June 25, 2018
A UN human rights expert has criticised Poland’s efforts to reform the judiciary, saying the Government is planning a clear-out of senior judges to be replaced by magistrates recommended by a council of mostly political appointees of the current ruling majority.
“I am very worried about the far-reaching adverse effects that the reform of the judiciary is having – and will have – on the independence of Polish courts and tribunals,” said Diego García-Sayán, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, told the Human Rights Council.
“I appreciate the willingness of the Polish Government to listen to the concerns that I – along with several other international and regional institutions – have raised in relation to its judicial reform. Nevertheless, the amendments introduced by the governing majority are of a cosmetic nature, at best, and absolutely insufficient to address the serious concerns I expressed in my report,” added Diego García-Sayán, who visited Poland from 23 to 27 October 2017.
“Approximately 40 percent of Supreme Court judges, including the court’s president, could be forced to retire after 3 July 2018, before the end of their legal terms. This constitutes a serious blow to the principle of judicial independence, and a flagrant breach of the principle of irremovability of judges.”
The judges who leave the bench as a result of the lowering of the retirement age will be replaced by new judges appointed by the President of the Republic upon recommendation of the newly constituted National Council of the Judiciary, which will be largely dominated by the political appointees of the current ruling majority.
“Step by step, institution by institution:” Poland’s ruling party is trying to take control of the judiciary and endangers the rule of law and EU values.
(Human Rights Watch Facebook, 26/6/18)