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The long-overdue changes in Polish judiciary - Adrian Wachowiak reports

Michał Rachoń, the host of “Minęła Dwudziesta” – currently one of the most popular television programs, sparked a controversy last Thursday by saying that the Polish judiciary was originally formed straight after Soviet Union invasion of Poland in September 1939. “Judges appointed and controlled by the Soviets only between 1944 and 1955 sentenced eight thousand people to death,” he said. According to him, the fall of communism in 1989 did not change anything and judges became guardians of the Round Table Agreement.

On Wednesday 12th July 2017 Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, passed a bill that gives parliament a bigger say on the appointment of judges. If signed into law by the president Andrzej Duda the bill will end the terms of the National Council of the Judiciary’s (KRS) current members and allow parliament to choose the majority of its members. During the same session ruling party (PiS – Law and Justice) submitted a draft law that would force the entire Supreme Court into retirement and give the country’s justice minister the ability to decide which judges can stay in their current roles.


It sounds awful, doesn’t it? Does it? No, not really. It does only when you have no idea what’s really going on in Polish courts. And only if you listen about it in the media’s distributing fake news. Despite hysteria of opposition and certain media fighting for status quo, the changes are not revolutionary at all. In fact, when it comes to judiciary similar solutions exist in many other countries. So I can assure you that Rachoń is absolutely right and these changes are long-overdue. They are also very much expected by the vast majority of Poles. And I would like to remind you that these changes are one of the election promises of the ruling party. These are facts. The rest is pure politics.


Apparently in 1989 communism in Poland collapsed. But somehow the Round Table Agreement preserved judiciary entirely. There was not one single change – Rachoń is speaking the truth. The same people, their children and grandchildren formed the so-called “caste”. The same people for years and years were blocking extradition of Stalinists with blood of Polish patriots on their hands, such as Helena Wolińska, who used to be called “monster in uniform” and died free in Oxford, or Adam Michnik’s brother Stefan, who sentenced people to death and lives peacefully in Sweden. The same people weren't able to judge communist generals for their atrocities. Many Poles lost their lives during the communism era, but those responsible were never brought to justice. The whole generations of Poles were enslaved by communists - deprived of their liberty and sentenced to life in poverty. And these people, this “caste” weren't able, in fact they didn't want, to judge anybody responsible for all this unhappiness. They were part of the oppressive system.


Ok, but that’s more about history and making a symbolic settlement with the past. But nowadays these people cover illegal activities. Thanks to them millions and millions PLN evaporated from the state budget. They cover up embezzlements, they acquit criminals, they are responsible for ridiculously long waiting periods in Polish courts and they even steal like common thieves. Ask average Pole what he or she think about judges and courts. Their responses are not suitable for any publication.


“Courts in our opinion are the stronghold of post-communists in Poland,” said Jarosław Kaczyński recently, leader of the ruling party. The opposition plays down comments like this and claims that Kaczyński is responsible for turning Poland into an authoritarian regime. There is no room here to list all the examples of why these changes need to be implemented, but equally I don’t want my statement to remain unfounded. So let’s have a look at judge Janusz Godyń from the Supreme Court, who was recently honoured by KRS and awarded a medal for his merit. But during Martial Law in Poland he was involved in the sentencing of many members of Solidarity. And he is no exception. I told you already: Rachoń is right. The Polish judiciary is a communist fossil. And it’s time to change it once and for all.


“Courts are one of the three powers, not a superior power, which is reserved for citizens, for the nation,” said Adam Bodnar, Ombudsman who speaks against changes. Well, I guess he forgets too easily that currently KRS has broad powers to nominate judges and its members are currently selected for four-year terms by the judges... themselves. The citizens have no control over this process at all. So what are you talking about, mister Bodnar? It’s nothing but fake news. “Society needs to exert control over all powers,” highlighted Marcin Warchoł from the Ministry of Justice, referring to legislative. And this is the aim of the new law.


To sum up: don’t be alarmed. Polish democracy is well and healthy. In fact it is getting stronger and it seems to be source of worry for many Western politicians and its enemies. But I am getting more and more fed up with all these negative and untrue comments about Poland. This bill passed last Wednesday is long-overdue, but absolutely necessary. Michał Rachoń asks whether July 2017 will be the date when Poles retake democratic control over their judiciary. Looking at the current situation in Poland it won’t be easy. But it has to be done. And it will be done. So keep calm and fight fake news.

16:09 15 lipca 2017