Poland: Independence of the judiciary – EC takes second step in infringement procedure against Poland

September 13th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Please read for the details the press release of the European Commission of 12/09.

European Commission acts to preserve the rule of law in Poland

July 26th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

Brussels, 26 July 2017 – Press release of the European Commission

The Commission substantiates its grave concerns on the planned reform of the judiciary in Poland in a Rule of Law Recommendation addressed to the Polish authorities. In the Commission’s assessment, this reform amplifies the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland already identified in the rule of law procedure started by the Commission in January 2016. The Commission requests the Polish authorities to address these problems within one month. The Commission asks the Polish authorities notably not to take any measure to dismiss or force the retirement of Supreme Court judges. If such a measure is taken, the Commission stands ready to immediately trigger the Article 7(1) procedure[1] – a formal warning by the EU that can be issued by four fifths of the Member States in the Council of Ministers…

Continue to read here the full press release of the European Commission.

Poland: President will not sign Act on the Supreme Court and Act on the National Council of the Judiciary

July 25th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On 24 July 2017, the President of the Republic of Poland declared that he will veto the bills on the Supreme Court and on the National Council of the Judiciary. However, the Act amending the Law on the Common Courts Organisation will be signed. Read more here.

Poland: CCBE expresses serious concerns over recent Acts on the judiciary

July 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

On 18 July 2017, the President of the CCBE addressed a letter to the President of the Republic of Poland expressing the CCBE’s concerns about the amendments adopted to the Polish Act on the National Council of the Judiciary and the Act amending the Law on Common Courts Organisation, as well as the new draft Act on the Supreme Court which the Polish Parliament received.

The CCBE points out that:

– The amendment to the Act of the National Council of the Judiciary gives a substantial role to politicians in the selection and appointment of judges, which contravenes the constitutional principle of independence of the judiciary.

– The Act amending the Law on the Common Courts Organisation – which changes the rules of appointing and recalling presidents of courts – increases the authority of the Minister of Justice by enabling the Minister to arbitrarily recall all the presidents of courts in Poland during their term of office.

– The draft Act on the Supreme Court foresees that all judges of the Supreme Court (save for those designated by the Minister of Justice) will retire immediately upon when the said Act enters into force.

The CCBE calls upon the President of the Republic of Poland to use the right of veto and to refuse to sign the above-mentioned amendments, as they are threatening the autonomy and independence of the judiciary.

Read the CCBE letter here.

The European Commission also discussed the latest developments with regard to the Polish judiciary and related legislative acts. In the Commission’s view “If implemented in their current form, these laws would have a very significant negative impact on the independence of the judiciary and would increase the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland.” On 19 July 2017, the College of Commissioners held a first in-depth discussion on these new developments, expressed its serious concerns, and looked into the legal and political options available to the Commission to act upon these concerns. The Commission will revert again to this matter next week. For more information, click here.

CCJE opinion on draft act on the Polish National Council of the Judiciary

April 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The Consultative Council of European Judges (CCEJ) has made public their requested opinion on the Draft Act amending the Act of 12 May 2011 on the Polish National Council of the Judiciary and certain other acts. The CCEJ state that they are deeply concerned by the implications of the Draft Act for the constitutional principle of separation of powers as well as that of the independence of the judiciary. The CCEJ considers that the Draft Act would be a major step backward from real judicial independence in Poland. Read the full opinion here.

Independence of the judiciary in Poland

April 6th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights has addressed an open letter to the Polish Parliament’s lower chamber. The letter calls the Sejm representatives to reject the proposed amendments to the Act on the National Council for the Judiciary, due to concerns over the independence of the judiciary. Read the announcement here.

European Parliament urges Polish government to respect fundamental rights

September 22nd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

On 14 September, the European Parliament passed a resolution, which calls upon the Polish government to solve the country’s constitutional crisis within the timeframe set earlier by the Commission. MEPs pointed out that the paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal and the refusal of the Polish Government to publish all its judgements represent a threat to democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law in Poland. The European Parliament is also concerned about recent legislative developments with respect to such matters as the right to freedom of expression, procedural rights, the fundamental right to a fair trial, etc. Sharing these concerns, the CCBE had already stressed the importance of the secrecy of client’s communications with their lawyer in the letter to the speaker of the lower house of the Polish Parliament.

For more information, please click here.

Commissioner for Human Rights issues report on Poland

June 27th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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During a press conference in Warsaw which took place on 15 June 2016, Nils Muižnieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe, presented his report on recent changes to Poland’s legal and institutional framework, which in his view threaten human rights and undermine the rule of law.

Among others, the report analyses the impact of the new law on surveillance activities. The report raises serious concerns of its incompatibility with international human rights law because it expands the powers of law enforcement agencies, police forces and security services without establishing the necessary safeguards to avoid abuse. It notes, in particular, that there is no mechanism of judicial control ensuring a prior authorisation to retrieve or obtain telecommunication or internet metadata, including data regarding contacts with those working under professional secrecy, for instance, lawyers. The Commissioner recognises that for the use of information obtained through operational activities as evidence in criminal proceedings, it is required that it should be in the interest of justice and that the use has been authorised by a court. However, such authorising decision is not subject to an appeal by defendant.

The CCBE has also been following legislative developments in Poland, particularly the proposed changes to the regulation on data surveillance and data retention earlier this year. On 12 January 2016, the CCBE sent a letter to the speaker of the lower house of the Polish parliament in which it pointed out that the secrecy of client’s communications with his lawyer should be inviolable. This is a fundamental element of the rule of law and, in particular, of the right to a fair trial.

Twinning agreement between Georgian and Polish Lawyers

April 5th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

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The Polish and Georgian Bars organise regular consultations and exchanges of views on matters discussed by the CCBE Standing Committee and Plenary Sessions, and also take part in various events organised by each Bar. After participation of the Delegation of the Polish Bar of Legal Advisers in the 10th Anniversary of the independent legal profession in Georgia, another meeting took place within the framework of the Twinning Agreement signed in Gdańsk last year. On 11 March 2016, two Georgian human rights defenders, Mr Fridon Sikhuashvili and Ms Klara Shukvani, were awarded during the 8th Gala of the Crystal Heart, organised once a year by the Polish Bar of Legal Advisers to honour lawyers with outstanding achievements and activities in the field of pro bono work. Georgian laureates are particularly active in representing lawyers whose rights have been violated, including Mzia Tomashvili the lawyer whose case has been mentioned in the letter of concern sent by the CCBE last year.

For further information please see the letter written by the CCBE on the situation of lawyers in Georgia.

Poland: Draft law on amendments to the law on Police and other acts

January 13th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

 On 12 January 2016, the CCBE sent a letter to Mr Marek Kuchciński, Marshal of the Sejm (speaker of the lower house of the Polish parliament) concerning the Polish draft law on amendments to the Act on Police and to other acts related to the state secret services, in particular, in relation to the regulation of data surveillance and data retention. These amendments are proposed as fulfilling the requirements laid down in the judgment of the Polish Constitutional Tribunal dated 30 July 2014. The particular concern of the CCBE is related to the provisions on access to information protected by the professional secrecy of advocates and legal advisers.

The CCBE considers that it is a fundamental element of the rule of law, including the right to a fair trial, the secrecy of a client’s communications with his lawyers should be inviolable. CCBE is concerned that the draft law does not fully respect fundamental principles laid down in the Convention and in the jurisprudence of the Court, and calls upon the Sejm of the Republic of Poland to ensure that amendments to the Act on Police and other Acts respect and guarantee the fundamental rights of its citizens and are compatible with principles of international law binding Poland, including, in particular, the European Convention of Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and of the Court of Justice of the EU respectively.

The full letter can be found here.