Freedom of expression of judges and prosecutors: UNHRC report

Share

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

More

While the freedom of expression of public officials can be sometimes restricted with a view to protecting the impartiality and independence of institutions, in the event of a breach of the rule of law, judges and prosecutors can be seen as having a moral duty to speak out - says the report.



On 24 June 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a report titled ‘Independence of Judges and Lawyers: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers’ Its main conclusions are the following:

 

  • Judges and prosecutors, just like all citizens, can exercise their right to freedom of expression, belief, association, and assembly; however, they have to do it in such a way that does not violate the dignity of their office
  • The use of social media is not appropriately regulated, and therefore cases of accidental breach of professional standards of conduct take place
  • Specific restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of judges and prosecutors can be justified only when they are legitimized by law and necessary in a democracy to protect the independence, impartiality, and authority of institutions
  • In the case of constitutional violations, judges may even be considered to have a moral duty to speak out in defence of democracy and the rule of law
  • Some of the disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors can be seen as an expedient to punish individuals for expressing their opinions or acting in the exercise of their duties

 

The report, besides addressing important issues regarding freedom of expression of judges and prosecutors, has significant repercussions for the situation in Poland, where disciplinary proceedings as a means of repression against lawyers are becoming increasingly common.

 

In recent months, several disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against judges or prosecutors concerning public statements or attendance at events supporting the independence of the judiciary.  One of the most recent case was that of prosecutor Krzysztof Wójtowicz, against whom a disciplinary proceeding was initiated following his participation in a demonstration organised in 2017 by the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) to support free courts.

 

Another case concerns judge Waldemar Żurek, former spokesperson of the National Council of the Judiciary, who was known for actively supporting the independence of the judiciary in the public sphere. Żurek was forcefully transferred from one court division to other without consultation with the court’s council, which is a legal prerequisite.

 

Three other judges, Małgorzata Kluziak, Piotr Gąciarek, and Marek Celej, have faced disciplinary proceedings for critical statements about the vice-president of the district court in Warsaw – a controversial figure due to the questionable legitimacy of his appointment to that court. The action was widely seen as an attempt at quieting and intimidating the judges for expressing their opinion publicly.

 

Another three prosecutors from the board of the ‘Lex Super Omnia’ prosecutorial association, Krzysztof Parchimowicz, Katarzyna Gembalczyk, and Dariuszow Korneluk, have been also subjected to disciplinary proceedings following their disapproval of a colleague who publicised the personal details of a judge handling a case involving the death of the Minister of Justice’s father. Broadly speaking, the members of the association are a frequent target of disciplinary proceedings and are summoned to explain most of their public statements and publications.

 

As the report suggests, while the freedom of expression of public officials can be sometimes restricted with a view to protecting the impartiality and independence of institutions, in the event of a breach of the rule of law, judges and prosecutors can be seen as having a moral duty to speak out. That was indeed the situation in Poland with most of the officials subject to disciplinary proceedings. They were targeted for attending public demonstrations supporting the independence of the Supreme Court, openly opposing the politicisation of the judiciary, or criticizing court presidents controversially appointed by the current Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General.

 

[by Martyna Olejnik]



Author


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


More

Published

October 24, 2019

Tags

Supreme Courtdisciplinary proceedingsrule of lawjudicial independenceDisciplinary ChamberPolandEuropean CommissionjudgesZbigniew ZiobroCourt of Justice of the EUNational Council of the JudiciaryConstitutional TribunalEuropean UnionCourt of JusticeAndrzej DudaIgor Tuleyadisciplinary systemMinister of Justicepresidential electionsjudiciarypreliminary rulingsdemocracyJarosław Kaczyńskielections 2020Beata MorawiecFirst President of the Supreme CourtprosecutorsCJEUmuzzle lawCommissioner for Human RightsMałgorzata ManowskaEuropean Arrest WarrantCOVID-19European Court of Human Rightsdisciplinary commissionerPresidentAdam Bodnarfreedom of expressionHungaryKamil ZaradkiewiczOSCEMateusz MorawieckiProsecutor GeneralLaw and JusticeprosecutionNCJNational Prosecutorelectionsacting first president of the Supreme CourtOrdo IurisMay 10 2020 electionsWaldemar Żurekmedia independenceAmsterdam District CourtKrzysztof ParchimowiczEAWmediaAnna DalkowskaCouncil of Europe2017freedom of assemblyJulia PrzyłębskaFreedom HouseExtraordinary Control and Public Affairs ChamberVenice CommissionSupreme Administrative CourtEU budgetConstitutioncriminal lawMinistry of JusticeC-791/19disciplinary liability for judgesNational Electoral CommissionWojciech HermelińskiAndrzej ZollMarek SafjanGeneral Assembly of the Supreme Court JudgesAleksander StepkowskiPresident of PolandJarosław GowinLGBTLGBT ideology free zonesSejmMichał LasotaZuzanna Rudzińska-BluszczSylwia Gregorczyk-AbramdefamationTHEMISMaciej NawackiTVPLex Super OmniaPaweł JuszczyszynBelgiumNetherlandsNational Public ProsecutorPiotr SchabPrzemysław Radzikdemocratic backslidingcriminal proceedingsViktor OrbandecommunizationNext Generation EUPrime MinistervetopoliceJózef IwulskiLaw on the NCJLech GarlickirecommendationHuman Rights CommissionerCCBEThe Council of Bars and Law Societies of EuropeSupreme Court Presidentreportmedia freedomArticle 7European ParliamentZiobroconditionalityPM Mateusz MorawieckiEuropean Association of Judges11 January March in WarsawcoronavirusPiSresolution of 23 January 2020Stanisław PiotrowiczPiotr PszczółkowskiJarosław WyrembakLeon KieresPKWMałgorzata Gersdorfinfringment actionEU valuesENCJlex NGOcivil societyRussiaIsraelforeign agents lawOrganization of Security and Co-operation in EuropeFirst President of the Suprme CourtPresident of the Republic of PolandLGBT free zonesequalityChamber of Extraordinary Verificationhate crimeshate speechcriminal codeGrzęda v PolandXero Flor w Polsce Sp. z o.o. v. PolandBroda and Bojara v PolandŻurek v PolandSobczyńska and Others v PolandReczkowicz and Others v. PolandRafał Trzaskowskimedia lawIustitiaKrystian MarkiewiczPrzemysła RadzikSenateMarcin WarchołElżbieta KarskaMarcin RomanowskiJacek CzaputowiczPrzemysław Czarneklegislative practiceENAZbigniew BoniekcourtsOmbudsmanKraśnikNorwayNorwegian fundsNorwegian Ministry of Foreign AffairsMichał WawrykiewiczFree CourtsC-487/19Article 6 ECHRArticle 10 ECHRRegional Court in AmsterdamOpenbaar MinisterieUrsula von der LeyenEwa WrzosekAK judgmentSimpson judgmentEU law primacyForum Współpracy Sędziówpublic broadcasterAdam Tomczyńskiimmunitymutual trustLMIrelandIrena MajcherAmsterdamBogdan Święczkowskithe Regional Court in WarsawUnited Nationsjudcial independenceLeszek MazurMaciej Miterapopulisminterim measuresOLAFautocratizationMultiannual Financial Frameworkabortion rulingequal treatmentabortionprotestsfundamental rightsthe NetherlandsDenmarkSwedenFinlandMariusz KrasońCT PresidentGermanyCelmerC354/20 PPUJustice Defence Committee – KOSC412/20 PPUAusl 301 AR 104/19Karlsruheact on misdemeanoursCivil Service ActParliamentary Assembly of the Council of EuropeEUStanisław BiernatTeresa Dębowska-RomanowskaWhite PaperKazimierz DziałochalustrationMirosław Granattransitional justiceAdam JamrózStefan JaworskiBiruta Lewaszkiewicz-PetrykowskaWojciech ŁączkowskiEwa ŁętowskaMarek MazurkiewiczAndrzej MączyńskiJanusz NiemcewiczMałgorzata Pyziak- SzafnickaStanisław Rymarpublic opinion pollFerdynand RymarzAndrzej RzeplińskiJerzy Stępień2018Piotr TulejaNations in TransitSławomira Wronkowska-JaśkiewiczCouncil of the EUMirosław WyrzykowskiBohdan ZdziennickiMarek Zubikmedia taxStanisław Zabłockiadvertising taxmediabezwyboruJacek KurskiKESMAIndex.huTelex.huJelenJózsef SzájerDidier ReyndersKlubrádióSLAPPLIBE CommitteeStrategic Lawsuits Against Public ParticipationFrans TimmermansGazeta WyborczaOKO.pressUS Department of StatePollitykaBrussels IRome IISwieczkowskiArticle 2Forum shoppingadvocate generalDariusz ZawistowskitransparencyEuropean Economic and Social Committeepress releaseSebastian KaletaRights and Values ProgrammeC-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 CzubieniakJustice FundGerard BirgfellerEwa Maciejewskapostal votepostal vote bill