Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Dutch refuse Polish arrest warrant over judicial fears

  • Dutch authorities are refusing Polish arrest warrant requests (Photo: banspy)

A Dutch court is refusing to send a suspect to Poland following a warrant for his arrest given Warsaw's shaky judicial system.

The Amsterdam-based court on Thursday (4 October) said the Polish national, suspected of dealing drugs, is not guaranteed a fair trial in Poland.

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"The court found that recent major changes to the Polish judicial system endanger the independence of the courts in that country," it said, in a press statement.

Polish authorities had issued a European arrest warrant, a fast-track system for surrendering people from one EU country to another, demanding their Dutch counterparts to hand over the Polish national.

But the Dutch court on Thursday refused, noting that the independence of Polish judges may be compromised.

"The court continues to examine the surrender request until the Polish judicial authorities have replied to a number of questions from the court," it said.

The Dutch refusal is likely to erode mutual trust underpinning Polish police extradition requests.

The latest challenge, following one by Ireland, also puts into practice a verdict by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over the summer that warned against carrying out European arrest warrant extraditions to Poland given "that the individual concerned would suffer a breach of his fundamental right to an independent tribunal."

Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, at the time described the ECJ verdict as a moral victory given it did not make any brash statements of violations of the rule of law in Poland.

He also lashed out at the Irish court, which had been behind the ECJ verdict.

But the latest Dutch led announcement is a blow to the credibility of Poland's right-wing government defence of its wide-reaching judicial changes.

Poland maintains the reforms are needed to overhaul the Communist-era laws, while critics say it puts the courts under the political control of the ruling nationalist-populist Law and Justice party (PiS).

The European Commission is also challenging Polish legislation that forces dozens of Supreme Court judges into early retirement.

It is taking Poland to the European Court of Justice over the matter, noting that the law "undermines the principle of judicial independence".

Other EU states have also voiced concerns. Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain, have all questioned Poland's bid to fire supreme court judges.

Poland is facing EU-level sanctions under the so-called article 7 procedure.

In September, the European Parliament had endorsed the launch of the similar sanctions against Hungary, described by Ziobro as an attack against democracy.

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