(Vatican Radio) Protests are planned after Poland's Parliament rushed through a controversial law that will enable the government to appoint judges without consultation with judicial circles. Plans are also underway to allow the justice minister to get rid of all of the country's Supreme Court judges and appoint new ones, adding to international concerns about Poland's democratic credentials.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
Under cover of darkness and without consultation beforehand the ruling Law and Justice party introduced controversial legislation that critics say will erode the independence of the judiciary.
But as the governing party and its have a comfortable majority, the law was soon passed by parliament in the middle of the night.
Under the legislation, the justice minister and parliamentarians will have the power to appoint judges without consulting judicial officials.
The right-wing nationalist government claims the reforms are needed because the judiciary is corrupt and serves only the elite.
However don't tell that to prominent Professor Ewa Łętowska, a former judge who served on the country’s constitutional tribunal and the supreme administrative court. Under the changes, "the Minister of Justice, who is also the Prosecutor General, would have the possibility of influencing through the National Council of the Judiciary, appointments in the judiciary, essentially deciding who continues to be a judge and who becomes one," she said.
Łętowska also fears the end of the high court in its current form saying the government only wants to leave judges that are acceptable to the justice minister. She views this as "alarming" as "nobody going to court wants" a judge to face political pressure to make a certain decision.
The bill must now be signed by the president to become law, but a protest against the change was scheduled to take place in the capital Warsaw on Sunday.
Since it came to power in 2015, the Polish government has passed a series of controversial reforms.
They triggered mass protests and concerns within the European Union over the perceived crackdown on the judiciary and press freedom in the EU member state.