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A Statement On The Appointment Of Members Of The National Council Of The Judiciary

On 17 January 2017, an amendment to the National Judiciary Council Act entered into force. The amendment, a piece of legislation incompatible with the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, deprived Polish judges of their right to appoint their representatives to the National Council of the Judiciary of Poland (NCJ), awarding the authority to nominate and appoint the Council judge-members to the Sejm, which is already constitutionally empowered to appoint its own representatives to the Council.

Today, at 5 pm, the Committee for Justice and Human Rights will convene a session devoted to creating a list of candidates for the NCJ.

So far, the nomination procedure has proven to be drastically non-transparent, contrary to the assurances given by the amendment’s sponsor, the President of Poland, according to which the revamped law would strengthen the public debate on the candidates for Poland’s top judicial body. The Speaker of the Sejm has been refusing to disclose the names of judges who supported the nominees selected in this process. No timetable of the appointment procedure has been presented, which means that the judicial members of the NCJ can be appointed during the upcoming parliamentary session despite the fact that such an appointment currently does not appear on the agenda of parliamentary works. The procedure conducted by the Speaker is engulfed in the atmosphere of distrust, haste and the absence of transparency.

The Sejm amended the National Judiciary Council Act invoking the need for a more transparent process of nominating and appointing the NCJ members, and the need for more robust public oversight on the justice system. Now, the Polish Parliament plans to proceed with appointments in a way that prevents the public from learning about the candidates and leaves the feeling of misunderstanding, concerns or even outright accusations.

These conclusions became all the more valid given the course of the public hearing organised by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Institute for Law and Society INPRIS on 26 February 2018, which was attended by only two candidates. In consequence of the above, the current mode of selection of NCJ nominees has failed to attain the goals set by the sponsor of the amendment as it did not enable a free debate about the candidates. In fact, the process is the opposite of transparency.

According to the adopted procedure politicians are the only ones who have a say on the composition of the NCJ, assuming the right to decide who upholds the independence of courts and judges.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
The Institute for Law and Society INPRIS

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