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HFHR on another package of justice system laws

The Sejm has adopted amendments to laws on the Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal and common courts. According to the HFHR, none of the proposed changes fulfils recommendations of the European Commission issued as part of the rule of law monitoring procedure.

Publication of Constitutional Tribunal’s judgments

Amendments to the Constitutional Tribunal Act stipulate that three judgments entered by the CT in 2016 and still waiting to be published will be entered in the Official Journal with an entry saying they were issued in violation of the law.

“In the opinion of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the cause of the ongoing constitutional crisis in Poland is the ruling majority’s usurpation of the right to review rulings made by an independent constitutional court. The adoption of the solution proposed in the amendment is another example of how this approach is implemented in practice”, reads today’s statement of the HFHR.

New rules of dismissal of court presidents

Another amendment to the Courts Act that the Sejm approved changes the rules governing the dismissal of presidents of common courts. Pursuant to the new rules, the Minister of Justice needs to consult the assembly of judges in a given court prior to effecting the dismissal of the court’s president. According to the HFHR, the proposed change “is completely incapable of mitigating the damage that has been already done to the justice system due to the mass dismissal of presidents and deputy presidents of common courts that occurred from August 2017 to February 2018”.

Supreme Court Act amended

A change in the procedure for the appointment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was a key change introduced by this amendment. Under the new procedure, a vacancy for this post will be filled under the strict control of the executive branch. The new law provides that until the new Chief Justice is appointed, the Supreme Court is led and represented by a judge “to whom the President of Poland entrusted the management of the Supreme Court”, which is a status unknown to the Polish Constitution. A similar measure, namely the position of “acting President”, was introduced in the Constitutional Tribunal (to find out more, use this link).

The HFHR considers that arrangement another procedure that entirely subordinates the appointment of the head of a key judicial body in Poland to the executive. Previously, in December 2016, a similar approach was applied to the selection of the President of the Constitutional Tribunal.

“One cannot speak of a return to the path of the rule of law in Poland until all the European Commission recommendations are fully adhered to. Without these fundamental changes, any other reforms are nothing but a continuation of the legislative trend of expanding the powers of the executive at the expense of justice system, which has been manifesting itself for the last two years”, the statement reads.

The full text of the statement is available for reading here.

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