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CCBE calls on Poland to change tack over judiciary
A call for Poland to reconsider its "purge" on the judiciary has been made by the CCBE, the organisation representing the bars and law societies of 45 countries across Europe.
It follows the move on 3 July by the Polish President, under a newly enacted law, to force the retirement of 27 justices from the Supreme Court of Poland, including its President, Professor Dr Małgorzata Gersdorf, after the retirement age was retrospectively reduced from 70 to 65. The new procedure for appointing judges in Poland does not offer the same guarantees to ensure the independence of the judiciary as those which previously existed, and the European Commission has already launched an infringement procedure against Poland on the basis that as an EU member state, it is not respecting its obligations under EU law.
The CCBE said it was following developments "with increasing concern, as the independence of the judiciary from all types of interference is essential for the rule of law", adding that the Commission's action "demonstrates how serious the situation of the judiciary is in Poland".
In a statement in name of current President Antonín Mokrý, it affirmed: "The CCBE joins Polish citizens, civil society associations and professional organisations who are publicly demonstrating their disagreement with the ongoing purges in the judiciary, and with the deterioration of the democratic establishment and the rule of law in Poland. We offer our full support to the judges of Poland, victims of this purge, which deeply affects the independence of the judiciary and therefore the rule of law."
Accusing the executive in Poland of "amplifying its influence on the judiciary", the statement continued: "The separation of the three branches of Government – executive, legislative, and judicial powers – is essential for a democratic state. Furthermore, the effect of the judiciary’s situation in Poland is not limited to its national borders as the EU framework requires judicial independence in every member state, in order to guarantee mutual trust by courts in all EU countries.
"European judges have indeed questioned the independence of the judiciary in Poland and, more specifically, the guarantee of due process and fair trials in this country. The impact of the changes on the judiciary is alarming, as it is now within the discretion of the President of Poland to prolong the employment of judges who are now 65 years old.
"Consequently, we formally urge the Polish authorities to take the appropriate measures to ensure the rule of law. Specifically, to halt actions related to the judiciary which undermine the rule of law in Poland.
"The CCBE makes a plea for an impartial Polish judiciary, who is in charge of independently upholding the rule of law, a cornerstone of any European democracy."