.org/iran-women-news/5430-nasrin-sotoudeh-s-open-letter-on-her-refusal-to-attend-court

https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2018/08/intelligence-agents-raid-nasrin-sotoudehs-home-taking-hair-pins-as-evidence/

https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2018/08/fourth-human-rights-lawyer-slapped-with-national-security-charges-in-iran/

https://observatoryihr.org/news_item/lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-faces-new-charges-rights-defenders-iran-under-threat/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasrin_Sotoudeh

https://www.radiofarda.com/a/eu-mp-nasrin-setodeh/29448002.html (FARSI)

https://liberationpolular.wordpress.com/2018/08/22/%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%B7%CE%BB%CE%B5%CE%B3%CE%B3%CF%8D%CE%B7-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B9%CF%82-%CE%B9%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%AD%CF%82-%CF%80%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%B9%CF%84%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%AD%CF%82-%CE%BA%CF%81%CE%B1/ (GREEK)

https://kjarninn.is/frettir/2018-08-22-mannrettindalogfraedingur-handtekinn/ (ICELANDISH)

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Poland/EU: Polish judges set to be suspended from European network

August 17, 2018

Warsaw has repeatedly clashed with Brussels over changes to its judicial system.

An organization representing Europe’s judiciaries has moved to suspend the Polish Council for the Judiciary (KRS) on the basis it lacks independence from the executive in Warsaw.

The board of the European Network of Councils of the Judiciary (ENCJ) put forward the proposal to suspend its Polish member, to be voted on at a meeting September 17.

“The Board considers that the KRS is no longer the guardian of the independence of the judiciary in Poland,” the ENCJ wrote in a detailed opinion. “It seems instead to be an instrument of the executive.”

The ENCJ represents judiciaries from across the EU, and it acts as an advisory body to EU institutions. Its Polish member, the KRS, is the body responsible for selecting Poland’s judges.

Chairman of the KRS Leszek Mazur told Polish news site Onet: “We consider these actions as unauthorized and unjust.” Stating that a decision to exclude Polish judges “would be extremely regrettable,” Mazur said, “Let us hope that we will be able to appeal against such a decision.”

In January, a new law came into effect in Poland under which judicial members of the KRS are no longer selected by their peers but rather by the parliament. KRS members originally vehemently opposed the new law, but following the change its chairman issued a letter to the ENCJ defending the shift in how it functions.

But the international body deemed the legal changes are problematic.

https://www.politico.eu/article/polish-judges-set-to-be-suspended-from-european-network-rule-of-law-poland/

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1004626/EU-news-Poland-supreme-court-reform-European-Network-of-Councils-for-the-Judiciary

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland/eu-judicial-body-to-suspend-poland-for-flouting-freedom-of-courts-idUSKBN1L11YD

https://www.urdupoint.com/en/world/eu-judiciary-network-may-suspend-poland-over-412703.html

https://www.encj.eu/index.php/node/492

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-4987_en.htm

https://www.eubulletin.com/8898-warding-off-systematic-threats-eu-steps-up-legal-battle-against-poland.html

https://www.icj.org/poland-icj-applauds-supreme-courts-defence-of-the-rule-of-law/

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1006241/EU-news-Germany-Heiko-Maas-Poland-European-Union-judicial-reform

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judiciary_of_Poland

http://www.bruxelles2.eu/2018/08/18/lappel-au-secours-de-la-presidente-de-la-cour-supreme-de-pologne/ (FRANCAIS)

Iran: EU concerned over detention of human rights lawyer in Iran

August 15, 2018

Nasrin Sotoudeh faces charges such as espionage as Tehran continues to stifle dissent

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

The European Union has expressed serious concerns about the continuing detention of Nasrin Sotoudeh, the prominent Iranian human rights lawyer who is serving a five-year jail sentence.

Sotoudeh was arrested in June amid a crackdown on defence lawyers representing cases deemed sensitive to the country’s national security.

“The EU is seriously concerned about the arrest of the prominent Iranian lawyer and 2012 laureate of the European parliament’s Sakharov Prize, Ms Nasrin Sotoudeh,” an EU spokesperson told the Guardian on Wednesday.

Sotoudeh’s arrest comes amid an exceptionally tense atmosphere in Iran, where authorities are stifling dissent as they scramble to contain weeks of street protests over economic grievances, environmental issues and a lack of political and social freedoms.

“We have contacted the Iranian authorities on the matter to seek more information about her situation,” said the spokesperson. “We will continue following the issue closely. The EU attaches high importance to the human rights situation in Iran and has been raising concerns in the context of the High Level Dialogue, in bilateral meetings and in the UN framework.”

Sotoudeh, 55, is facing a torrent of charges, including espionage, after arguing a string of cases involving women arrested for defying hijab rules by taking off their headscarves in public and waving them on a stick.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/15/eu-concerned-over-detention-of-rights-lawyer-in-iran

https://www.rferl.org/a/jailed-iranian-rights-lawyer-sotoudeh-charged-espionage/29435599.html

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-rights-advocate-sotoudeh-sentence-unlawful/29435470.html

https://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2741551&language=en

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/08/15/Iran-rights-advocate-spy-sentence-unlawful-Defense-team-.html

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/alarm-at-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-iran/5067268.article

https://www.iranfocus.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32973:iran-rights-advocate-s-sentencing-in-absentia-is-unlawful-according-to-defense-team&catid=5:human-rights&Itemid=110

https://www.en-hrana.org/two-new-cases-opened-against-nasrin-sotoudeh

https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2018/08/nasrin-sotoudehs-lawyer-they-came-after-her-from-three-directions/

https://www.en-hrana.org/women-prisoners-of-conscience-write-letter-of-condolence-to-human-rights-lawyer

https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/17/iran-rights-defender-faces-new-charges

https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/immediate-release-of-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh.html (SIGN THE URGENT PETITION!)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasrin_Sotoudeh

https://persian.iranhumanrights.org/1397/05/nasrin-sotouded-five-years-sentence-husband-response/ (FARSI)

https://www.radiofarda.com/a/29433695.html (FARSI)

https://www.dw.com/fa-ir/iran/a-45087342 (FARSI)

http://fa.euronews.com/2018/08/16/eu-concerns-over-jailed-iran-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh (FARSI)

http://www.rfi.fr/moyen-orient/20180816-iran-avocats-celebre-militante-nasrin-sotoudeh-denoncent-detention-mehdi-zaker (FRANCAIS)

https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1130133/iran-les-avocats-dune-militante-condamnee-pour-espionnage-fustigent-un-verdict-illegal.html (FRANCAIS)

https://advokatwatch.dk/Advokatnyt/Internationalt/article10807116.ece (DANISH)

https://www.amnesty.no/aksjon/advokat-fengslet-etter-hijab-protester (NORWEGIAN)

Poland: Polish Supreme Court turns to ECJ for help

August 2, 2018

Poland’s Supreme Court on Thursday suspended the application of a law forcing the early retirement of older judges and turned to the European Court of Justice to rule on whether recent changes to the court’s functioning violate EU rules.

The move pulls the EU’s top court into the midst of an ongoing constitutional battle in Poland, where the ruling Law and Justice party has been accused of revamping the judicial system to bring it under tighter political control. The party says the steps are needed to cleanse the justice system of corruption and ties to the old communist regime.

One of the measures passed last month imposes a retirement age of 65 on Supreme Court justices, suspending about 40 percent of its judges including its president, Małgorzata Gersdorf.

Judges wanting to stay on past that age are supposed to ask permission from President Andrzej Duda, something most have refused to do, saying it weakens the independence of the judiciary.

Gersdorf has also refused to comply, arguing the measure violates the Polish constitution, which gives her a six-year term ending in 2020.

https://www.politico.eu/article/polish-supreme-court-turns-to-ecj-for-help-older-judges-retirement-eu-rule/

http://r.email3.wikafi.be/3f3wg93pnwjf.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-02/polish-supreme-court-suspends-judge-retirements-until-eu-ruling

https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/top-polish-court-halts-disputed-judge-retirements-pending-ecj-ruling/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/26/poland-protests-thousands-cry-shame-against-judicial-reforms

http://www.france24.com/en/20180727-thousands-protest-poland-president-duda-signs-disputed-judicial-reforms

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-07-27/poland-s-takeover-of-its-courts-gets-a-weak-response-from-eu

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland-judiciary/eu-top-court-spells-out-independence-requirements-for-polish-judiciary-idUSKBN1KF1BB

https://euobserver.com/tickers/142463

https://www.icj.org/poland-icj-sitting-and-former-judges-call-for-immediate-reinstatement-of-supreme-court-justices/

https://www.icj.org/poland-icj-calls-for-immediate-reinstatement-of-forcibly-retired-supreme-court-justices/

http://www.euronews.com/2018/07/21/judicial-reforms-met-with-protests-in-warsaw

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44909253

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/07/20/europe/poland-supreme-court-reform-bill-intl/index.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland/former-or-not-polish-judge-enters-supreme-court-at-heart-of-dispute-idUSKBN1K80T9

http://www.toledoblade.com/Editorials/2018/07/18/Poland-on-the-brink.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland/poland-risks-peoples-trust-with-court-dispute-rights-organization-idUSKBN1K32NX

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/poland-pis-supreme-court-by-slawomir-sierakowski-2018-07

https://www.wsj.com/articles/poland-steps-up-supreme-court-purge-1531508976

http://news.trust.org//item/20180713182123-0koo8/

https://www.europeaninterest.eu/article/global-jurists-group-critical-polish-reforms/

https://www.ft.com/content/8d459466-85db-11e8-96dd-fa565ec55929

https://www.irishlegal.com/article/european-bars-and-law-societies-urge-end-to-purge-of-polish-judiciary

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland-lawyers/body-of-jurists-urges-poland-to-restore-court-independence-idUSKBN1K11Y3

https://www.europeaninterest.eu/article/global-jurists-group-critical-polish-reforms/

https://www.rte.ie/news/courts/2018/0706/976781-judiciary-poland/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland/eu-judicial-body-backs-polish-supreme-court-head-in-dispute-with-government-idUSKBN1JW2BQ

https://therealnews.com/stories/polish-government-purges-judiciary-to-ensure-free-reign

https://wtop.com/holidays/2018/07/polands-judicial-purge-another-step-toward-authoritarian-democracy/

https://cyprus-mail.com/2018/07/08/the-independence-of-the-judiciary-must-be-sacrosanct/

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/07/polish-pm-defends-controversial-judiciary-reform-180704133722660.html

http://thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/371527,EU-ministers-to-again-probe-Poland-over-rule-of-law

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland/polish-president-to-meet-with-supreme-court-head-before-reforms-kick-in-idUSKBN1JT13T

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44679964

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/02/polands-supreme-court-constitutional-crisis-comes-to-a-head

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/verge-autocracy-poles-protest-supreme-court-law-180701184717089.html

https://www.ft.com/content/220e88ec-7b86-11e8-8e67-1e1a0846c475

http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/538317/World/Europe/Poland-standoff-deepens-as-president-disputes-top-judges-tenure

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/poland_supreme_court_retirement

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44695235

Poland: Polish government grilled by EU foreign ministers over judicial reforms

June 28, 2018

EU affairs ministers pressed the Polish government on Tuesday for several hours over its controversial judicial reforms. The hearing, a first in the history of the European Union, was constructive, in the words of European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.

In December, the European Commission opened for the first time an Article 7 procedure against Poland, in response to the judicial reform led by the Conservative government, which the EU executive fears will threaten the rule of law and make the judiciary susceptible to political influences. In theory, the full application of article 7 could lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights in the Council; however, Hungary’s right-wing leader Viktor Orban, has said the he will veto any such measures.

Tuesday’s hearing is the first part of the procedure, which may result in a suspension of Polish voting rights in the various councils of the European Union. After a presentation by the Polish executive that Mr Timmermans described as “detailed”, each Member State had the opportunity to ask two questions during a “constructive” and “unprejudiced” interview, added the Vice-President of the Commission.

That does not mean, however, that the European Commission now believes that threats to the rule of law are unfounded, Mr Timmermans warned.

https://eu-ocs.com/polish-government-grilled-by-eu-foreign-ministers-over-judicial-reforms/

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/981432/eu-poland-warsaw-justice-system-judicial-reforms-judge-law

https://emerging-europe.com/in-brief/eu-continues-to-pressure-poland-of-legal-system-reform/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eu-poland-court/eu-to-open-case-against-poland-over-supreme-court-law-idUSKBN1JO2OF

https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/new-report-documents-polands-escalating-assault-rule-law

https://www.dw.com/en/european-court-of-justice-ecj-sends-polish-extradition-case-back-to-ireland/a-44439428

http://www.krakowpost.com/19261/2018/06/polish-government-softens-death-camps-speech-law

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judiciary_of_Poland