The Law Society’s international human rights adviser, Dr. Marina Brilman, was interviewed by Polish television regarding threats to judicial independence in Poland. See parts of the interview here: https://fakty.tvn24.pl/fakty-po-poludniu,96/zmiany-w-sadownictwie-komentarz-mariny-brilman-z-the-law-society-of-england-and-wales,1004473.html.

 

She discussed recent amendments to the Law on Common Courts and Law on the Supreme Court, as well as other legislation that gives the executive and legislative in Poland control over the judiciary. Specifically, reference was made to: (i) the fact that any judge appointed by the President is considered a “lawful” judge and criticising such appointment constitutes a disciplinary offence; (ii) the introduction of new disciplinary offences and sanctions for judges, and (iii) the transfer of competencies to committees of judges appointed by the Minister of Justice. The Law Society’s letter on these 2019 amendments is attached and was also extensively covered on Polish television: https://fakty.tvn24.pl/fakty-po-poludniu,96/premier-morawiecki-z-wizyta-w-brukseli-spotkal-sie-z-szefowa-ke-i-z-szefem-rady-europejskiej,1003938.html (at 2:40 min.)

 

These 2019 measures follow amendments to legislation in 2017, that included: (i) reforms to the National Council on the Judiciary, so that all members previously appointed by judges are now appointed by Parliament, (ii) the power of the Minister of Justice to revoke appointments of judges and the institution of an hierarchical judicial system whereby court presidents can discipline or recall judges of lower courts, and (iii) the establishment of the Disciplinary Chamber and Chamber for Extraordinary Review within the Supreme Court, both lacking independence. The 2017 measures follow amendments to the Act on the Constitutional Court in 2016, undermining the independence of that Court. The Law Society sent a letter to Polish authorities on these amendments in 2017 (see attached).

 

These legislative amendments, that have been introduced since 2015, together erode judicial independence in Poland. This means that the right of Polish citizens to a fair trial and an independent and impartial tribunal is violated. It not only harms the legal profession or judges in particular, but deprives the population as a whole of access to justice. The Law Society calls on Polish authorities to revoke and amend the adopted legislation to bring it in line with its international treaty obligations, as well as international standards on judicial independence. It also urges the Polish authorities to take no further measures that could undermine the separation of powers.

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