WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s opposition-dominated Senate on Friday rejected a new law that would allow judges who criticise the government’s judicial reforms to be disciplined.
With Poland and the European Union at loggerheads over the reforms, the opposition is trying to use its control of the Senate to highlight a dispute that some say throws Poland’s membership of the bloc into question.
The 100-member Senate voted by 51 to 48 to reject the law.
The lower house, controlled by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), still has the power to make the bill law, assuming that President Andrzej Duda, an ally of PiS, signs it.
PiS says the bill, which has been passed by the lower house, is necessary to avoid chaos in the legal system, as some judges have started questioning the legality of the appointment of others under new rules introduced by PiS.
But Brussels, human rights activists and lawyers believe the bill is designed to stop criticism of the government’s wide-ranging reforms, which they say aim to increase government control over the judiciary.
The Venice Commission, a legal expert group from the Council of Europe, urged Poland to reject the reforms in an urgent opinion published Thursday.
The Commission had visited Warsaw to discuss the proposed rules, on the invitation of Senate speaker Tomasz Grodzki.
PiS criticised the visit and said it would not back down from the reform.
Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Marcin Goclowski, Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Giles Elgood