Europe

European court urges Poland to address lack of judicial independence

Poland has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for reforming its judicial system.

The court called on Warsaw to take “rapid action” to resolve the lack of independence in its National Council.

The ruling concerned two judges who had complained that their rights had been violated when they were rejected for judicial positions.

Poland has been locked in a dispute with the European Union over the rule of law and judicial independence.

The controversy concerns the new Chamber of Extraordinary Control and Public Affairs of the Polish Supreme Court, which was set up in 2017 to nominate judges.

Poland’s government said the reforms were necessary to rid the judiciary of Communism, but critics say the chamber limits the independence of Polish courts.

After being fined €1 million per day by the European Court of Justice, Poland has said that it would remove the disciplinary chamber.

The ECHR says they have received 57 complaints since 2018 related to the Polish judicial reforms.

In the latest case, two judges — Monika Joanna Dolinska-Ficek and Artur Ozimek — had complained about the Polish court’s lack of impartiality and independence.

They had both applied to judicial posts but were not recommended and their appeals to the Supreme Court were rejected in 2019.

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On Monday, the ECHR unanimously ruled that Poland had violated the judges’ right to a fair trial.

“The procedure for appointing judges was unduly influenced by the legislative and executive branches,” the seven judges ruled.

“This was a fundamental irregularity which undermined the whole process,” the court found, adding that the chamber was not a “tribunal established by law”.

The court stated that Poland needed to take “rapid remedial action” to address the lack of independence in its judiciary.

Warsaw was also ordered to pay €15,000 euros to each of the judges in non-pecuniary damages.

Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta criticised the verdict on Twitter and accused the court of unfairly targetting Poland.


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