On 28 January 2021, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on judges in Poland and the Republic of Moldova. The resolution, resulting from ODF’s advocacy efforts back in 2018, urges the countries’ authorities to uphold the rule of law and ensure judicial independence. Prior to passing the resolution the Assembly voted on a series of amendments. Three out of five of the amendments that ODF’s team has helped to draw up and advocated for, further detailing the Polish government’s rule of law breaches, were accepted by an overwhelming majority.
With mounting concerns about the rule of law in Poland and the Republic of Moldova, in October 2018, ODF conducted an advocacy mission that resulted in 27 PACE members signing a motion for a resolution entitled “Judges in Poland and in the Republic of Moldova must remain independent”. After slightly over two years, the resolution – based on a report by rapporteur Andrea Orlando (Italy, SOC) – was adopted with 77 votes in favour, 19 against and 7 abstentions.
In the resolution, the Assembly condemned “the campaign of intimidation waged by the political authorities against certain critical judges and against the judiciary in general” in Poland, proclaiming such conduct “unworthy of a democracy and a law-governed state”. With respect to the Republic of Moldova, the Assembly expressed concern about “the proximity of part of the judiciary to the political authorities” (see CoE’s press release on the subject).
The vote was preceded by a heated debate. Former Federal Minister of Justice of Germany Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger asserted that the Polish authorities are turning the independent judiciary into “an endangered species”.
Arkadiusz Mularczyk, deputy of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), was defending the PiS changes, assuring that they are no different from reforms implemented in other EU countries – a blatant departure from the truth. He has also called the report and resolution biased and claimed that rapporteur Orlando has not visited Poland to speak to all interested parties, omitting to mention that – on Mularczyk’s own invitation – in Dec. 2020, Mr Orlando met online with the delegation assembled by the Polish authorities.
While the Polish authorities intended to water down the resolution, none of the amendments proposed by Mr Mularczyk but one were accepted. Meanwhile, the Assembly passed three (no. 1, 3, 4) out of five (1-5) of the amendments defended during the plenum by Polish MPs Krzysztof Śmiszek (the Left) and Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz (Civic Coalition), and tabled by a cross-national and cross-party coalition of MPs (Marek Borowski, Civic Coalition; Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz; Paul Gavan, Ireland, Sinn Féin; Gerardo Giovagnoli, Italy, PSD; Killion Munyama, Civic Coalition; Barbara Nowacka, Civic Coalition; Krzysztof Śmiszek).
All proposed corrections, which ODF has helped to draft, aimed at further detailing the Polish government’s rule of law breaches like the illegal appointment of the First President of the Supreme Court, or the creation of the special unit within the Prosecutor’s Office designed to target independent judges (PL: Wydział Spraw Wewnętrznych Prokuratury Krajowej).
However, this was not without controversy, as Mr Mularczyk, in concert with pro-government media outlets, accused ODF of – more or less – “plotting behind the scenes”. That is notwithstanding the Foundation informing about its efforts via its social media channels, and reporting on the rule of law and human rights violations to international forums being the organisation’s main mission.
Mr Mularczyk’s “discovery” has not been left unnoticed by OKO.press and Archiwum Osiatyńskiego – media outlets performing watchdog activities over public institutions – and popular news website NaTemat that have lampooned PiS deputy’s reaction.
See our other activities for the rule of law in Poland at PACE:
- PACE adopts resolution on Poland with ODF’s amendments (4 February 2020)
- Functioning of democratic institutions in Poland: ODF fights for a resolute PACE report (3 February 2020)
- A delegation of the ODF attended the fourth part-session of PACE in Strasbourg (17 October 2018)
- PACE side event: Shrinking space for civil society and persecution of human rights activists (8 October 2018)
- ODF attends PACE Autumn Session 2018 to speak up for rule of law and human rights defenders (5 October 2018)
- PACE new recommendations: Protecting human rights defenders and the independent work of NGOs (31 May 2018)
- Members of the PACE launch a motion for resolution on the preservation of civil liberties in Poland, Moldova and Ukraine (30 January 2018)
- Strasbourg: Members of PACE concerned about the rule of law, media freedom and independence of NGOs in Poland (30 January 2018)
- “Government against the rule of law, civil society and independent media in Poland” – Invitation to an event at PACE (18 January 2018)
- ODF addresses the EP and PACE on human and civil rights in Kazakhstan, Moldova and Poland (19 October 2017)
See our other activities for the rule of law in Poland:
- A Breach Too Far: Call to the EC on the Assault on Judges Adjudicating on Prosecutor Krasoń’s Case (28 January 2021)
- How we fought for the rule of law in Poland: recap of our activities in 2020 (28 December 2020, in Polish)
- ODF holds online hearing for MEPs with persecuted Polish judges (9 October 2020)
- How should the EU support the Polish judiciary? Оn-line hearing invitation (1 October 2020)
- “Law and Justice’s Campaign against Polish Judiciary” – ODF’s hearing in the European Parliament (17 December 2019)
- ODF welcomes persecuted Polish judges and prosecutors in Brussels (16 December 2019)
- Polish media about the conference organised by the ODF in the EP with the participation of persecuted Polish judges (13 December 2019)
- Position of the Open Dialogue Foundation in the case of Judge Dariusz Mazur (19 November 2019)
- Attacks on judges and independent prosecutors in Poland. An ODF event at the OSCE forum (30 September 2019)
Cover photo: coe.int