June 02
2020
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20th May 2020
Human Rights

New pending case before the ECtHR concerning reform of Polish judiciary

Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) announced that it has decided to make use of the communications procedure under Article 54 of its rules of procedure in order to give notification to Poland of the pending case Żurek v. Poland (application no. 39650/18), requesting the Polish Government to submit observations.

The case concerns the premature termination of a judge’s mandate as a member of the National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ), the constitutional organ in Poland which safeguards the independence of courts and judges, his dismissal as spokesperson for that organ, and the alleged campaign to silence him.

The applicant claims that these facts amount to a breach of his right of access to court under Article 6(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), and of his right to an effective remedy in Article 13 ECHR. Mr Żurek alleges that he was denied access to a tribunal and that there was no procedure, judicial or otherwise, to contest the premature termination of his mandate. The applicant also alleges a breach of the freedom of expression in Article 10 ECHR, claiming that his dismissal as spokesperson for the regional court and the NCJ, combined with the authorities’ decisions to inspect his and his wife’s financial declarations and tax returns in 2017, were intended to punish him for expressing criticism of the Government’s legislative changes and warn other judges from doing the same.

This is the fifth case lodged with the ECtHR concerning changes in the Polish judiciary. In January this year, the Council of Europe voted to start monitoring Poland for the functioning of democratic institutions and the rule of law, declaring that recent changes ‘severely damage the independence of the judiciary’. These changes are also the subject-matter of scrutiny and controversy under EU law, including an ongoing infringement procedure launched by the Commission and several pending cases before the Court of Justice.

For more information, read the ECtHR’s press release.

For more information on the rule of law crisis in Poland, read our Weekend Edition No 2 of 24 January 2020 and the first EU Law Live Editorial Board Comment.

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