Poland’s highest court to rule on critical amendments

Poland's highest legislative court will issue ruling on amendments which can change how court functions

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Andrzej Rzeplinski, right, head of Poland's Constitutional Court and a judge attend a session at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

Poland's Constitutional Tribunal is due to weigh in Wednesday on a legal crisis that has upended politics in the country and brought sharp condemnation from European and US authorities.

The highest legislative court, whose role is to judge the constitutionality of laws, will issue a ruling Wednesday on amendments passed late last year that fundamentally change how the court functions.

Critics say that the changes have paralysed the court, effectively preventing it from acting as a check on the power of the ruling, conservative Law and Justice party, which has greater control over the country than any party in Poland's 27 years of democracy.

Judges of Poland's Constitutional Court attend a session at the Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

The tribunal's judgment is unlikely to end the ongoing crisis. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said on Tuesday that her government will not accept the court's ruling as legitimate.

The constitutional crisis is deepening divisions between supporters and critics of the government, and is also harming Poland's international standing. Both the European Union and the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, have expressed deep concerns about the state of Poland's rule of law due to the changes to the constitutional tribunal, as well as several other measures, including greater government control over state broadcast media.

Domestic critics are also alarmed and a new group, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), has organised several street protests in past months to fight what they see as an erosion of democratic standards.

However, the country's new leaders insist that the changes are needed to break the stranglehold over the country's institutions by the more liberal opposition party, Civic Platform, which held power for eight years until last year.

Law and Justice insists it has a strong electoral mandate to make deep changes to the country, moving it in a more conservative and patriotic direction.

This week leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski lashed out at KOD, saying its activists "despise" Poland and are working to harm the country. He suggested they are working with outside forces to turn the country into a "colony."

"Behind this broad coalition that has been formed against us stand powers that want to keep Poland as low as possible to serve others, so that Poles work for others, so that Poland would be a kind of colony," Kaczynski said Monday. "We will not be a colony, and don't let anyone expect that the authorities, that Law and Justice, will agree to this status."

TRTWorld, AP