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Poland: Court Rules 1981 Martial Law Unconstitutional

(Mar. 30, 2011) On March 16, 2011, Poland's Constitutional Tribunal issued a ruling declaring the imposition of martial law in 1981 under the military government headed by General Wojciech Jaruzelski to have been unconstitutional, based on a consideration of the constitution in force at the time, the Constitution of 1952. (Daniel Makosky, Poland Court Rules 1981 Martial Law Declaration Unconstitutional, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Mar. 17, 2011); Constitution of 1952-Extracts [in English translation], International Constitutional Law website (last visited Mar. 18, 2011).)

This decision will ease the process of court cases filed by those claiming to have been damaged by actions the government took under the martial law when it was in force from December 13, 1981, to July 22, 1983. There are expected to be thousands of cases lodged with the courts by those claiming they or their family members were harmed physically or through loss of employment. (Makosky, supra; for more on the martial law period, see for example Michael Werbowski, Martial Law in Poland: A Precursor to Communism's Downfall, GLOBAL POLITICIAN (Feb. 22, 2010) & Martial Law in Poland (last visited Mar. 18, 2011).)

The Constitutional Tribunal is described on its website as an “independent constitutional organ of the State.” Its function is to manage the “hierarchical conformity of legal norms, i.e. adjudicating on the conformity of the legal norms of lower rank to those considered superior (especially the Constitution) and eliminating the norms inconsistent with the system of law in force.” (About the Tribunal (last visited Mar. 18, 2011).)