September 22nd, 2016 § § 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.
June 27th, 2016 § § permalink
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.
April 5th, 2016 § § permalink
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.
January 13th, 2016 § § 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.