Rights group criticizes Polish law on constitutional court

An international human rights body has criticized new legislation in Poland regulating the Constitutional Tribunal, the nation's top legislative court, saying the new law "gives excessive power to parliament and the executive over the judiciary."

The Venice Commission, a group of constitutional law experts with the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights watchdog, issued its opinion Friday during a meeting in Venice, Italy.

It is the latest development in a long-running crisis in Poland surrounding the Constitutional Tribunal, which is charged with evaluating the constitutionality of disputed legislation. It therefore plays a key role in Poland's system of democratic checks and balances.

Poland's ruling party, Law and Justice, has twice overhauled the rules governing the court since assuming power last year. Both attempts have sparked criticism.