EU judges march in Warsaw to support Polish colleagues

They protest against a bill, which undermines judicial independence and the rule of law

Judges from across Europe, many of them dressed in their judicial robes, marched silently in Warsaw on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Polish peers who are protesting a bill that would allow the government to fire judges who issue rulings officials don’t like.

."We have come here to support the Polish judges but we are not politicians," John MacMenamin, an Irish Supreme Court judge, told reporters. "We are here about the rule of law, not about politics," he added.

While the government insists the reform will tackle corruption, the opposition says the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) wants to gag critical magistrates. Polish lawmakers approved proposals last month that will allow sanctions against judges who opposed the reforms, which Supreme Court president Malgorzata Gersdorf has denounced as a "muzzle-law".

An organizer of the event read out a list of the countries represented, including Germany, Denmark, Italy and Croatia. Applause was strongest at the mention of Hungary, where judicial independence has been curtailed in recent years. Thousands of Warsaw residents joined the protest, many waving Polish and EU flags, as they marched from the Supreme Court to parliament.

Since taking office in 2015, the PiS has introduced a slew of controversial judicial reforms that it insists are designed to tackle corruption. But critics, including top European judicial bodies, argue they undermine the rule of law, so threatening Poland's democracy. In late 2017, the EU launched unprecedented proceedings against Poland over "systemic threats" posed by the reforms to the rule of law that could see its EU voting rights suspended.

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