Poland: Respect EU Court of Justice interim order and maintain Supreme Court judges in office
The ICJ welcomes the interim measures prescribed today by the Court of Justice of the EU as a necessary step in stemming the evident erosion of the rule of law in Poland.
The Court provisionally ordered Poland to preserve the composition of its Supreme Court of 3 April 2018, before a law forcing into retirement a third of the Court’s members entered into force.
The ICJ urges the Polish authorities to comply with the EU Court order by maintaining in office the Supreme Court judges .
“In accordance with today’s court’s order, Polish authorities should immediately rescind all measures taken since April 2018 that modify the composition of the Supreme Court. They are obliged to do this under EU law as it is binding on Polish authorities and by the fundamental principle of the rule of law that decisions of the judiciary must be respected and implemented.” said Róisín Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme.
On 10 October, President Andrzej Duda appointed 27 judges to the Supreme Court in place of those forcibly “retired” last July. The ICJ condemned this act of the President of Poland because it contravened an order of the Supreme Court suspending the law under which these appointments were made, pending a decision by the EU Court. Critically, the mass and forced retirement of sitting judges before the end of the established terms of tenure undermines their security of tenure, a key principle regarding the independence of the judiciary.
The independence of the judiciary in Poland has been systematically undermined by the Polish executive and legislative authorities.
Earlier this year Poland issued a new law on the Supreme Court that attempts to force the “retirement” of one third of the Supreme Court judges, including the First President, by lowering the mandatory retirement age for its judges from 70 to 65. This measure clearly contravenes international human rights law and standards.
The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure for lack of compliance of this law with EU law.
In the absence of satisfactory reforms by Poland, on 24 September, the Commission referred Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and asked for interim measures to restore Poland’s Supreme Court to its situation before 3 April 2018. Today’s decision by the Court of Justice granted this interim measures request.
At the same time, the Supreme Court of Poland submitted a preliminary ruling request to the CJEU seeking its interpretation on the compliance of the legislation on retirement ages of judges with EU law, in particular with the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of age under Directive 2008/78.
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.