December 22, 2017 / 1:32 PM / a month ago

U.N. judicial rights expert decries Poland's "political" legal reforms

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. independent expert on the independence of judges and lawyers criticised Poland on Friday for legal reforms that have already attracted unprecedented censure from the European Union, dubbing them a serious breach of the rule of law.

Diego García-Sayán, a special rapporteur mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate the independence of judges and lawyers, said Poland’s newly adopted laws threatened the independence of the judiciary.

“These new laws are part of a larger plan aimed at placing the judiciary under the political control of the ruling party,” García-Sayán said in a statement.

He said Poland had been comprehensively reforming its judicial system since parliamentary elections in 2015, aiming to increase its effectiveness and restore public trust. Such reforms were a legitimate objective, he added.

“What is happening in Poland today, however, is a vicious attempt to place the whole judicial system under the control of the executive and legislative branches.”

The EU executive launched an unprecedented action against Poland on Wednesday, calling on other member states to prepare to sanction Warsaw if it fails to reverse judicial reforms that Brussels says pose a threat to democracy.

Poland’s government rejects accusations of undemocratic behaviour and says reforms are needed because the courts are slow, inefficient and steeped in a communist era-mentality.

Reporting by Tom Miles Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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