Poland PM spars with high court over 'Orwellian' decommunization law

[JURIST] Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski [official profile] said Thursday that the judges of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal [official website] could be charged if they act improperly in ruling on the legality of a so-called Lustration Law [RFE backgrounder; BI backgrounder on "lustration" generally] passed in October 2006 requiring over 700,000 Polish professionals - academics [IPN announcement], journalists, lawyers, diplomats and managers of state-owned companies - to file affidavits swearing they they never co-operated with the country's Communist-era secret police. Poland was governed by a Soviet-installed Communist regime from 1945-1989 [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Lawmakers, judges and government ministers were already subject to a previous more limited version of the legislation. The law, pushed through by the virulently anti-Communist center-right government in fulfillment of a 2005 campaign pledge, was challenged by Poland's human rights ombudsman and members of the ex-Communist Social Democrats ahead of its scheduled May 15 compliance deadline. Critics - including former prime minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki - have derided the legislation as humiliating and creating an "Orwellian-style ministry of truth." They say that only some 5 percent of those subject to the law have so far complied with it, and that most are awaiting the court's ruling.

The government is trying to delay a court ruling that might block the law. Earlier this week it sought to have four judges on the court removed for bias - a motion that was denied - but later succeeded in forcing the recusal of two who were the subjects of secret police files now held by the National Institute of Remembrance (IPN) [official website]. The files appear to be minimal or innocuous and do not designate either judge as an informer. Jaroslaw Kaczynski - whose twin brother Lech is Poland's president [official website] - has insisted that all the judges on the court should go before a decommunization tribunal themselves before ruling on the law's constitutionality. In saying Thursday that the judges could be charged he insisted, however, that he had no plans to charge anyone and was simply indicating that the possibility existed. AFP has more. Eastern European Review has local coverage.

 

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