Thousand of protesters are expected to rally in the Polish capital of Warsaw on Sunday evening after Parliament passed a law putting the Supreme Court under government control.
Key to the legislation is that current Supreme Court judges would be forced into early retirement and new judges would be appointed by the Justice Ministry.
Parliament’s upper house approved the bill just before 2 a.m. on Saturday after 16 hours of debate, sparking mass protests in more than 100 cities across the country and a wave of condemnation from abroad.
Critics have slammed the bill’s passage as a blatant power grab by President Andrzej Duda and his right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), but the party insists it is simply carrying out needed judicial reform.
The move to control one of the last remaining independent government institutions has prompted concern in Washington and triggered warnings from the European Union that it is putting judicial independence at risk.
European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish Prime Minister from the opposition Civic Platform Party, warned Thursday of “dangerous consequences” for Poland’s standing on the world stage and said he had asked Duda for an urgent meeting.
Since coming to power, the Law and Justice party has eroded other institutions and freedoms: The right to peaceful assembly has become more restricted, and new media laws have made it more difficult for the press to operate independently.