National Prosecutor demanding that prosecutors snitch on independent judges
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.
The first report was made on 16 December 2019 by the right-wing and pro-government website wPolityce.pl. They claim that National Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski, right-hand man of Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, has sent a letter with official instructions to all line prosecutors in Poland.
He is alleged to have ordered them to “react to all attempts at undermining constitutional organs and institutions, in the context of activities by judges.”
The website gained access to the contents of Święczkowski’s letter. In it, the National Prosecutor informs line prosecutors that “all judges appointed by the President of Poland and given approval by the NCJ [National Council for the Judiciary] are legally adjudicating justices, and attempts at undermining their activities may violate the law.”
Święczkowski is also supposed to have emphasized that “engaging in the fight against efforts to destabilize the justice system is a duty of prosecutors around the entire country.”
What form is this fight supposed to take?
Święczkowski suggests that prosecutors should motion to disqualify judges “who subvert the constitutional authority of legally appointed colleagues.” They are also supposed to provide information on such cases to disciplinary officers.
This represents the opening of another front – following disciplinary proceedings and the draft bill submitted on 13 December – in Law and Justice’s (PiS) battle to throttle the independent judiciary. PiS is seeking to use a prosecutorial service subjugated to state authorities to have line prosecutors snitch on judges who seek to apply the EU Court of Justice’s most recent judgement.
This is a test of whether Zbigniew Ziobro has succeeded in his purge of the prosecutorial service.
Revenge for applying CJEU judgement
Backed by judgements of the CJEU and Poland’s Supreme Court, judges around Poland have been empowered to examine the independence of the new NCJ, whose members, following legislative amendments forced through by PiS, are no longer selected by their peers in the judiciary, but by politicians in the Sejm.
The Council participates in the process of appointing judges around the country. The recognition of its dependence on the authorities places their status in question, as well as the validity of their judgements and rulings.
This is why the questioning of the status of the neo-NCJ – the crown jewel in the Zbigniew Ziobro’s “reform” of the judiciary – is so irritating to PiS politicians. To prevent it, the party led by Jarosław Kaczyński has submitted “subordination” draft legislation designed to shut up independent judges and prosecutors, as well as to sanction “reforms” incompatible with EU law.
Now, line prosecutors have been drafted to provide backup.
Whose prosecutorial service is it?
The letter by Święczkowski is also a test of whether Zbigniew Ziobro has succeeded in his attempted purge of the prosecutorial service.
This purge has been underway since 4 March 2016, when the PiS-led “reform” came into force. This legislation combined the positions of Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General – both of which are now held by Ziobro.
His first deputy and National Prosecutor is Bogdan Święczkowski.
A cleanout of the prosecutorial service was initiated, whose scale is described in the report “Prokuratura pod specjalnym nadzorem. Kadry i postępowanie »dobrej zmiany«” [“Prosecutors under a watchful eye. Staffing and the conduct of ‘good change’”] The effects? Line prosecutors subservient to the authorities, shuffling of cadres, promotions for buddies and demotion for “uncomfortable” prosecutors.
Independent prosecutors, affiliated in the “Lex Super Omnia” association, are facing attacks from the head of the prosecutorial service. Krzysztof Parchimowicz, head of “Lex Super Omnia”, is facing numerous disciplinary proceedings for his defence of judicial independence.
PiS is also seeking to turn the screws on them with a new “subordination” bill. They will be required to explain their activity in social media, as well as membership in associations. In addition, new and harsh punishments will be imposed on them for disciplinary infringements, including potential disqualification from the profession.
“I am confident that such repressive legislation will not lend itself to turning prosecutors into supporters of the government. [From among current supporters] will remain those faithful to the political leadership of the prosecutorial service: those who consent to the status quo and benefit from the current arrangement,” said Parchimowicz.
[translated by Matthew La Fontaine]