Ominous coincidence of dates
The selectivity in complying with ECtHR judgments was dressed up to appear as the checking of the constitutionality of the provisions of an international convention. This is why the operative part of the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal states that Article 6 of the ECHR is unconstitutional, which in itself is outrageous.
Adjudicating today on case K 7/21, the Constitutional Tribunal once again held that not all judgments of the European Court of Human Rights regarding Poland’s breach of the right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the European Convention) will be respected in Poland. The first time the Constitutional Tribunal granted itself the right to make an assessment in this respect was in its judgment in case K 6/21 of 24 November 2021, which was a reaction to the decision of the ECtHR in the Xero Flor v Poland case.
Judgments of international courts must be executed. This obligation arises from ratified international agreements.
And this is the first reservation regarding today’s judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal: the selectiveness of recognising the effects of binding international agreements. In this case, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The second reservation is that the selectivity in complying with ECtHR judgments was dressed up to appear as the checking of the constitutionality of the provisions of an international convention. This is why the operative part of the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal states that Article 6 of the ECHR is unconstitutional, which in itself is outrageous. Poland believes that the international standard of protection of the right to a fair trial is incompatible with the Polish Constitution (which, nota bene, includes the right to a fair trial).
Thirdly, although the matter was made to look like control of constitutionality, in fact, it is a control of court judgments. Meanwhile, this does not lie within the competence of the Constitutional Tribunal. However, this trick was used to discredit two judgments.
The first was the judgment in Xero Flor v Poland of 7 May 2021. It is currently the judgment of the ECtHR in the case of Dolińska-Ficek, Ozimek v Poland of 8 November 2021. This latter case applied to the lack of a remedy for judges in the course of promotion proceedings. The Constitutional Tribunal’s current judgment contests the ability of a judge who has been deprived of protection in this respect to appeal to Strasbourg.
Not only is such a thesis in conflict with the established standard of the ECtHR, not only does it reduce the constitutional standard of protection of the right to a fair trial, but such a restriction is also in conflict with what arises from the case law of the CJEU (preliminary question C-487/19, 6 October 2021), which emphasises the need for a remedy, even in the case of a transfer of a judge to another organisational unit of the court.
The obligations to respect ECtHR judgments arise from our membership of the Council of Europe system.
By a grim coincidence, it was also announced today that Russia is withdrawing from the Council of Europe, which means the simultaneous notice of termination of the European Convention on Human Rights. This decision was preceded by the position of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation in 2016, in which it held that the Court would be able to examine the compliance of the ECtHR’s judgments and judgments of other international courts with the Russian Constitution. And they would only be enforceable if they pass this test. Therefore, enforcement of the ECtHR judgment of 31 July 2014 in the Yukos case was refused in 2017.
It is difficult not to make obtrusive analogies.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz