Poland’s Governing Party Votes to Curb Power of Highest Court

by Shelby Vcelka

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

WARSAW, Poland–

The Polish Senate has approved changes to the power of Poland’s highest court, which has sparked mass protests within the country and concerns from the European Union that they could destabilize the rule of law. The bill takes away power from the constitutional court, and only requires the signature of Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, to become law. Duda is a member of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), which forced the bill through the Senate on an overnight session running from Wednesday to Thursday. The lower house of Parliament had already approved the measures on Tuesday afternoon.

The Polish Parliament debates a new bill to curb the power of the country’s highest court. The bill was passed in the Senate on Thursday during the early hours of the day. (Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal).

The new law states that the courts must approve all rulings with a two-thirds majority, instead of the usual simple majority, and requires 13 of the court’s 15 judges to be present when highly contentious cases are before the court. Currently, the law only calls for 9 judges to be present. The law also calls for a mandatory waiting period of three to six months between the request for a ruling and a verdict, rather than the current two-week waiting period.

The opposition party has condemned the bill as an attempt by the PiS to interfere with the justice system and the constitutional court’s independence. These paticular changes, they worry, will decrease the number of cases the already overworked constitutional court will be able to hear per year.  Additionally, they claim the PiS are attempting to take control of the court and erase checks on governmental power. Previously, President Duda has stirred the emotions of the opposition party by swearing in four new judges earlier this month.

The European commission vice-president Frans Timmermans wrote to Poland’s foreign and justice ministers this past Wednesday, urging the Polish government to avoid adopting the law or passing it into effect. “All questions about the law’s impact and effects,” the letter stated, should be “fully and properly assessed.” The Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, quickly fired back that Timmermans had been “misled” by the opposition party on the intent and focus of the bill. Similarly, the UN high commissioner for human rights has expressed deep concerns for the effects on the rule of law the changes would create.

For more information, please see–

Wall Street Journal– Polish Governing Party Rushes to Reorganize Legislative Court— 22 December 2015

Russian Times– ‘Coup’ against EU? Poland accused of trampling democracy after new law on top court— 23 December 2015

Associated Press– Polish lawmakers pass contested law on constitutional court— 24 December 2015

The Guardian– Poland’s senate votes to curb power of top court— 24 December 2015


Spanish King Calls for National Unity After Turmoil of Elections

by Shelby Vcelka

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain–

During his annual Christmas Eve speech, King Felipe VI of Spain appealed for open communication and national unity after an indecisive general election during the previous weekend. King Felipe stated his desire that the nation would show “understanding and a fraternal spirit, which are typical of this season, always be present among us.” The elections showcased two new national parties, the anti-auterity Podemos, and the center-right Ciudadanos, which both made substantial gains in Parliament. The addition of these parties effectively ended the dominant two party systems that had been in place for over thirty years.

King Felipe VI of Spain during his annual Christmas Eve address. During this year’s address, he called for national unity and patience while Spain determines which party will lead its Parliament. (Courtesy of The Guardian).

The elections resulted in a profoundly divided Parliament, with no party enjoying an outright majority, or by great enough margins to allow that party to rule alone. Already, party leaders have begun the process of negotiations to form coalition governments. The process is expected to take several weeks, or even months.

In his address, the King commented, “Political plurality, expressed at the ballot box, without a doubt offers different sensitivities, visions and perspectives; and it involves a way of exercising politics based on dialogue, consensus and commitment. Now, what should matter to all, first and foremost, is Spain and the general interest of the Spanish people.”

The King also appealed to the people for Spain to remain a unified state, as he spoke of “national cohesion.” Recently, the separatist movement in the Spanish state of Catalonia has gained traction, with many people calling for the state to receive recognition as an independent state. “I sincerely believe that we are living today in times where it is more necessary than ever to recognize everything that unites us,” King Felipe said.

When Parliament reconvenes in January, King Felipe will ask the coalition party with the most members to form a government. If, by that time, no coalition party has been determined, the individual parties have two months to hold negotiations. After that time period, if there is still no government, fresh elections will be held.

For more information, please see– 

WSWS.org– Spanish political system in turmoil over hung parliament— 23 December 2015

The Guardian– Spain’s King Felipe calls for country to unite after election uncertainty— 24 December 2015

BBC– Spain elections: King Felipe calls for national unity— 25 December 2015

Euronews–Philip VI’s call for national unity heard loud and clear by Basques & Catalans— 25 December 2015

Yemen Peace Talks End After Ceasefire Violations

By Brittani Howell

Impunity Watch News Reporter, The Middle East

SANA’A, Yemen – On Sunday, peace talks in Switzerland, regarding the Yemeni conflict, came to an end with no sign of resolution as combatants engaged in a fierce fighting. According to the United Nations, there were “numerous violations” to the ceasefire agreement.

The United Nations Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed meeting with the media, after the peace talks concluded. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

According to Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, negotiations will resume sometime in the middle of January. He also stated that both sides, the Houthi rebels and the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, were far from a ceasefire as neither side trusts the other.

The ceasefire violations that occurred Friday and Saturday caused more than 100 deaths, 55 of which occurred on Saturday. According to the Houthi-run defense ministry, Saudi Arabia conducted 1,300 airstrikes in the Harath district of Hajah, since Thursday. According to Human Rights groups, the Saudi-coalition is responsible for the majority of civilian deaths.

The United Nations reported last month that 5,700 people have been killed in addition, tens of thousands have been wounded and 82% of Yemen, or 21 million people, is in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Johannes Van der Klaauw, stated, “The collapse of basic services in Yemen continues to accelerate.”

Houthi forces, over the past couple of days, have launched ballistic missiles at the Saudi-backed forces. According to Yemeni military officials, the Houthis have also attacked across the border, into Saudi-Arabia.

Anti-Houthi forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, have started an offensive that sweeps across several northern provinces. The Anti-Houthi forces have recently captured new territory including a provincial capital.

During the peace talks, however, it was agreed that both sides would release prisoners and that both sides would create proposals on how to withdraw forces. An anonymous diplomat told The New York Times, that there has been a “palpable warming on a personal level between the two delegations over the course of the week.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – UN Announces End of Yemen Peace Talks Amid New Fighting – 20 December 2015

Reuters – U.N. Sees Progress in Yemen Talks but Urgent Need for Full Ceasefire – 20 December 2015

The New York Times – Yemen Peace Talks End with No End to Conflict – 20 December 2015

CNN – As Sides Talk, Fresh Violence in Yemen Leaves 55 Dead – 19 December 2015

Interactive Map of Al-Rahma and Al-Karama Clusters


الخريطة التفاعلية لتجمع مخيمي الرحمة والكرامة

Interactive Map of Al-Rahma & Al-Karama Clusters Map

English Version

الخريطة باللغة العربية

Service points distribution

توزع نقاط الخدمات ضمن المخيمات

Number of families in the camps

أعداد العائلات القاطنة في كل مخيم

Total number of tents inside each camp

عدد الخيم الكلي داخل كل مخيم