Rights group criticizes Polish law of weakening top court

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An international human rights body on Friday criticized recently enacted legislation in Poland regulating the nation's top legislative court, saying the law "gives excessive power to parliament and the executive over the judiciary."

The Venice Commission, a group of constitutional law experts with the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights watchdog, issued its opinion during a meeting in Venice, Italy.

The Polish government refused to send representatives to the meeting, accusing the commisison of political bias and of refusing to take Warsaw's position into account.

It is the latest development in a long-running crisis in Poland surrounding the Constitutional Tribunal, which is charged with evaluating the constitutionality of disputed legislation. The court therefore plays a key role in Poland's system of democratic checks and balances.

The European Union, United States and many Poles also have expressed concerns about the Polish government's attempts to change how the court works. The changes have effectively weakened the court's ability to strike down disputed new laws governing other matters, including police surveillance and government control of public media.

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