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Watchdog urges Poland to respect court judgment amid crisis

PR dla Zagranicy
Paweł Kononczuk 11.03.2016 17:05
An influential international watchdog on Friday urged the Polish government to publish a ruling by the country's Constitutional Tribunal – a step needed to make the verdict binding – in order to end a political and legal deadlock.
Venice Commission chief Gianni Buquicchio. Photo: PAP/Radek PietruszkaVenice Commission chief Gianni Buquicchio. Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

The Venice Commission, an advisory group to rights body the Council of Europe, warned that the rule of law, democracy and human rights were in danger as long as Poland was embroiled in a constitutional crisis “and as long as the Constitutional Tribunal cannot carry out its work in an efficient manner.”

The commission recommended that Poland changes its constitution in the long run and called on both the ruling party and the opposition “to do their utmost” to find a solution to the crisis.

A ruling on Wednesday by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal rejected amendments to the court that were pushed through by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in October. Judges insisted that the changes would prevent them from operating “reliably and efficiently.”

But Law and Justice claimed the tribunal’s ruling was invalid. The Polish prime minister is refusing to publish the verdict, thus preventing it from being binding.

'International standards'

In a report published on Friday, the Venice Commission said: “Not only the Polish Constitution but also European and international standards require that the judgments of a Constitutional Court be respected.”

It added: “The publication of the judgment and its respect by the authorities are a precondition for finding a way out of this constitutional crisis.”

The commission visited Warsaw last month to probe whether democratic standards are being upheld, following an invitation by Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski.

Commenting on a leaked preliminary report by the Venice Commission, Waszczykowski said earlier Friday the draft opinion "was extremely politicized and one-sided."

Critics say the PiS-backed changes to the Constitutional Tribunal will paralyse the court's work.

Law and Justice says it came to power with a democratic mandate for sweeping change, and it would be unfair if the tribunal, with a majority of judges appointed by the previous parliament, blocks key reforms that PiS pledged in the run-up to its landslide election victory. (pk)

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