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Ministry of Justice criticises district court ruling, HFHR comments

“A statement referring to a particular judgment, published on the official website of the Ministry of Justice, may be understood as an attempt to exert pressure on the constitutionally protected independence and impartiality of the judiciary”, reads the statement issued by the HFHR.

The Foundation noted that in recent months politicians increasingly often voiced negative opinions about the judicial system, individual judges or court proceedings. At the end of July 2016, the Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro commented on a judgment of the District Court in Łódź in a statement published on the website of the Ministry of Justice. In the judgement, the Court ordered an employee to pay a fine of PLN 200 for a refusal to perform a service.

The statement reads that the judgment constitutes “a dangerous precedent” and “violates the freedom of thought, ideas and beliefs, and also economic freedom”. The statement informed that the Minister instructed the local Regional Prosecutor’s Office to join the proceedings in order to ensure an objective hearing of the application for punishing the printer “taking into consideration of the principles of freedom of conscience and common sense”.

In its comments, the HFHR reminds about the international standards expressed in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, in cases such as Garlicki v. Poland. In Garlicki, the ECtHR pointed out that high-ranking state officials, and in particular those responsible for law enforcement bodies and the justice system, are under the duty of special care in formulating any statements about pending criminal proceedings. “Expressing such statements might be understood as a suggestion about how a given case should be decided”, reads the Foundation’s statement.

Referring to the communique of the Ministry of Justice, Dr Piotr Kładoczny, HFHR Board’s Secretary, said that “such a statement should not appear in a society that respects the principle of a democratic state ruled by law and the trias politica principle”.

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