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ODF holds online hearing for MEPs with persecuted Polish judges

On October 8, 2020 we had the pleasure of organising an online hearing for Members of the European Parliament under the title “How should the EU support the Polish judiciary?”, featuring persecuted Polish judges Beata Morawiec and Dariusz Mazur, with additional expertise provided by Prof. Laurent Pech.

The event was co-hosted by MEPs Róza Thun (EPP, Poland), Sophie in ’t Veld (RE, Netherlands, chair of the EP’s rule of law monitoring group), Michal Šimečka (RE, Slovakia, rapporteur of the EP’s resolution on establishing an EU Mechanism on Democracy, the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights) & Terry Reintke (Greens, Germany). 

The event’s main speakers were: 

  •  Judge Beata Morawiec, President of the Themis Judges’ Association. First judge to win a court case against Justice Minister Z. Ziobro for her unlawful removal from office, now facing his retaliation, incl. a threat of 10 years in jail for made-up corruption charges. On September 18th Central Anticorruption Bureau agents with a public prosecutor searched her house under orders of the MOJ, thus violating her immunity and prompting nation-wide protests by judges.
  • Judge Dariusz Mazur, Themis Judges’ Association Spokesperson. Faced repression due to his international, active defence of the independent judiciary in Poland, especially following his testimony in the OSCE & EP, where he denounced the systemic attacks on judges and prosecutors as well as exposed the MOJ’s organised hate & trolling campaign.
  • Prof. Laurent Pech, Professor of European Law, Middlesex University. Jean Monnet Chair of European Public Law (2014-17) and Head of the Law and Politics Department at Middlesex University London. Leading expert on the rule of law breakdown in Poland. Co-author of several appeals to the European Commission in support of the independent judiciary, co-signed by dozens of the world’s leading legal scholars, most recent one published on Sept. 28th.

The hearing was chaired and moderated by ODF’s Public Affairs Director Martin Mycielski.

In their opening statements the MEPs agreed that the rule of law is a European issue, not only a Polish one, and shared their concern that at this stage of continuing, blatant disrespect for EU values, introducing rule of law conditionalities to the EU budget might be the only resort left. It was also reiterated that the European Court of Justice is a precious instrument in the European Parliament’s toolkit, hence the Parliament should pressure the Commission more to use it. 

The Judges updated everyone on the deteriorating situation of the independent judiciary in Poland and highlighted the growing number of judges under constant pressure, incl. disciplinary and criminal proceedings for standing in defence of the rule of law and following CJEU judgements. The case of Judge Morawiec is one of the most shocking, with Justice Minister / Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro unlawfully enacting his revenge on her for her court victory against her dismissal from the post of President of the Cracow Regional Court. Judge Dariusz Mazur underlined that this nightmare is the everyday’s reality of Polish judges and this is inadmissible for a EU Member State. The judges’ report on latest persecution cases with concrete action points for European institutions can be read below:

2020.10.07-themis-action-points_short

The last speaker, Prof. Laurent Pech, a leading expert on the rule of law breakdown in Poland, accentuated the unacceptable situation by reminding that the Constitutional Court of Poland is composed of, and presided by, unlawfully appointed “judges”. 

Finally, during the open-floor Q&A session (cut short due to time constraints), we had the chance to listen to a former Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Kristýna Zelienková, who pointed out that the rule of law breakdown isn’t limited to Poland or Hungary, but is now also affecting her own country, the Czech Republic. 

We’re happy to report the event reached over 10.000 people via our Facebook livestream and 10 MEPs attended it, incl. 8 from the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

Our live-tweet thread of the event can be found here and MEP Róża Thun’s here.

A full recording of the hearing can be watched below:

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