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Judges' council laws unconstitutional: ruling

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 21.06.2017 08:30
Laws determining the selection of judges to 25-strong National Council of the Judiciary are unconstitutional, Poland's constitutional court decided in a closed session on Tuesday.
Constitutional Tribunal building. Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell.Constitutional Tribunal building. Photo: PAP/Tomasz Gzell.

It added that various-length terms of members to the council, which is a constitutional body tasked with safeguarding the independence of courts and judges, are also in breach of Poland's constitution.

The 2011 laws deemed unconstitutional by Poland's top court outline different ways for the election of appeals court judges, district court judges, and administrative, military or Supreme Court judges to the council.

“The form of the council's body is connected with the principle of equality … equal opportunities in applying for a certain position must be created for people who are to join the body,” Constitutional Tribunal Judge Mariusz Muszyński said.

The Constitutional Tribunal underlined that the National Council of the Judiciary was created to ensure the separation of powers.

Poland's General Prosecutor Zbigniew Ziobro in April asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on the law, which he claimed favoured higher-ranked judges.

He said that under the current law, fewer than 500 appeals court judges nominate two members to the council while more than 9,000 regional and district court judges select just eight representatives.

The National Council of the Judiciary agreed with the constitutional court's decision, adding that it did not affect current members.

According to Barbara Grabowska-Moroz, an expert from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Constitutional Tribunal's decision was a “green light” for legal changes to the judges' council and an additional reason for the Polish president to sign a reform bill.

But she said that bill should first be put to the Constitutional Tribunal.

A group of protesters which gathered outside the Constitutional Tribunal's building as it delivered its decision claimed the top court had ceased to be an independent body and had become a political tool in the hands of the governing party. (vb/pk)

Source: PAP

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