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EU court: Poland chamber penalizing judges must be suspended

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Europe’s top court on Wednesday ordered Poland's government to immediately suspend a body it set up to discipline judges, saying the chamber did not guarantee independence or impartiality of its verdicts.

The Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court, which was appointed by the right-wing government in 2017, is widely seen as a tool for the government to control judges who are critical of its policies.

The European Union, which has said the chamber violates basic values of judicial independence and Poland's rule of law, took Poland's government to the European Court of Justice in October. While the case is still being considered, the European court ordered the Disciplinary Chamber suspended, saying its activity could “cause serious and irreparable harm with regard to the functioning of the EU legal order.”

Poland's government argues it has full right to shape its judiciary, saying it needs to be made more efficient and freed of its communist-era legacy. Deputy Justice Minister Anna Dalkowska said the government will “weigh various options" after the European court's order.

But another Justice Ministry official, Sebastian Kaleta, called the order an “act that violates Poland's sovereignty" on Twitter. Poland's association of judges, Iustitia, welcomed the order and said it banned the government from “illegally persecuting judges.”

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