“I appeal to you and members of the Polish Government to refrain from statements that are factually incorrect or diverge from legal fact when assessing the activities of the European Union,” writes Adam Bodnar, Poland’s Commissioner for Human Rights (CHR), in a letter to PM Mateusz Morawiecki
The European Association of Judges (EAJ) supports the idea that Poland’s National Council of the Judiciary should be removed from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ). “For several years I have been speaking loudly about the dangerous path onto which Poland’s rulers have gone. Their aim is to destroy the separation of powers,” said the president of the European association in January
“The big political groups are basically speaking with one voice when it comes to the rule of law and Poland. In this sense the Polish government and its MEPs are isolated,” says Slovak MEP Michal Šimečka. He emphasises, however, that the ultimate fate of Polish democracy rests in the hands of Polish voters.
“I fully subscribe to the conclusion of the urgent opinion of the Venice Commission of 16 January 2020, that these amendments diminish judicial independence,” writes the President of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) at the Council of Europe. Marin Mrčela appeals for revision of the “muzzle law.”
On 23 January, a panel composed of three chambers of the Supreme Court will decide whether judges nominated by the new, politicized National Council of the Judiciary should be allowed to adjudicate. The “legacy” justices of the Supreme Court in the Civil, Criminal, and Labour Law chambers were asked by First President of the Supreme Court Małgorzata Gersdorf to rule on the issue. Their resolution will be binding on the Supreme Court.
“Representatives of the Ministry of Justice can meet with the representatives of the Venice Commission, treating their arrival a little like a quasi-private visit,” said Zbigniew Ziobro in TV Trwam on 8 January. The minister is of the opinion that the invitation of the Commission to Warsaw by the Speaker of the Senate, Tomasz Grodzki, was an abuse. The facts speak differently
A letter from National Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski to line prosecutors represents the opening of another front in Law and Justice’s fight to put a choke hold on the independence of the justice system.
Among those surveyed, 58% feel that the CJEU has the right to stop the Law and Justice-led “reform” of the judiciary if the Court of Justice rules it violates EU law. Only 35% disagree. The arguments given by the government, which maintains that the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice does not have the right to take up the issue of Polish courts, are even failing to convince PiS voters. Polish women are pro-EU: they are far more likely than men to take the side of the EU’s highest court.
The Senate in opposition hands means the end of Law and Justice’s dreams of subordinating the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights. Without the consent of senators, the new Commissioner will not take up the post in 2020 after Adam Bodnar’s current term ends. If the Senate rejects the candidates put forward by PiS, Bodnar may remain in the post of Commissioner longer. And continue to point out where PiS is breaking the law.
The Law and Justice government argues that the reforms introduced since 2015 do not differ from solutions in place elsewhere. But Law and Justice has politicised the National Council of the Judiciary and subjugated the Constitutional Tribunal. They are trying to take over the Supreme Court and is going after judges who dare to voice criticism. They have carried out a ghastly purge in the public prosecutorial service. Every particular change is troubling, but all the more so when viewed in its entirety.