Prosecutor’s attempt to suppress freedom of speech [L.Balcerowicz’s statement]
Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski announces the doctrine of infallibility of the Ziobro-Święczkowski prosecutor's office.
On March 12, Gazeta Wyborcza, Polish daily newspaper, published an interview with Leszek Balcerowicz, Board Chairman at the Civil Development Forum (FOR), about Polish prosecution. This interview has triggered a reaction by the National Public Prosecutor’s Office which is demanding an apology and threatening Leszek Balcerowicza with a lawsuit. Below you can read a statement released by Leszek Balcerowicz at the press conference on March 25.
Statement by Leszek Balcerowicz:
Under the authority of the National Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski, the National Public Prosecutor’s Office is demanding an apology from me for “unlawful violation of personal rights” of the Prosecutor’s Office in an interview conducted by Ewa Ivanova on 12 March this year for the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
Bogdan Święczkowski considers the following in particular to be “unjustified or untrue”:
- My general definition of a bad system as one that rewards bad behaviour without the risk of punishment for the perpetrators;
- The general definition of prosecutorial misconduct as the prosecution of innocent persons or not prosecuting offenders;
- The fact that in Mr. Ziobro’s prosecutor’s office, innocent people have been prosecuted while wrongdoers have not;
- The fact that management of the prosecutor’s office has been based on family-social-political-ideological connections;
- The fact that “one of the greatest omissions after Zbigniew Ziobro’s first ruling in the office of prosecutor was that no one was held responsible for previous unlawful actions”;
- The fact that the names of the prosecutors who engage questionable prosecutions or are negligent should be recorded for future fair settlement.
I stand by these and other statements included in the interview for Gazeta Wyborcza. They are based on publications and reports of the free press, scientific work, documents of international organisations and, finally, on my own activity as an analyst of institutional systems, including the judiciary.
It is noteworthy that the letter from the General Prosecutor’s Office does not refer to my main thesis, namely, that the primary source of the threats posed by the current prosecutor’s office to the rule of law and justice in Poland is the unprecedented concentration of power over it in the hands of one person – the General Prosecutor. This power is employed readily by Zbigniew Ziobro and his group, and includes extensive personnel decisions and the transfer of cases to prosecutors’ offices or prosecutors leading to the occurrence of dubious prosecutions and questionable omissions. It is characteristic that decisions on prosecution which are particularly astonishing, such as the charging of Wojciech Kwaśniak and his collaborators from the Polish Financial Supervision Authority, or of the reformers from the Polish State Railways, have been proposed by such prosecutors.
The letter of the General Prosecutor’s Office contains absurd or even ominous claims, such as:
- My accusations are “unfounded” because “the prosecutor’s office acts in accordance with the law”. Leaving aside whether this is always true or not, attention must be paid to the most important thing: it is the regulations, and in particular the Prosecutor’s Office Act of 2016, that form the basis of the system which gives rise to the behaviour of some prosecutors that poses a threat to the rule of law and justice in our country. In addition, justifying any behaviour by declaring its compliance with the law brings to mind some of the worst regimes.
- My accusations are off-base because they ignore the “specific nature of the prosecutor’s professional activity”. The activity of individual prosecutors (and their selection) depends on the system under which they operate. And the system created in Zbigniew Ziobro’s prosecutor’s office is a bad system, because it is extremely centralised and offers rewards for bad behaviour, with a low risk of penalties associated with it. Finally, if the “specific nature of prosecutors’ activities” is to serve as a justification for their arbitrary behaviour, then there is no room for any criticism of them.
- Registration of the names of prosecutors who engage in dubious prosecutions or dubious omissions “is not justified”. This assertion undermines the constitutional norms of freedom of speech, freedom of the media and openness of public life.
Interpreting the above theses on the basis of logic, one can say that taken together they form a doctrine of infallibility of the prosecutor’s office under the rule of Zbigniew Ziobro and Bogdan Święczkowski. (They have criticised the activities of their predecessors, who are therefore not covered by this doctrine.) From this doctrine it must follow that every criticism of the prosecutor’s office of Zbigniew Ziobro and Bogdan Święczkowski “is not justified”.
I consider Bogdan Święczkowski’s reaction to my opinions and theses contained in the interview for Gazeta Wyborcza to be an attempt to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of the media, which are an essential foundation for democracy. In my opinion, the system set up in the prosecutor’s office at the beginning of 2016 not only threatens the rule of law and justice, but also engages in efforts to stifle criticism.
It is the responsibility of civil society in Poland to strongly oppose such tendencies.