E.U. court: Suspend body penalizing judges

Europe’s top court on Wednesday ordered Poland’s government to immediately suspend a body it set up to discipline judges, saying the chamber did not guarantee the independence or impartiality of its verdicts.

The Disciplinary Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court, which was appointed by the right-wing government in 2017, is widely seen as a tool for the government to control judges who are critical of its policies.

The European Union, which has said that the chamber violates basic values of judicial independence and rule of law, took the government to the European Court of Justice in October.

While the case is still being considered, the European court ordered the chamber suspended, saying its activity could “cause serious and irreparable harm with regard to the functioning of the E.U. legal order.”

Poland’s government argues that it has full right to shape its judiciary, saying it needs to be made more efficient and freed of its communist-era legacy.

— Associated Press


Pope creates panel to study female deacons

The Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Francis has created a new commission of experts to examine whether women can be deacons, an ordained role in the Catholic Church reserved for men.

The 10-member commission, the second of Francis’s pontificate to study the issue, includes equal numbers of men and women representing the United States and six European countries.

Deacons are ordained ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests. Married men can be ordained as deacons. Women cannot, though historians say women served as deacons in the early Christian church.

In response to women demanding greater roles in the 21st century, Francis established a commission in 2016 to study female deacons in the early Christian church. But the members failed to reach a consensus, and the group effectively ended its work.

The issue was revived during Francis’s 2019 summit on the Amazon. The region’s bishops called for the question of female deacons to be revisited given the shortage of priests in the territory. Francis agreed, and the new panel appears to be his follow-up.

Significantly, the scope of the commission’s mandate does not appear to be limited to the early church, as it was for the 2016 commission. Amazonian bishops had called for the real-life experiences of their region’s Catholic faithful to be taken into consideration in any new evaluation.

— Associated Press


Truck driver pleads guilty in migrant deaths

A truck driver accused in the deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants whose bodies were found inside a refrigerated container that had been hauled to England pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Wednesday.

Maurice Robinson, 25, of Craigavon in Northern Ireland, entered the plea at Central London Criminal Court. Robinson appeared in court via video link alongside four co-defendants.

The 39 bodies were found on Oct. 23. Police said the 31 male and eight female victims were from Vietnam and ranged in age from 15 to 44, including 10 teenagers.

Police said they died of a combination of a lack of oxygen and overheating in an enclosed space. The victims are thought to have paid people-smugglers to take them on a risky journey to better lives abroad.

The truck had arrived in England on a ferry from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Robinson previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration and acquiring criminal property. He denied a charge of transferring criminal property.

A trial is set to start on Oct. 5.

— Associated Press

Explosion in Turkey kills 5: An improvised explosive device went off on a road in southeastern Turkey, killing five forestry workers, officials said. The regional governor's office blamed the blast, which occurred in the mainly Kurdish Diyarbakir province, on Kurdish rebels, who have carried out similar attacks in the past. There was no claim of responsibility. The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has waged a more than three-decade-old insurgency in Turkey's mostly Kurdish southeast. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

— From news services