On Friday, a new Polish law will take effect issuing sweeping changes to state offices and businesses, including giving Poland’s Minister of Justice jurisdiction over every criminal investigation by merging the justice ministry with the office of the chief prosecutor.
The law, introduced by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo’s conservative Law and Justice government, has come under attack in recent days by opposition leaders who fear it will end prosecutorial independence. In a statement Thursday, opposition expressed concern that the new law will turn prosecutorial force into a politically motivated weapon to quell dissent.
Szydlo responded to these charges stating, "Very often we hear the opinion that criminals get special treatment and privileges, but under the new regulations those who violate the law and who are dishonest will be effectively and justly prosecuted and judged."
Szydlo suggests that the new law, by having the responsibility of prosecutorial discretion fall under the command of a single authority tied to an elected government, creates enhanced accountability and diminishes the likelihood of prosecutorial error or malfeasance.
The opposition remains unpersuaded, suggesting that the new law will give the national government too much power over critical investigations, while also questioning the moral fiber of Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro. Opposition lawmakers note that Ziobro has "a reputation for being politically motivated."
Ziobro, who will now serve as Poland’s Justice Minister and the nation’s chief prosecutor, held both of these roles concurrently from 2005-2007. During that period of time, Ziobro’s office attacked political opponents in multiple corruption and cronyism prosecutions.
"This is the end of the independence of prosecutors’ offices," stated Krzysztof Brejza, a lawmaker with the opposition Civic Platform party.