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 © Amnesty International/Grzegorz Zukowski

28th November 2017, 16:08:24 UTC

Urgent action: Government attempts further control of the judiciary and is threatening the right to a fair trial.

On 22 November, proposals to increase the government’s control of the judiciary were put before the Polish Parliament.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the legislative amendments soon. The right to an effective remedy and the right to a fair trial will be severely undermined in Poland if they changes are passed.

The proposed changes would allow parliament to elect judges to the NCJ, until now a self-regulating body of judges, and would decrease the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 70 to 65 years, thereby requiring 40% of current Supreme Court judges to retire. Any Supreme Court judge seeking to continue their work would have to be vetted by the President.

The amended Law extends the powers of the Ministers of Justice to replace the presidents and vice-presidents of the common courts, and introduces different retirement ages for male and female judges.

There have been large nationwide demonstrations opposing the proposed changes. The changes undermine the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial, enshrined in Article 45 of the Polish Constitution, in Articles 6 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 2(3) and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Poland is a state party. These amendments are incompatible with Article 47 of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Between May and July, the Polish parliament adopted four laws on the “reform” of the judiciary. The reforms provoked a strong response from the public, intergovernmental organisations, and NGOs who expressed concern over the waning independence of the judiciary and rule of law in Poland. Some of the proposed changes would have given the Minister of Justice control over the Supreme Court, as well as over the procedure for the appointment and dismissal of judges, and threatened to undermine the independence of the National Council of Judiciary.

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