21st Sep 2021

Polish judges rally behind EU court ruling

  • Warsaw. Critics say the chamber is a tool used by Poland's right-wing government to exert political influence over the judiciary (Photo: Jorge Lascar)

Some 3,500 Polish judges and prosecutors have signed an appeal for authorities to follow a recent EU court ruling, Poland's OKO press portal reported.

The signatories want Poland's disciplinary chamber for judges suspended - as decreed last week by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.

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Among them is Polish supreme court judge Wlodzimierz Wrobel.

On Wednesday (28 July), he posted an appeal on Facebook, along with the signatures of 93 other supreme court judges.

"We, undersigned, supreme court judges appeal to all state bodies for a full implementation of the decisions of the court of justice of the European Union," said Wrobel.

He also demanded the immediate suspension of the supreme court's disciplinary chamber. He said a failure to do so would be a breach of EU law.

Critics say the chamber is a tool used by Poland's right-wing government to exert political influence over the judiciary.

Human Rights Watch, an NGO, says it is composed of ruling party loyalists "whose goal is to strip immunity from judges critical of the government."

The country's Constitutional Tribunal is also stuffed with party loyalists, and it recently ruled that the EU court had no authority to impose an injunction on legal reforms.

The tribunal's move is seen as a further assault against the primacy of EU law and the independence of Poland's judges.

At the same time, the tribunal is deciding a separate case, initiated by Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, on whether EU or Polish law has primacy in the country.

Poland has since ignored the EU ruling, triggering lawsuit threats from the European Commission.

EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders recently wrote to Warsaw asking them to comply. Should Poland fail to act, then "we will go back to the court asking for financial sanctions", he told reporters.

Poland's governing Law and Justice party has been initiating a series of judicial reforms since November 2015.

Around 30 laws have been implemented, shaping everything from ordinary and administrative courts to the supreme court.

The commission says some of those reforms raise serious concerns as regards the rule of law.

Earlier this month, it published a rule of law report on Poland where it highlighted the steady erosion of the public's perception of its justice system.

"The reforms of the Polish justice system, including new developments, continue to be a source of serious concerns," it said.

Warsaw is currently seeking almost €24bn in grants from the EU's €800bn pandemic recovery fund.

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