Free Courts, Free People – report by Amnesty International


Everything you need to know about the rule of law in Poland


Awareness of the changes in the Polish judicial system implemented by the ruling party, Law and Justice, is growing both domestically and internationally.

The recent report published by Amnesty International, titled ‘Poland: Free Courts, Free People’, focuses on actions and regulations undermining judicial independence, such as forced retirement of Supreme Court judges, politicization of the appointment of judges, and abuse of disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors. The latter are faced mostly by those who publicly defend the freedom and independence of courts, in media statements, public demonstrations or by issuing rulings in favour of peaceful protesters. “The Polish authorities have conducted a witch hunt, working behind the scenes to intimidate and smear the Polish judges and prosecutors who have courageously protested against the political hijacking of the judiciary. This harassment has to stop immediately,” said Barbora Černušáková, Regional Researcher at Amnesty International.


The report is divided into sections discussing the impact on judges, politicization of the judiciary, the situation of prosecutors, the impact on people and the response of the European Union. It presents ten individual cases of disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors, basing the analysis on interviews with the subjects of the proceedings, their lawyers, activists, the Disciplinary Spokespersons for Common Courts and other data. A detailed timeline of the changes to the judicial system is presented alongside an illustration of how the new system of disciplinary proceedings operates. The procedures by the European Commission against Poland are also described, as most of them relate directly to judicial independence. Furthermore, a set of recommendations is issued by Amnesty International to the Polish government. These include:


  • Immediately stop using disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors merely for their exercise of the right to freedom of expression, for their rulings and other legitimate activities directly linked to their work.
  • Review the new system of disciplinary proceedings to ensure they are independent from the government, in particular the Minister of Justice, and not used as retaliatory action or other forms of pressure and harassment against judges.
  • Amend the Law on the National Council of the Judiciary to ensure that members who are judges are elected by their peers and not by the executive and/or the parliament.
  • Take immediate and concrete steps to restore and guarantee the independence of the Supreme Court.


What follows is a comprehensive analysis of individual cases of disciplinary proceedings initiated against judges and prosecutors, including the one concerning judge Frąckowiak, which was widely covered by the media in Poland and proved to be highly controversial.


A detailed study is presented of the respective sections and institutions of the judicial system, in which changes by the Law and Justice party were implemented undermining the freedom of courts and other violations, namely the National Council of the Judiciary, the Supreme Court, the New Disciplinary Proceedings, and International Standards and EU law.


The full report can be downloaded here.


[by Martyna Olejnik]


Everything you need to know about the rule of law in Poland



August 2, 2019


Supreme Courtrule of lawdisciplinary proceedingsEuropean CommissionDisciplinary Chamberjudicial independenceNational Council of the JudiciaryCourt of JusticeConstitutional TribunalAndrzej DudajudgesPolandelections 2020presidential electionsEuropean UniondemocracyZbigniew ZiobrojudiciaryFirst President of the Supreme Courtpreliminary rulingsCJEUMinister of JusticeCourt of Justice of the EUIgor TuleyaJarosław KaczyńskiCOVID-19PresidentProsecutor GeneralprosecutorsLaw and Justicemuzzle lawelectionsCommissioner for Human Rightsacting first president of the Supreme CourtMay 10 2020 elections2017Freedom HouseExtraordinary Control and Public Affairs ChamberVenice CommissionConstitutionNCJcriminal lawdisciplinary systemNational Electoral CommissionKamil ZaradkiewiczGeneral Assembly of the Supreme Court JudgesAleksander StepkowskiPresident of PolandMałgorzata Manowskademocratic backslidingdecommunizationfreedom of assemblyJulia PrzyłębskaLaw on the NCJrecommendationAdam BodnarHuman Rights CommissionerCCBEThe Council of Bars and Law Societies of EuropereportZiobroPM Mateusz Morawieckifreedom of expressionprosecutionEuropean Association of Judges11 January March in WarsawHungaryNational ProsecutorcoronavirusC-791/19disciplinary liability for judgesWojciech Hermelińskiresolution of 23 January 2020Stanisław PiotrowiczPiotr PszczółkowskiJarosław WyrembakLeon KieresAndrzej ZollPKWMarek SafjanMałgorzata Gersdorfinfringment actionEU valuesENCJlex NGOcivil societyRussiaIsraelforeign agents lawOrdo IurisOSCEOrganization of Security and Co-operation in EuropeEuropean Court of Human RightsFirst President of the Suprme CourtPresident of the Republic of PolandJarosław GowinLGBTLGBT free zonesequalityLGBT ideology free zonesSejmChamber of Extraordinary Verificationhate crimeshate speechcriminal codepopulismMateusz MorawieckiPrime Ministerequal treatmentfundamental rightspoliceCT PresidentJustice Defence Committee – KOSEUWhite Paperlustrationtransitional justicepublic opinion pollSupreme Court President2018Nations in TransitCouncil of the EUStanisław ZabłockiArticle 7European ParliamentLIBE CommitteeFrans TimmermansUS Department of StateSwieczkowskiSupreme Administrative Courtadvocate generalpress releaseRights and Values ProgrammeconditionalityEU budgetC-619/18defamatory statementsWorld Justice Project awardintimidation of dissentersWojciech SadurskijudgetransferPechKochenovEvgeni TanchevFreedom in the WorldECJFrackowiakretirement ageAmnesty InternationalŁukasz PiebiakPiebiak gatehuman rightstrans-Atlantic valuesLSOlawyersAct of 20 December 2019repressive actKoen LenaertsharrassmentAlina CzubieniakMinistry of JusticeJustice FundGerard BirgfellerEwa Maciejewskapostal votepostal vote billPiS