Harassment campaign conducted against leader of independent prosecutors
Krzysztof Parchimowicz, head of the Lex Super Omnia association of prosecutors, is the target of over a dozen different disciplinary proceedings. This is being done to exert a chilling effect on prosecutors who are critical of changes in the justice system that are being rammed through by the governing majority in Poland.
by Mariusz Jałoszewski and Anna Wójcik
Silencing a courageous prosecutor
Krzysztof Parchimowicz is one of the most recognizable prosecutors in Poland. He did not hesitate to appear in the media and comment on changes in the courts and prosecutorial service that were rammed through in 2015 by the governing majority in the Polish parliament.
Parchimowicz has served many years as a prosecutor and is the head of the Lex Super Omnia association of prosecutors. His charisma and relentlessness have led to the consolidation of a group of independent prosecutors within the association. Parchimowicz is also associated with Wolna Prokuratura [Free Prosecutors], a citizen-led initiative that reports on cases of harassment against prosecutors and provides them with support.
It is owing to Parchimowicz’s engagement that persecuted prosecutors are being defended by ordinary citizens, lawyers, and judges. He has successfully built and maintained solidarity between members of the prosecutorial service and representatives of other legal professions along with everyday Poles. He is eloquent and a skilled organizer who has become visible in the media.
Conflict with the Prosecutor General
This has all led to Parchimowicz being turned into public enemy no. 1 by politicians from the governing majority, who are in charge of the prosecutorial service. He has already been degraded by Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro and transferred to a district prosecutor’s office.
Background: Legislation passed by the Law and Justice governing majority has combined the offices of Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General into one.
These functions are performed by Zbigniew Ziobro, founder and leader of the party Solidarna Polska, a coalition partner of Law and Justice. Ziobro is a trusted associate of Law and Justice leader and de factor Polish ruler Jarosław Kaczyński. The trust Kaczyński places in Ziobro, at least officially, has not even been shaken by the recent scandal in the Ministry of Justice. Media reports have detailed how personnel of the Ministry, including one Deputy Minister, initiated and coordinated a social media smear campaign against judges who were critical of changes in the judicial system.
Disciplinary cases used to silence judges and prosecutors
At Ruleoflaw.pl, we have detailed various forms of harassment and repression directed against judges. A popular form is the instigation by disciplinary spokesmen of proceedings against judges. These proceedings can lead to the imposition of penalties, up to and including removal form the bench.
The same types of proceedings are being used to silence independent prosecutors.
Over a dozen proceedings initiated against Parchimowicz
On 10 September, Krzystzof Parchimowicz informed public opinion that three more proceedings had been initiated against him. At the moment these are preliminary proceedings, but they can conclude with disciplinary charges being brought. Two of the cases concern interviews Parchimowicz gave for “Trybuna” and “Newsweek” in which he criticised the prosecutorial service under Zbigniew Ziobro.
The third concerns allegations of failing to carry out a superior’s orders. He is alleged to have sought have a case involving medical malpractice transferred to a higher-ranking office. Under regulations issued by the Minister of Justice, such cases should as a rule be handled by regional or district prosecutorial offices. Parchimowicz, after being demoted by Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro, works in a district prosecutor’s office. It would seem that Parchimowicz curried disfavour with the leadership of the appellate prosecutor’s office by bringing the case and the relevant regulations to their attention.
These three proceedings can be added to a long list of others presently conducted against Parchimowicz by disciplinary spokesmen.
He has been charged in four cases, two of which concern criticism of the prosecutorial service under Zbigniew Ziobro. Another charge relates to excessive time taken in handling cases. The trials will begin in October.
Dozens of pickets are to be held around the country in defence of Parchimowicz, organized by Wolna Prokuratura, who want to demonstrate the solidarity of ordinary Poles with prosecutors being subjected to harassment.
A criminal investigation too
Apart from the disciplinary cases, Parchimowicz is also the subject of an investigation by the prosecutor’s office in Białystok. The investigation is examining whether Parchimowicz and judges from the Supreme Court were not complicit in aiding the “VAT Mafia”, an international scheme for defrauding the government of tax revenue.
The prosecutor’s office is questioning the interpretation of the law presented in that case by Parchimowicz and Supreme Court justices.
Parchimowicz has twice been summoned as a witness, in violation of proper procedure, as he has also been charged criminally. He was supposed to incriminate himself and the Supreme Court, but Parchimowicz refused to testify.
Within legal circles the Białystok investigation is viewed as another instance of repression against Parchimowicz for his defence of the prosecutorial service’s independence.