Krystian Markiewicz, President of the Assosiation of Judges IUSTITIA: A statement from the March of 1000 Gowns, 11 January 2020, Warsaw

Our march today is coming to an end.

The protest march is over - but our march to restore rule of law is not.

The march was silent, but we are not going to be silent.

We carried a banner during the march: it proclaimed our right to independence and the right to Europe. We are not going to put these values aside; we will continue to fight for them.

We marched with a sign designed especially for us by the creator of the legendary Solidarity logo! It is very symbolic as, unfortunately, we are going back to the times when Poles dreamed of freedom and becoming full members of Western civilization.

We marched in gowns; we are not going to take them off. At most, the disciplinary spokesmen can deprive us of them. But depriving us of a gown does not mean depriving us of our values, because the rule of law is in our hearts, not in gowns and chains of office (although they are sacred to us).

We marched in gowns so that all Poles could see us. See that we are not aliens, a caste, Commies, traitors or thieves. We are Poles whose profession embraces an important mission. The judge’s gown is like uniform, a doctor’s scrubs, a symbol of service. And we are here to serve the people.

We are out on the streets to defend our common rights as Poles, because the independence of judges means independence from any influence on court judgments and decisions. As lawyers, with knowledge of the law, we are aware of the consequences of the implementation of the so-called Gagging Act of December 20, 2019.

It is not by chance that parliamentary proceedings of this law were intentionally scheduled four days before the most important holiday for Poles, when people are busy with presents and Christmas trees. It is not by chance that there were absolutely no consultations.

We marched along the road from the Supreme Court, past the Presidential Palace and onto the Parliament. These three buildings symbolize three powers – powers which should work jointly with each other and respect each other, cooperate for the good of the citizens.

Unfortunately, the executive branch and the parliamentary majority have forgotten about this today. They have forgotten that the heart of democracy is the separation of powers - a division which is fundamental to ensuring balance and protecting citizens against government abuse.

We did not march against this or that political party. We marched against changes to the system, which may also affect subsequent generations of Poles, even when power changes hands in Poland. We marched in order to raise awareness of this fact. A judge or prosecutor cannot have a servile attitude towards any politician. For it is often politicians who stand before the court as it is the task of the courts to check the validity of votes cast in elections.

We marched against the closing of lawyers' mouths. It is for lawyers, not politicians, to raise the alarm when laws are violated, just like doctors speak out loudly about health issues, gardeners about trees and shrubs, and psychologists about how to raise children.

As a result of this law, which grants discretionary powers to remove judges from office, Poles will be dependent on the whims of politicians who want to become legal experts. It must be stated clearly, they will be able to influence sentences in such a way that members of their own party will not be harmed, whilst political opponents will face severe punishment. We do not consent to such misuse of legal proceedings.

We marched together with the citizens of our country, but also a vast group of guests from many EU member states. This is an unprecedented event. The march of so many judges, from all over Europe, in a gesture of solidarity with a country in which the rule of law is threatened, took place for the first time in the history of the European Union. Thank you so much for that!

We marched together in a symbolic expression of our community of values. The European Union is not our enemy or a foreign body. We are both national and European judges. It is time to understand that these functions are not mutually exclusive. You can be a Varsovian, a Pole and an EU citizen, all at the same time. We decided on our state system in a constitutional referendum and we confirmed our desire to be part of the European community of values in the EU referendum.

We marched together with representatives of all the legal professions: judges, prosecutors, lawyers, legal counsels, not because we all know each other well and always have the same opinion, we marched together, because it is always the duty of every lawyer to guard and defend the rights of citizens and firmly oppose violations of human rights, constitutional rights, national law or the laws and values ​​of international communities which we have joined voluntarily. The right to Europe means the right to a European legal system so that Poles can feel legally secure.

Examples?

● Let's take a verdict in a case concerning parental rights, where one of the parents is not Polish - such verdict will not be respected in other EU countries, it may be challenged it at any time.

● In the case of a dispute between companies or a company and an employee, for remuneration for work carried out in the EU, a ruling in favour of a Polish citizen or company, may be questioned by an entity from another country;

● Ultimately, increasing legal chaos may cause foreign entrepreneurs to stop investing in Poland, because nobody wants to do business in an unstable and risky country. In a country where no documents, no property rights, no judgments are certain.

Finally, I want to say that there are those who did not march with us ... not because they did not want to, but because they could not. Such a person is, for example, Murat Arslan. A Turkish judge, defender of the rule of law, sentenced to 10 years on the basis of false charges, who wrote us a letter from prison! Do we, as Poles, really want a similar scenario here? An abolition of the separation of powers and departure from the EU?

Today, again, looking at this huge gathering - I believe in victory all the more. I see that we are not alone. The whole world is looking at us! We are not alone. Just as we were not alone during the fight against communism.

As judges, we have the right to independence, and all Poles have the right to remain in the community of EU values!

Thank you all for coming here. I appeal to Poles: stand by us, support us, because it gives us strength to fight!

Here is Poland, here is Europe. And I assure you that if we stand together in solidarity, we will stay in this Europe.