By 10 November 2022
Parliament of Poland (photo credit: Reuters)
Poland’s ruling party, the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS), has submitted legislation that would change the constitution in order to strip members of parliament and judges of the immunity from prosecution that they currently hold.
Unlike normal legislation, changes to the constitution require a supermajority of two thirds of votes in the lower-house Sejm – where PiS has only a narrow majority – as well as a simple majority in the Senate, where the opposition holds power. PiS would therefore require opposition support in both chambers.
At present, members of parliament have immunity from criminal prosecution. That can, however, be lifted for individual lawmakers if a majority in their chamber votes in favour of doing so.
Last week, two opposition MPs lost their immunity. One, Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus of The Left (Lewica), will face prosecution for the crime of insulting religious feelings by protesting in a church after the government’s majority in the Sejm voted to strip her immunity.
Another, Borys Budka of Civic Platform (PO), voluntarily gave up his immunity to face an indictment for criminal defamation filed by a PiS MP just before a vote took place.
Judges likewise enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution unless the relevant judicial disciplinary chamber chooses to let them face charges.
Under PiS, the disciplinary regime for judges has been toughened, with the party arguing that the “judicial caste”, as they call it, has long enjoyed a privileged, unaccountable status.
However, many – including the domestic opposition, many legal experts, the majority of the public, and international institutions, including the European Commission – regard the government’s reforms as being aimed at intimidating independent judges and bringing the judiciary under greater political control.
Read the full article here: Notes from Poland