Human Rights Monitoring Institute joined over 50 civil society organizations from across the world in an appeal to the President of Poland Andrzej Duda to veto three acts regarding the functioning of the justice system in Poland.
In its open letter the NGOs stress out that the Acts concerning the National Council of the Judiciary in Poland, common courts and the Supreme Court altogether shatter the independence of judiciary and seriously breach the rule of separation of powers – fundamental to democratic states ruled by law.
On Friday 21 July 2017, Senat the second chamber of the Polish Parliament, adopted the Act on the Supreme Court. In the light of this Act among others all the tenures of judges currently sitting in the Supreme Court will be terminated with an exception to those selected by the Minister of Justice and then confirmed by the National Council of Judiciary and the President. Furthermore, the Act introduces provisions on the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court which will have an autonomous status and will deal with disciplinary cases concerning judges.
On the same day that the reforms to the Supreme Court were tabled, the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish Parliament, ratified legislation on the NCJ, as well as the Courts Act, which significantly limits the independence of the judiciary in Poland.
The amended Act on the National Council of the Judiciary in Poland will increase political influence when choosing judges – 22 out of 25 members of the NCJ will be directly chosen by the Sejm. This is contrary to the Constitution, which says that the Sejm may choose only four members of the NCJ. Additionally, the new legislation shortens the term of the judges who are current members of the Council.
The HFHR contends that the real purpose of this regulation is to silence the Council’s criticism of public authorities. More information about the legislation is available here.
At the same time, the Courts Act allows the minister of justice to appoint top judges (the presidents of courts) without the obligation to consult representatives of the judges working in a given court. More information about the legislation may be found here.
An appeal to veto
“For many of us activists working for human rights and democratisation, Poland used to be a beacon of a peaceful transition to the rule of law and fundamental freedoms protection. The constitutional crisis developing in 2015 has seriously undermined the role of Poland as a leader of democratic changes in the region” – reads the signatories of the document.
The letter concludes with an appeal to veto the acts undermining the basis of judiciary in Poland. “At the moment, the fate of the right to a fair trial by an independent court for everybody under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Poland depends on you.” – reads the statement.