Prosecutors hauled in for questioning by disciplinary officer
Prosecutors from Kraków are being summoned for questioning by the disciplinary officer to explain their participation in the Congress of Regional Public Prosecutors held on 15 May. At the meeting, a resolution was passed in which the prosecutors emphasized their independence and mentioned pressure “from above”.
The Congress of Regional Public Prosecutors in Kraków is a self-government body of prosecutors. It is composed of prosecutors–delegates of the Regional Public Prosecutorial Service and delegates from other bodies it oversees.
In the resolution, passed by the Congress on 15 May 2019, attention was drawn to the absence of action on the issue of low wages for employees of the prosecutorial service, as well as failure to remedy the staffing issues plaguing prosecutors’ offices.
Importantly, the prosecutors present at the Congress also indicated in the resolution “restrictions on the independence of prosecutors, both in law and in practice, related to the manner in which oversight functions are performed through influencing their decisions in the handling of cases, and without following the obligatory procedures.”
There was also criticism of the growing backlogs in the public prosecutors’ offices of the Kraków region.
Officer investigating the initiators
Now, the disciplinary officer for the prosecutorial service is taking steps to investigate the resolution. We have learned that the disciplinary officer is seeking information about who is being pressured, and who among the members of the prosecutorial service has seen their independence restricted.
Questions are also being asked about the proceedings of the Congress, as well as the drafting and adoption of the resolution.
This is the first time that all participants in the Congress are being summoned for questioning.
Speculation is rife among the legal community that the questioning is being done in order to establish who is responsible for initiating the strongly-worded resolution, which is highly critical of the prosecutorial service under the direction of Zbigniew Ziobro.
Bringing in for questioning all of the prosecutors participating in the Congress may also lead to a chilling effect on other groups around the country, preventing them from passing similar resolutions in the future.
A similar tactic has already been applied by the disciplinary officer for judges, who summoned justices from Poznań and Kraków for questioning in relation to the passing of resolutions critical of the “good change” in courts.
The resolution adopted by the Kraków prosecutors, strong in tone and highly critical of the present leadership of the prosecutorial service, is an act of courage, one of the first of its kind among the prosecutorial community. Previously they had been silent about happenings in the prosecutorial service since its subjugation to Zbigniew Ziobro.
An exception is the over 200 prosecutors of the prosecutors’ association Lex Super Omnia, which defends the independence and honour of the profession. Those prosecutors are subjected to repressions for their activities, including disciplinary proceedings.
The 15 May resolution of the Kraków prosecutors is a signal that more and more members of the community are demanding their independence be respected.
Blocking a resolution in Gdańsk
Attempts were made at passing a similar resolution in Gdańsk. A group of 30 prosecutors wished to open a discussion about the limited debate on changes made in the justice system by the ruling Law and Justice party. These attempts were blocked by the head of the Regional Public Prosecutor’s Office, Teresa Rutkowska-Szmydyńska. She did not place their motion on the agenda of the Congress of Regional Public Prosecutors in Gdańsk.
[translated by Matthew La Fontaine]