July 11, 2018 / 1:57 PM / a year ago

Body of jurists urges Poland to restore court 'independence'

People protest against the conservative government's makeover of the Polish judiciary in Warsaw, Poland July 3, 2018. Agencja Gazeta/Dawid Zuchowicz via REUTERS

WARSAW (Reuters) - A Geneva-based association of jurists called on Poland on Wednesday to “restore the independence of the judiciary”, adding another voice to a row between Warsaw and the European Union.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), made up of senior judges, lawyers and legal scholars who campaign to uphold human rights standards in law, asked Poland’s President Andrzej Duda to revoke a new Supreme Court law that forces into early retirement more than a third of judges at the body.

The Supreme Court change is part of a broad overhaul of the judiciary by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. EU officials and opposition figures in Poland call it an attempt by the government to increase its hold over the judiciary.

The ICJ said in a letter to Duda it was “gravely concerned” with the Supreme Court moves that were “contrary to basic principles of the rule of law”.

Warsaw says it wants to rid the Polish courts of old practices three decades after the country overthrew communism. A number of international legal bodies have condemned the moves.”The executive in Poland is amplifying its influence on the judiciary through its recent measures,” the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which counts more than a million European lawyers as its members, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Reporting by Erika Yip; Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and Peter Graff

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