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article imageUN envoy says Polish separation of powers 'under threat'

By AFP     Oct 27, 2017 in Politics

A United Nations envoy on Friday warned that a judicial overhaul undertaken by the conservative Polish government has jeopardised the separation of powers and independence of the courts.

"Let me state this clearly: the reform undertaken by the government, presented as a cure, appears to be worse than the disease affecting the Polish judiciary," said Diego Garcia-Sayan, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.

"Today, the independence of the judicial system and other crucial democratic standards, like separation of powers, are under threat in Poland," he told reporters in Warsaw after a five-day visit.

Since coming to power in 2015, Poland's governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced a slew of controversial reforms affecting all levels of the judiciary that have triggered mass protests at home and alarmed the European Commission.

PiS considers the reforms indispensable to combatting corruption and streamlining the judicial system, while the opposition believes the party is seeking to take control of the courts.

"There is a general agreement that the judiciary needs to be modernised, strengthened and subject to some reforms, in order to address the several issues that currently affect it," Garcia-Sayan said.

"However, any reform of the judicial system should aim at improving its effectiveness, not at undermining its independence and legitimacy," added the former Peruvian minister of justice.

He added that the recent measures appear to be part of a policy that "has the effect, if not the aim, of severely undermining" the judiciary.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszzczykowski responded by saying that Garcia-Sayan's comments were his "personal view".

He added: "We are going to respond. He is an expert who has the right to present an opinion, and we have the right not to agree," he told Polish television.

Garcia-Sayan is due to present a report on his findings next year to the UN Human Rights Council, which has no current powers that would enable it to sanction Poland.

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