The ICJ called today on the Polish Parliament (Sejm) to reject two draft laws that, if approved, would significantly undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The Sejm is reportedly set to approve tomorrow draft bill no. 2002 that, among other measures, will allow Parliament and the Government to appoint a majority of the members of the National Judicial Council, the institution in charge of defending the independence of the judiciary and appointing judges.
This law gives the Polish legislature and executive, which have increasingly demonstrated deep disregard for human rights and the rule of law, undue influence over the judiciary.
Additionally, draft bill no. 2003, which will also come before the Parliament for approval, will lower the age of retirement for Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65 years and allow the President of the Republic to decide which judges are to be reinstated.
“These draft laws tabled by President Duda are a direct blow to the principle of separation of powers, the bedrock of the rule of law,” said Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser with the ICJ Europe Programme. “The changes made to the draft laws rejected by the President last July have not remedied in any way their adverse implications for judicial independence”.
In July, President Andrzej Duda vetoed two draft laws approved by Parliament that would have automatically dismissed all judges of the Supreme Court and entrusted the Minister of Justice with any decision on their reappointment.
The provision on the appointment of the members of the National Judicial Council was also included in the draft laws rejected in July and has changed only with regard to the parliamentary majority needed for such appointments.
“These series of legislative attacks on the independence of the judiciary in Poland must stop. These actions are inconsistent with the international obligations of Poland to ensure the independence of judges,” said Massimo Frigo.
“If these laws are approved and enter into force, this will be a decisive blow to the rule of law in Poland. A EU Member State that directly undermines the checks and balances of its own legal system threatens the founding values of the EU of the rule of law and respect for human rights, and makes it essential that the EU intervene through its article 7 procedure.” he added.
An article 7 procedure can lead to a State losing its voting rights within the EU decision-making processes. It is triggered by the European institutions, or one third of Member States, when they consider that there is a “clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State” of EU values, among which the rule of law and human rights. It is the European Council that then decides on the exclusion, if it determines that the breach of these values is “serious and persistent”.
Massimo Frigo, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, t: +41 22 979 3805 ; e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.org
Poland-Draft law judiciary-News-Press releases-2017-ENG (full text in PDF)