Thursday, June 13, 2024

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MEDEL statement on the ECtHR judgment in the case of Wałęsa v. Poland

On November 23, 2023, the ECtHR issued a judgment in the case of Wałęsa v. Poland (application no. 50849/21), the significance of which cannot be overstated, not only concerning the state of the justice system in Poland but also across Europe as a whole.

The Court summarized the infringements in Poland, citing numerous opinions of international institutions that negatively assess changes in the justice system in Poland (including OSCE, PACE, GRECO, Venice Commission). The Court emphasized that the judgment was delivered following a series of judgments concerning the judicial reform in Poland initiated in 2017. As noted by the Court in Grzęda v. Poland, the whole sequence of events – including in particular the laws on reorganization of the judiciary in Poland – has vividly demonstrated that successive judicial reforms have been aimed at weakening judicial independence, starting with the grave irregularities in the election of judges of the Constitutional Court in December 2015, then, in particular, at remodeling the National Council of the  Judiciary and setting up new chambers in the Supreme Court, while extending the Minister of Justice’s control over the courts and increasing his or her role in matters of judicial discipline.

The Court emphasized that the primary problem is the defective procedure for judicial appointments involving the National Council of the Judiciary as established under the 2017 Amending Act which inherently and continually affects the independence of judges so appointed.

MEDEL recalls that already in the Krakow Declaration of December 13, 2017, and in the statement of September 19, 2019, we emphasized that the current, politicized composition of the National Council of the Judiciary not only violates European standards but above all the Polish Constitution, and the consequences of the Council’s activities could prove to be catastrophic.

A dramatic decline in trust in the courts in Poland observed in recent years,  hundreds of cases before the ECtHR, infringement proceedings against Poland, have confirmed our concerns. This is further evidence that the politicization of the judiciary system – in any European country – brings about dire consequences, drastically weakening the protection of citizens’ human rights.

Taking into consideration the pro-democratic choice of Polish citizens on the 15th of October, MEDEL calls upon all branches of power in Poland to promptly restore the rule of law in the spirit of judgments from the ECtHR and the CJEU, prioritizing the reinstatement of constitutional order within the National Council of the Judiciary.

MEDEL supports legislative projects prepared by our member association Iustitia, which have been developed in line with the rulings of European Courts and the challenges of the 21st century.

24 November 2023

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