On our initiative, on 7 May 2020, several hours before the scheduled election of candidates for the new president of the Polish Supreme Court, experts, judges, prosecutors and NGOs appealed to its judges to continue the fight for independence from political pressure.
The appeal was addressed to the judges of the Supreme Court sitting in the Civil Chamber, the Criminal Chamber and the Labour and Social Security Chamber. It is in these chambers that senior judges of the Supreme Court sit, appointed at the request of the legitimate National Council of the Judiciary before its politicisation and subordination to the PiS party in 2018.
The open letter draws attention to the appointment of a former Ministry of Justice official, Kamil Zaradkiewicz, who is fully available to the government, to the position of the acting First President of the Supreme Court, which does not exist in the Basic Law. His task will be to convene a general assembly of judges and bring about the election of the First President of the Supreme Court, who will be equally loyal to the party authorities, the government and the current parliamentary majority:
Currently, a party functionary, appointed in violation of the Constitution and the rules of appointment of judges in a democratic state, is attempting to control the Supreme Court. This person not only reverses the decisions of the legal First President of the Supreme Court, ignoring the judgements of the Court of Justice of the European Union, but also symbolises a lawyer who sold his legal integrity for political loyalty. His actions are intended to lead to political subordination, destruction of authority and marginalisation of the SC – an independent EU court – in the international arena. Thus, the process of subjecting the Polish judiciary to the control of the current ruling party and its subordinate authorities will be completed.
The authors of the appeal question Zaradkiewicz’s right to hold this position and also challenge – in the light of the Polish Constitution, the CJEU rulings and the Supreme Court’s own resolution of 17 January 2020 – the empowerment of judges from the so-called new chambers of the Supreme Court:
The so-called Disciplinary Chamber and the Chamber of Extraordinary Control cannot be regarded as independent courts in light of the Constitution and CJEU rulings, nor their members regarded as Supreme Court judges. We are convinced that all possible steps should be taken to remove them from any judicial activity and functioning within the Supreme Court. This can be done by assessing the already submitted interim measures, which indicate the deficiencies in their status. We can not overestimate the importance of such decisions in the face of the controversies related to the upcoming presidential elections in Poland.
That is why we appeal to the judges of the Supreme Court to take any steps necessary to halt the process of destroying one of the last and key pillars of the democratic state of law.
In this appeal we also raise the issue of the importance of the independence of the Polish Supreme Court and its judges in order to ensure the legal order of the European Union.
The signatories of the letter included, among others: Estonian Association of Judges, Finnish Association of Judges, European Council of Bar and Law Societies (CCBE), Arrested Lawyers Initiative (Turkey/Belgium), German Bar Association, German-Polish Association of Judges, Paris Bar Council, Romanian Association of Judges (AMR), European Judges for Democracy and Freedom (MEDEL), Judges Association of North Macedonia – Judge Betim Jahja, Secretary, Themis Judges Association (Poland), Lex Super Omnia Prosecutors Association (LSO, Poland), Pro Familia Family Judges Association (Poland), Swedish Judges Association, former presidents of the Constitutional Court, experts on the rule of law and organisations defending the rule of law.
The letter was published in Polish by, among others, the OKO.press portal, Onet and Gazeta Wyborcza. The English version was published on the legal portal Verfassungsblog.
- OKO.press: Before the election of the president – an appeal to the judges of the old Supreme Court: stop the destruction of the Supreme Court (8 May 2020)
- Onet: The SC selects the successors to Prof. Gersdorf. European lawyers: party functionary wraps up the takeover of the court (8 May 2020)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Independent judges! Stop the destruction of one of the last pillars of the rule of law (7 May 2020)
- Archiwum Osiatyńskiego: Before the election of the president – an appeal to the judges of the old Supreme Court: stop the destruction of the Supreme Court (8 May 2020)
- Further erosion of the Polish democracy: providing feedback for the first EU Rule of Law Report (5 May 2020)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: European lawyers ask the European Commission: When will you seriously address the violation of the rule of law in Poland? (29 April 2020)
- Onet: The EC launches an infringement procedure against Poland. Judge Mazur: the ‘muzzle law’ is the next phase of a creeping coup (29 April 2020)
- Archiwum Osiatyńskiego: Letter from the Open Dialogue Foundation to the European Commission on the Polish judiciary (29 April 2020)
- ODF and ‘Themis’ report on the Polish judiciary published by the European Commission (25 March 2020)
- PACE adopts resolution on Poland with ODF’s amendments (4 February 2020)
- ODF welcomes persecuted Polish judges and prosecutors in Brussels (16 December 2019)
- “Law and Justice’s Campaign against Polish Judiciary” – ODF’s hearing in the European Parliament (17 December 2019)
- Position of the Open Dialogue Foundation in the case of Judge Dariusz Mazur (19 November 2019)
- In the Bundestag, President of the Open Dialogue Foundation spoke about Poland (13 September 2018)
- Attack against the rule of law and civil society in Poland – a debate during the OSCE HDIM 2017 conference (19 September 2017)
- Statement of the Open Dialog Foundation of 21 July 2017 on the dismantling of the rule of law in Poland (21 July 2017)