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Social organisations protest against drastic restrictions of civic freedoms

On 16 March 2017, the Constitutional Tribunal heard the President’s application for the constitutional review of the provisions amending the Assemblies Act that were enacted in December 2016. The amendment was adopted by the parliamentary majority and opposed by the opposition and civic society activists.

A panel of eleven Tribunal’s judges presided by Judge Julia Przyłębska ruled that the provisions were constitutional, despite the President’s concerns. The justification of the decision provides that although the new law interferes with the freedom of assembly, this interference is proportionate and serves as a mean to protect such values as the security of the state and public peace.

Almost 200 non-governmental organisations protested against the gross violation of the principle of equality before the law effected by the amendment to the Assemblies Act. In December 2016, the NGOs appealed to the President to veto the law. The new regulations have been criticised by the Supreme Court, Commissioner for Human Rights, representatives of the Council of Europe and OSCE. The President did not veto the law but requested its preventive constitutional review by the Constitutional Tribunal.

We uphold our view, expressed in the call for action sent to the Sejm, Senate and President in December 2016, that the amended provisions are an excessive and entirely unjustified restriction of such a fundamental civic freedom as the freedom of public assembly. We object against empowering the Government to make arbitrary and unappealable decision to restrict this freedom by way of giving priority to cyclical assemblies endorsed by state authorities.

The Tribunal’s judgment affirming the priority of cyclical assemblies was entered by a panel of 11 judges. The panel included three persons appointed to the judicial posts – already filled by the judges lawfully elected by the former Parliament – by the current parliamentary majority in December 2015 without a valid legal basis. Four judges submitted opinions dissenting with the majority judgment. Judge J. Przyłębska ordered to recuse four judges appointed by the Sejm in 2010 from hearing the case.

The issuance of the judgment by the Constitutional Tribunal sitting in an unlawfully selected panel deepens the legal chaos and leaves an impression that the Constitutional Tribunal, in its current form, has ceased to perform the role of a guardian of our rights and freedoms.

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