Threats to judicial independence in Poland

Our international human rights adviser, Dr Marina Brilman, was interviewed by Polish television about threats to judicial independence in Poland.

Watch the interview

She discussed recent amendments to the Law on Common Courts and Law on the Supreme Court, as well as other legislation that gives the executive and legislative in Poland control over the judiciary.

The interview covered:

  • the fact that any judge appointed by the president is considered a 'lawful' judge and criticising such appointment constitutes a disciplinary offence
  • the introduction of new disciplinary offences and sanctions for judges
  • the transfer of competencies to committees of judges appointed by the minister of justice

Our letter on these 2019 amendments was also extensively covered on Polish television (at 2:40 min).

These 2019 measures follow amendments to legislation in 2017, that included:

  • reforms to the National Council on the Judiciary, so that all members previously appointed by judges are now appointed by Parliament
  • the power of the minister of justice to revoke appointments of judges
  • the institution of an hierarchical judicial system whereby court presidents can discipline or recall judges of lower courts
  • the establishment of the Disciplinary Chamber and Chamber for Extraordinary Review within the Supreme Court, both lacking independence

The 2017 measures follow amendments to the Act on the Constitutional Court in 2016, undermining the independence of the court.

We sent a letter to Polish authorities on these amendments in 2017.

The legislative amendments introduced since 2015 erode judicial independence in Poland. This means that the right of Polish citizens to a fair trial and an independent and impartial tribunal is violated.

The amendments not only harm the legal profession or judges in particular, but deprive the population as a whole of access to justice.

We're calling on Polish authorities to revoke and amend the adopted legislation to bring it in line with its international treaty obligations, as well as international standards on judicial independence.

We also urge the Polish authorities to take no further measures that could undermine the separation of powers.