World

Polish lawmakers to vote on law to control top court

A Polish parliamentary commission has summarily rejected 1,300 opposition amendments to a bill reorganizing the nation's top court and has sent it back to lawmakers for a vote.

The Supreme Court bill, which has drawn condemnation from the European Union and has led to street protests, is expected to pass Thursday as the parliament is dominated by the ruling Law and Justice party.

Proposed by the populist party, the law gives politicians control over Poland's Supreme Court. Critics say it kills judicial independence.

It is part of the ruling party's drive to reorganize all levels of Poland's judiciary. The party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a lawyer, insists the justice system needs radical reform and new people because, he says, it still works along communist-era lines and is based on people from that previous political system.

The judges say this opinion is wrong. But many observers say the justice system is inefficient and needs reform.

Supreme Court chief Malgorzata Gersdorf says, on average, the court takes seven months to rule on a case, which she says is a good result, given that the court handles the most difficult and complicated matters.

The bill gives the justice minister the power to organize the court's work and appoint judges. It calls for the immediate firing of Supreme Court current judges, except those approved by the justice minister. Last-minute amendments proposed switching these powers to the president.

The European Commission has warned it could strip Poland of its European Union voting rights over the changes the government is making to the judiciary.

If adopted, the bill will require approval from the parliament's upper house, where ruling party also has majority, and from President Andrzej Duda, who has so far followed the party's line.

Duda has rejected a request for a meeting from EU leader Donald Tusk, according to one of his top aides.

A new round of public protests is planned for Thursday evening.