Hundreds of judges dressed in formal robes took to the streets on 11 January in Poland’s capital, Warsaw, to protest a controversial law.
The protesters held Polish and EU flags, as well as banners reading “The right to independence” and “The right to Europe”.
Last month, the law, called the “muzzle-law”, was approved in the lower house of parliament in Warsaw, with 233 lawmakers in favor and 205 against.
Under the legislation, backed by Poland’s right-wing government, judges can be fired if they question the government’s judicial reforms. Poland’s supreme court warned that the rules are forcing judges to apply the regulations even if they are “incompatible with higher legal norms”, and that the country might be forced to exit the European Union.
Judges from almost all EU states joined the protest, saying that the legislation undermines the rule of law.
“We have come here to support the Polish judges but we are not politicians. We are here about the rule of law, not about politics”, Irish supreme court judge John MacMenamin said.
“We want to feel that we are safe at work. A judge cannot fear that if a ruling they hand down is inconvenient for the government, they will bear consequences. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to that”, said Polish judge Halina Musial.
Earlier this month, a Polish court has convicted a pro-government official for violating the good name of the country’s judges by calling them “ordinary thieves”. The court ordered him to publicly apologize to the judges and pay a fine of around $5,000.