Forced transfer as harassment and “disciplinary measure”
The forced transfer of acclaimed prosecutor Mariusz Krasoń from the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Cracow to a lower-ranked office in Wroclaw has generated controversy among prosecutors and other legal professionals in Poland. The decision was issued after the prosecutor Krasoń participated in the drafting of a document highlighting defects in the current system earlier this year. A number of organizations and individuals, including the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, have expressed their support for prosecutor Krasoń and criticized the decision of the National Prosecutor, Bogdan Święczkowski.
In a letterletter to the National Prosecutor, the Lex Super Omnia Association of Prosecutors called for a reversal of the decision to transfer prosecutor Krasoń against his will.
“The Lex Super Omnia Association of Prosecutors will not allow the case of prosecutor Mariusz Krasoń to pass by silently. We demand that you immediately cancel the decision you made, as it may incite negative consequences not only for Mariusz Krasoń, but also for his family. This is because posting our colleague is a further example of the nature of the harassment and a substitute of a disciplinary penalty for an independent stance”
Prosecutor Krasoń is known to have worked on a resolution adopted in May by the Prosecutorial Assembly in the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Cracow, which highlighted discontent with working conditions. It pointed to issues such as salaries, lack of action aimed at improving the staffing situation and restricting the independence of prosecutors both through changes in the law and by affecting their trial decisions outside of proper professional channels.
After the resolution was published, the management of the Prosecutor’s Office was summoned to Warsaw and the Disciplinary Spokesperson for the Prosecutor General investigated the case. Perhaps, despite the resolution passing unanimously, prosecutor Krasoń was chosen as a scapegoat to serve as a warning to his colleagues of the potential consequences of their activities.
Prosecutor Krasoń was first transferred to another division in the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Cracow, only to be later assigned to Wroclaw, being given only a weekend to move (the distance between the two cities is almost 300 km). The Prosecutor’s Office in Wroclaw is also two ranks lower in the hierarchical structure than the one in Cracow where he previously worked.
Moreover, prosecutor Krasoń is dealing with a difficult family situation, having to take care of two elderly parents, so the sudden transfer has affected both his career and his personal life. Overall, the forced transfer is seen as an attempt to intimidate and punish the prosecutor for partaking in the adoption of the resolution in May.
In the letter, the Lex Super Omnia Association of Prosecutors condemn the actions of the National Prosecutor. They argue that rather than being a means of maintaining the quality of the prosecutorial service, disciplinary proceedings as well as staffing decisions have been turned into ways of settling personal vendettas against prosecutors publicly defending the independence of courts or criticizing the current situation.
Adam Bodnar, the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, remarked that “the prosecutor’s office has become a politicized structure with various mechanisms of degrading and internal disciplining of prosecutors, which do not correspond to the standards of a normally functioning state”.
In addition, the Justice Defence Committee in their opinion on the case of prosecutor Krasoń highlighted the fact that the practise of long-term delegation of prosecutors without taking into account their desires and personal situation is inconsistent with EU standards.
Moreover, in 2017 the Venice Commission issued a report on the Act on the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The Venice Commission is of the opinion that it falls short of international standards and concentrates too much power in the hands of one person – namely the Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro.
The case of prosecutor Krasoń is not the first one in which disciplinary proceedings or staffing decisions have been abused to pressure prosecutors openly speaking up in support of prosecutorial independence and condemning recent changes in the judicial system. The Justice Defence Committee’s report “A country that punishes” presented a number of such cases, including the one of prosecutor Wójtowicz, subject to disciplinary proceedings for his attendance at a demonstration defending free courts organized by the Committee for the Defence of Democracy and his unauthorized statement given to a local media outlet.
When asked by a journalist whether he was concerned with how his presence at the rally could be viewed by his supervisors, Wójtowicz allegedly said “I have nothing to lose. What will they do? Transfer me to Ełk [a small town in North-East Poland]?”
As we can see, maybe not to Ełk, but one can definitely be transferred from Cracow to Wroclaw.
[by Martyna Olejnik]