Polish Government Plans to Undermine the Role of the Constitutional Court

What the government is doing to the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland and the personnel that form the body is ridiculing the rule of law.
"Yet again, the decisions of those in legislative and executive power that strike at Polish courts' independence (the Constitutional Tribunal and courts of general jurisdiction) have led the Management Board and the Board of Directors of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR) and the Helsinki Committee in Poland to state that the role of the judiciary in the constitutional model of separation of powers has been destroyed. Borders have been crossed," says the statement issued yesterday morning.

The joint statement discusses the new Act on the Constitutional Tribunal, which is currently being prepared in the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish Parliament). According to the Helsinki Committee and the Management Board of the HFHR, "the version of the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal from June 29th effectively paralyzes that body and transforms it so that its functioning (including the order that it considers cases and its pace of work) becomes dependent on interim, manipulative decisions of the president, the general prosecutor and the prime minister. Additionally, the introduction of a veto that allows four judges to postpone hearing a case guarantees the constant possibility of not hearing those cases inconvenient to the court and the leaders of the ruling party."

The Helsinki Committee and the Board of the HFHR raise an alarm that creating the authority for such a veto is a direct threat to the influence of the Commissioner for Human Rights, as his motions could be permanently blocked. "The composition of the Tribunal’s personnel is shaped by the unconstitutional act concerning the already occupied seats. This leads to decisions that are permanently unconstitutional," the statement follows.

"What the government is doing to the Constitutional Tribunal and the personnel that form the body is ridiculing the rule of law and the state. Simultaneously, other bodies that are formally independent have come under major pressure," wrote the signatories of the statement.

In their statement, the Helsinki Committee and the Board of the HFHR refer to the most recent decision of the president of Poland, who did not appoint 10 judges who were recommended by the National Council of the Judiciary of Poland. According to the Helsinki Committee and the Board of the HFHR, the fact that those judges were not appointed (in addition to the president’s previous refusal to appoint three legitimately chosen judges to the Tribunal) is further proof that the government is limiting the independence and significance of the judicial authority. These actions will influence the attitude of the judges and other personnel of the courts. They attempt to transform the judiciary into a body that conforms to executive power and its expectations.

"Undermining the position and independence of judicial authority poses a direct threat to the protection of human rights and liberties," reads the statement.