Poland: ICJ applauds Supreme Court’s defence of the rule of law

The ICJ and its Polish Section (ICJ Poland) today expressed their support for the actions of the Supreme Court to defend the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Poland, including by recourse to the European Court of Justice (CJEU).

This happened in the face of repeated attack by political figures and authorities.

Preserving and safeguarding the independence of the courts is essential for the protection of human rights in Poland, the organizations said.

The ICJ and ICJ Poland urged the Polish executive and legislative authorities to cease all interference with the conduct of the Supreme Court in the carrying out of its legitimate functions.

The law on the Supreme Court that has led to the forced “retirement” of one third of the Supreme Court, including the President of the Court, Małgorzata Gersdorf, must be repealed and the judges reinstated in office, the ICJ and ICJ Poland stressed.

On 2 August, the Supreme Court of Poland took the welcome step, in accordance with European Union law, of submitting a preliminary ruling request to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) seeking its interpretation on the compliance of the recent legislation on retirement ages of judges with EU law.

Specifically, the Supreme Court enquired as to the legislation’s compliance with the principle of irremovability of judges and the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of age under Directive 2000/78. The Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of the law during the proceedings before the CJEU.

The ICJ and ICJ Poland condemn the attacks against the Supreme Court by political authorities, including President Andrzej Duda, who claimed that the suspension of the law’s implementation has no legal basis.

On the contrary, the Supreme Court of Poland acted in compliance with its duties under article 267 of Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union to raise a question concerning the interpretation of the Treaties and, in conformity with the case-law of the CJEU, to suspend the application of such measures which may violate the law of the European Union, pending resolution of the question.

The legislation raises serious issues of EU law, both in regard to protection of the rule of law under Article 2 of the TFEU, and in regard to discrimination on grounds of age.

This attack against the actions of the Supreme Court occurs amid a systematic undermining of the independence of the judiciary in Poland by the Polish executive and legislative authorities, which the ICJ, ICJ Poland, and judges of the global ICJ network have repeatedly condemned.

The organizations emphasize that irremovability of judges is one of the main pillars of judicial independence and therefore of the rule of law. An ICJ letter  of 11 July 2018, signed by 22 senior judges from all regions of the world, urged the Polish government to act immediately to reinstate the forcibly retired judges in office.


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