August 16, 2018 / 4:13 PM / a year ago

EU judicial body to suspend Poland for flouting freedom of courts

FILE PHOTO: People gather in front of the Presidential Palace during a protest against the Supreme Court legislation in Warsaw, Poland, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An organisation made up of the judiciaries of European Union states said on Thursday it planned to suspend Poland after political interference meant its legal system was no longer independent of the government.

The European Network of Councils for the Judiciary’s (ENCJ) announcement adds to widespread criticism of the nationalist government’s changes to the courts since coming to power in late 2015.

The ENCJ’s board said the Polish National Judiciary Council (KRS), which appoints judges and represents Poland at the ENCJ, “is no longer an institution which is independent of the executive and ... guarantees the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice.”

The ENCJ, which advises the EU’s executive on upholding the rule of law in the bloc, will convene its members on Sept. 17 to decide whether to suspend the KRS.

The EU has several legal cases open against Poland for its overhaul of the judiciary, but the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party says the changes are needed to clear out the legacy of communism and make the courts more effective.

The president of Poland’s Supreme Court, Malgorzata Gersdorf, has defied a new law that forces her into early retirement and has called on the European Union to defend her country’s judiciary from government interference.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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