Police, prosecutors and courts prepares for mass protests

Police, prosecutors and the courts in Warsaw are prepared for Friday’s mass protests against the constitutional court’s ruling which outlawed ‘eugenic’ abortions.

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Parliamentary staff have been told to vacate the building by 12.00 on Friday. A major police presence is expected in the building to defend it from any attempts to occupy it. There is a fear that the demonstrators may attempt to storm parliament, something that much smaller groups of protesters attempted but failed to achieve during the protests against the government’s judicial reform in December 2016.

Courts may be busy

Warsaw District courts have been informed that they should be prepared potentially for an increase in the number of arrest warrants for over two weeks beginning this Friday. The court has been warned that it should increase the number of people working on those days to cope with the potential rise in cases. The period in question is expected to see a peak in the number of protests following the likely publication of the constitutional court’s ruling in the next few days. In the past the courts have also been warned to expect such a situation when mass demonstrations were planned.

Prosecutors to take a tough line

Earlier this week the head of the prosecution service Bogdan Święczkowski briefed his staff reminding them to take a firm line against both organizers and demonstrators who breach the law. This was regarded as a reaction to the tough line taken by Deputy PM and ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński. The organizers of the protests may face charges of endangering the life and health of the public by organizing protests during an epidemic. The maximum prison sentence for such actions is eight years.

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The mass protests against the constitutional court’s ruling outlawing abortions of the unborn with foetal defects which are being held at a time of...

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Not all politicians of the ruling block support the tough line advocated by Jarosław Kaczyński. President Andrzej Duda and Deputy PM Jarosław Gowin have both called for legislation that would enable abortions to take place in cases of lethal defects of the fetus. Mr Kaczyński has not opposed such a legislative move but does not wish to see it while mass demonstrations are continuing. He fears that such legislation would be taken as an act of weakness and would encourage yet further protests.

The “Women’s Strike” movement is unlikely to be satisfied with any compromise. They are calling for abortion on demand at the very least. But they are also calling for the end to religion in schools, end of public funding for the Church and for the government to resign and fresh elections to be held. That is an agenda that the ruling party cannot and will not accept.

Prime Minister calls for calm

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki once more called for calm on Thursday. He appealed to protesters to concentrate their anger on him and other politicians and not to ‘endanger the old’ whom they could infect when and after returning from demonstrations. But both he and other ruling party figures denied there were any plans to introduce a state of emergency.

Andrzej Rzepliński, the former chief justice of the constitutional court and opponent of the ruling party’s judicial reforms, went on record saying that he was saddened as a Catholic and horrified as a citizen at the form the protests were taking. He said that attacking people’s homes was unacceptable and that he would himself defend Jarosław Kaczyński in such circumstances. He urged the Church leaders not to “hide themselves away” but to attempt to talk to demonstrators. He also appealed to Parliament to amend the family planning act so that it was clear in exactly what circumstances abortion could take place.

Mr Rzepliński’s views are a reminder that the constitutional court has been taking a conservative stance on abortion for a very long time. Back in 1997 it actually nullified legislation that liberalised abortion rights as it deemed that life begins at conception and not at birth.

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