Council of Europe blasts Poland’s court system overhaul

EPA/JACEK TURCZYK

Head of the Constitutional Justice Division of the Secretariat of the Venice Commission, Austrian Schnutz Rudolf Duerr (C), and rapporteurs Austrian Christoph Grabenwarter (R) and Finnish Kaarlo Tuori (L) leave the Polish Supreme Court building after a meeting with Polish Supreme Court judges in Warsaw, Poland, 08 February 2016.

Council of Europe blasts Poland’s court system overhaul


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Democracy and human rights are in danger in Poland, according to legal experts who advise the Council of Europe.

As reported by The Guardian, Europe’s leading constitutional experts are critical of Poland’s new conservative Law and Justice party, which won the elections in October 2015. In December, they passed new legislation to overhaul court procedures, making it harder to pass rulings.

The experts at the Council of Europe, which are known as the Venice Commission, called on the Polish government to strike out provisions of a law reforming the country’s highest court.

According to a draft report leaked to Polish media, the Venice Commission said the tribunal’s effectiveness could be crippled, thereby damaging human rights as access to justice was denied.

“As long as the situation of constitutional crisis related to the constitutional tribunal remains unsettled and as long as the constitutional tribunal cannot carry out its work in an efficient manner, not only is the rule of law in danger, but so is democracy and human rights,” the expert body concluded.

Although the Council of Europe cannot penalise countries or force them to change laws, the stinging rebuke is certain to carry weight, reported The Guardian. “Member states as a rule don’t ignore [Council of Europe] recommendations,” a Council of Europe spokesman said, while declining to comment on the leak.

The report will also influence the European Commission, which has launched an inquiry into the rule of law in Poland, the first time EU authorities have investigated the democratic standards of a member state.

The Council of Europe, which is not part of the EU, will publish the expert group’s final opinion shortly after 11-12 March, following a meeting with Polish government representatives in Venice, reported The Guardian.

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