'Restore the Rule of Law!' Over 90 NGOs Urge the Polish Government

Civil society organizations from all over the world signed the letter to the Polish president and prime minister calling on them to implement the recommendations set by the European Commission early in July this year.
Fulfilling these recommendations "will be the first steps toward restoration of the full protection of the rule of law in Poland," the organizations said.

The European Commission launched in January 2016 the Rule of Law Framework in relation to the situation in Poland. This unprecedented decision was made in reaction to the legislative changes concerning the functioning of Constitutional Tribunal and public media.

No action from Warsaw

The first stage of the procedure, which lasted from January to July 2016, included structural dialogue between the Commission and the Polish government did not bring any results. As a consequence, on July 27, 2016, the European Commission adopted a Rule of Law Recommendation on the situation in Poland.

The NGOs urge the government to put into office three judges of the Constitutional Tribunal legally appointed in October 2015.

The recommendation to the government included, in particular: following the judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal and swearing into office three judges of the Constitutional Tribunal legally appointed in October 2015; publishing all the judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal; and ensuring the constitutionality of the new Act on Constitutional Tribunal adopted in July 2016 (the recommendations are available here).

The European Commission gave the Polish government three months to inform it about the steps undertaken towards fulfilling these recommendations. So far, however, the Polish government has not undertaken any actions in this field.

"It is our great concern that none of these recommendations has been implemented," reads the statement of the organizations. The signatories underlined that the three legally appointed judges have still not been sworn into office and the government has not published the Constitutional Tribunal’s judgments of March and August 2016.

Restore the rule of law

The organizations also noted the new draft concerning the status of the Constitutional Tribunal, namely the draft act on the status of the judges of the Constitutional Tribunal. The draft is currently before the Parliament. In the opinion of the organizations, this draft "could be the next step towards weakening the independence of the Tribunal."

The government must take the necessary steps to restore the rule of law — and citizens' trust in the democratic process.

Calling upon President Duda and Prime Minister Szydło, the organizations stated that "in recent months, on many occasions, you have rightly noted that the European Union faces difficult problems requiring solutions. The problems concern, among others, the migration crisis or the United Kingdom’s exit from the community. We do believe that the European Union created by states with strong democratic systems and respecting human rights can address these challenges."

In the opinion of the organizations, fulfilling the recommendation of the European Commission will be the first steps toward restoration of the full protection of the rule of law in Poland.

The letter is available here.

More information about the constitutional crisis is available in the report Constitutional Crisis in Poland 2015-2016.