Protests underway in Poland over controversial Court Law

Council of Europe criticizes Poland over judicial vote

Council of Europe criticizes Poland over judicial vote

Thousands of protesters in Poland gathered outside of parliament on Sunday in Warsaw to voice opposition to a draft law reforming the judiciary.

Legislation was adopted late on Friday by the lower house that gives lawmakers the power to appoint members of the National Council of the Judiciary, the body that enforces ethical guidelines for judges, reviews judicial candidates and seeks opinions on new rules and regulations to ensure they are constitutional.

Activists brandished European Union and Polish national flags chanting "shame, shame" and "in defense of the courts" as they descended onto the streets of central Warsaw to rally against the draft bill.

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A Polish opposition party said Saturday it had urged leaders of worldwide organizations to send observers to parliament to oversee voting on a law that would force the entire Supreme Court into retirement and impose ministerial control over the selection of judges.

An overhaul of the constitutional court and increased control over the prosecutor-general's office by the Justice Ministry have raised eyebrows overseas.

On Thursday, the PiS tabled a separate bill in parliament that would subjugate the Supreme Court - which supervises lower courts - to executive power, in a move the opposition slammed as "the announcement of a coup".

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The introduction of the new law has yet to be added to the Sejm agenda for next week but it is expected that a debate and vote will take place because the session on July 18-20 is the last before the summer recess.

"Today we know that a great fight has begun and we know we must be together, we know we must fight against them together", Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the largest political grouping, the Civic Platform, told the crowd during the rally.

Police estimated the crowd at 4,500 people, while the city authorities said there were more than 10,000 protesters at the demonstration, organised by the KOD pro-democracy movement, which is critical of the governing conservatives' policies on courts as well as other areas such as media and education.

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The Supreme Court building stands in Krasinski Square, site of the Warsaw Uprising monument and where US President Donald Trump said in early July Poland and the United States shared a "commitment to safeguarding the values (of) freedom, sovereignty and the rule of law". Smaller rallies were held in other cities throughout the country.

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