Polish presidency says top Supreme Court justice to retire

Glen Norman
July 7, 2018

Poland's Supreme Court chief justice was set for a showdown with the European Union country's president on Tuesday, vowing to defy controversial reforms pushed through by the right-wing government forcing top judges to retire early.

Brussels says Poland's judiciary reforms, including changes to the rules governing the Supreme Court, subvert the bloc's democratic standards.

"Under the constitution, Mrs Gersdorf has retired because she exceeded the age limit of 65", he said, adding that Gersdorf has not filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court to question the constitutionality of the new retirement law.

The law, which took effect Tuesday, is forcing the chief justice and as many as one-third of the court's 73 sitting judges to step down.

However, Gersdorf said she "did not submit and will not submit" such an application.

Supreme Court spokesman Michal Laskowski said earlier Gersdorf "intends to remain in her post until April 30, 2020, in line with the provisions of the Polish Constitution". The judge, very critical of Government of Law and Justice (PiS), has become a symbol of resistance to rush of executive, says PiS is trying to consecrate a single party government and that is undertaking measures " Frightening "to" intimidate "judges who oppose.

The legislation would "undermine the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges", it said in a statement.

Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki said this in his address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, an Ukrinform correspondent reported.

Around 4,000 people - according to the Warsaw town hall - gathered outside the Supreme Court in the capital, many shouting "free courts", "shame" and "constitution" and carrying banners and flags of Poland and the EU. Gersdof has publicly criticised the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in the past, saying last month that it was "not an option" to apply for an extended position.

Tens of thousands of Poles have hit the streets since the PiS government came to power in 2015, protesting at its judicial reforms and attempts to tighten Poland's already strict abortion law, among other causes.

On Monday, the European Union launched legal action against Poland for the new law, saying it threatened judicial independence.

The protesters vowed to assemble again early Wednesday morning when Gersdorf has vowed to show up for work along with other judges affected the contested retirement law.

More protests were held late Wednesday in a number of cities and Lech Walesa, the legendary pro-democracy fighter and Solidarity leader in the 1980s, addressed the cheering crowd in front of the Supreme Court building. The domestic upheaval as well as concerns by the European Commission prompted authorities to concede to some changes, though the main thrust of the legislation has remained the same.

"We contest the law, but we can not directly invoke the constitution, so we have complied with it", Michal Laskowski, a Supreme Court justice, told the liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

Judges in Poland are "experiencing political pressure" in connection with the judicial reforms, according to Amnesty International.

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