Poland’s populist-dominated parliament on Friday approved a bill allowing for a commission to investigate Russian influence in Poland, a move critics say turns politicians into judges.
The Polish opposition denounced the adoption of the law, which came a few months before the parliamentary elections, and described it as a “constitutional coup.”
The committee’s nine members, appointed by the House of Representatives, will decide whether people under investigation succumbed to Russian influence between 2007 and 2022, with powers to impose harsh penalties on them.
The Commission’s law did not provide for any appeal procedure for those found guilty who find themselves banned for 10 years from holding public office.
The stated aim of the sanctions is to prevent these people from “operating again under Russian influence at the expense of Poland’s interests,” according to the text of the law.
Critics say the commission undermines the principle of separation of powers, as its members are prosecutors and judges at the same time.
The opposition, which refuses to participate in the committee, considers that the law was designed to restrict opponents of the ruling nationalist “Justice and Law” party before the parliamentary elections, in addition to preventing opposition candidates from assuming official positions if they win.
The bill was rejected in early May by the opposition-controlled Senate, but passed through the House of Representatives after a second reading.
Senators condemned the move, describing it as a “witch hunt,” saying that the committee, whose members will be appointed by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, will be a “puppet court.”
The law still needs to be signed by President Andrej Duda, who also belongs to the ruling party, to be enforceable, but he has not yet commented on the committee.