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    People hold Polish national flag during a demonstration in Gdansk, Poland February 28, 2016.

    Thousands Take to Facebook to Protest Against Polish Constitution Reforms

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    A Facebook campaign launched to protest against the right-wing Polish Government's legal reforms has attracted tens of thousands of shares in the continuing unrest of the Warsaw administration's constitutional reforms.

    In December 2015, the Polish Government added five 'politically friendly' judges to the country's Constitutional Tribunal, in a move seen by critics as making it easier to push through legislation with less opposition.

    The amendment meant that the tribunal would need a two-thirds majority to take a decision on constitutional matters instead of a simple majority. The minimum number of judges needed to make a decision was also raised from nine to 13, making it more difficult to convene a quorum.

    The changes stated that there should be a six-month period before the tribunal can examine a case, rather than two weeks, which critics say allows the government to pass legislation that will go unchallenged for months.

    However, Chief Justice Andrzej Rzeplinski Wednesday ruled that many sections of the law passed in December 2015 were "non-compliant with the Polish Constitution.

    "[The law] prevents the honest and proper functioning of the… Constitutional Court, by interfering in its independence and separation from other powers, thus violating the principles of the rule of law."

    However, the government in Warsaw said it would ignore the ruling, refusing to publish it. Under the Polish constitution a ruling does not become final until officially published.

    'Systematic Threat'

    A Facebook page set up to publicize the ruling of the chief justice attracted 54,000 shares in 24 hours. It said:

    "Polish people! We invite you again to active citizenship and help in the publication of today's judgment of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Poland, which in black and white states the unconstitutionality of the Act of the Polish Parliament on amending the Law on the Constitutional Court (22 December 2015)."

    "Prime Minister Beata Szydło says she has no intention of respecting the rule of law, saying the publication of the judgment does not intend to apply to her, breaking the base of democratic governance."

    The European Commission in January launched an investigation because it believes this could break its 'rule of law mechanism' which seeks to is rein in EU member governments whose policies and legislation are seen to pose a "systematic threat" to EU values — particularly on justice, democracy and media freedom.

    Meanwhile, a separate report from the Venice Commission — a body of legal experts within the Council of Europe — due to be published February 12, is to warn that the court reforms put democracy, human rights and the rule of law at risk.

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    constitutional court, values, media freedom, democracy, free speech, government, human rights, protests, Facebook, European Union, Beata Szydlo, Europe, Poland
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