European Court of Human Rights: ICJ welcomes a landmark decision upholding judicial independence in Poland

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) applauds the European Court οf Human Rights judgement of 6 July 2023 in the case of Tuleya v Poland which effectively affirms the need for Poland to change course in its approach on the independence of the judiciary in the country.

The ICJ calls on the responsible Polish authorities to promptly implement the judgement and reverse the measures taken in recent years with a view to strengthening the rule of law in the country. 

The Court found that unwarranted disciplinary proceedings brought against judge Igor Tuleya were in violation of his rights to a fair trial, freedom of expression and right to respect for private life.

This judgement arrives at a critical moment for Poland, where the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the protection of human rights have been increasingly strained and where attacks on judges threaten their independence.

The ICJ along with other human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the deteriorating human rights climate in Poland. Today’s decision may be a significant step towards addressing these concerns, provided there is a political will by the Polish authorities to take systemic measures in accordance with Court’s ruling.

Judge Tuleya’s complaint against Poland alleged that the seven disciplinary proceedings brought against him had adversely affected his reputation as a judge and undermined the general authority of the judiciary. The ICJ and Amnesty International jointly intervened in the case.

“The Court’s decision is not just a victory for a single judge, but for the administration of justice and rule of law in Poland”, said Karolína Babická, Legal Adviser of the Europe and Central Asia programme of the ICJ. “It sends a powerful message that judicial independence requires ensuring that political branches of government may not control or unduly influence disciplinary proceedings against judges”, she added.

Judge Igor Tuleya argued that disciplinary proceedings brought against him were in violation of his right to respect for private life and of his right to an effective remedy against violation of human rights. The Disciplinary Chamber decided on lifting Tuleya’s immunity and suspending him from duties.

The case took place in the context of the “reform” of the judiciary in Poland, involving policy measures and legislative changes adopted between 2015 and 2020, which have seriously compromised the independence of the judiciary in Poland.

The Court found that the measures that called into question Mr. Tuleya’s judicial integrity and professional reputation and prevented him from exercising his official duties interfered with his right to private life, they had not been “in accordance with the law” and formed a violation of Article 8.

Even though Judge Tuleya had not yet been formally charged in criminal proceedings, the suspicion against him had substantially affected his situation. The Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court which examined his case had not been an “independent and impartial tribunal established by law” and there had been a violation of Article 6 para. 1.

Furthermore, the Court found that three of the preliminary inquiries Judge Tuleya faced were evidently on his exercise of his right freedom of expression in clear violation of Article 10 of the European Convention. The Court underscored that lifting of his immunity was a disguised sanction for the criticism he made towards successive judicial reform.

The European Court has pointed the way for Poland to reform its laws and procedures, it is now time for the Polish authorities to restore the rule of law systemically”, Babická said.


The Court found a violation of Article 6 para. 1 (right to a fair trial), Article 8 (right to respect for private life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The ICJ and Amnesty International submitted a joint third-party intervention in the case to the Court highlighting that:

  • The disciplinary proceedings against a judge affect their professional reputation and private life as understood by Article 8 para. 1 of the Convention;
  • If the only means of challenging the lawfulness, necessity or proportionality of the dismissal of a judge, or any other significant disciplinary measure against them is through an authority that does not embody the relevant requirements of independence and impartiality under international standards on judicial independence, the basic requirements of Article 13 ECHR (right to an effective remedy) are not fulfilled;
  • The reforms relating to the judiciary carried out in Poland between 2015 and 2020, the disciplinary proceedings against judges do not meet the requirements of impartiality and independence necessary to the provision of an effective remedy under article 13 ECHR;
  • The possible scope for limitations to the right of freedom of expression must, when applied to judges, be interpreted in light of the specific role of the judiciary as an independent branch of State power, in accordance with the principles of the separation of powers and the rule of law;
  • Any restriction on the right to freedom of expression must not impair the right and the duty of the judge to protect and enforce without fear or favour and resist any encroachment on their independence as judges.


Contact: Karolína Babická, Legal Adviser – Europe and Central Asia Programme,
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