The ICJ met this week in Warsaw with the First President of the Polish Supreme Court, Małgorzata Gersdorf.
Róisín Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme, met with President Gersdorf to convey the support of the ICJ for the Court’s defence of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Poland, in the face of government attacks.
The ICJ emphasized that a new law on the Supreme Court that attempts to force the “retirement” of 27 of the 72 Supreme Court judges, including the First President, by lowering the mandatory retirement age for its judges from 70 to 65 years, contravenes international human rights law and standards, including the right to a fair hearing.
The measure is contrary to the principle of the security of tenure of judges and therefore to the independence of the judiciary, as expressed in the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
In August, the Supreme Court submitted a preliminary ruling request to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) seeking its interpretation on the compliance of the measure with EU law. The Supreme Court has suspended implementation of the law pending the proceedings before the CJEU.
The European Commission has recognized the current situation as undermining “the principle of judicial independence, including the irremovability of judges” and has triggered a procedure under Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union that could ultimately lead to suspension of Poland’s EU voting rights.
The Commission has also launched infringement proceedings against Poland in respect of the law on the Supreme Court.
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.