Statement of the Bar Council of England and Wales on the latest attacks on the independence of the judiciary in Poland
The Bar Council expresses its grave concern at the latest legislative measure by the Polish parliament, passed on 23 January 2020, which interferes, once more, with the independence of the judiciary, a principle which is internationally recognised.
Under this new legislation, judges may now be dismissed if they criticise the legitimacy of the government’s judicial reforms. We know that previously, judges have been sanctioned for referring cases to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Since taking office in 2015, the governing Law and Justice party (PiS), with its parliamentary majority, has passed laws that give the executive and the legislature ever greater control over the judiciary, in violation of Poland’s commitment to uphold the rule of law when it joined the European Union.
This latest law must be viewed against the backdrop of increasing measures to control the judiciary: in 2015 and 2016, law reforms reduced the independence of the Constitutional Court, followed by legislation in 2017 undermining the Supreme Court’s independence. In 2018, the National Council of the Judiciary was re-constituted with Parliament becoming responsible for appointing judges (as opposed to members of the judiciary), in breach of the principle of separation of powers. On 5 December 2019, the Polish Supreme Court ruled that the new disciplinary chamber of the Supreme Court had been unlawfully constituted.
The law reforms enacted in Poland have been strongly criticised by the international community because they fail to adhere to international principles of judicial independence, to EU law, and to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Bar Council condemns this latest act of interference with the independence of the judiciary and calls upon the Polish government and the PiS majority in Parliament to reverse all measures that have been introduced to this effect. These measures have grave consequences for the rights of Polish citizens, the rule of law and the standing of Poland in the world.
We will continue to stand in solidarity with the Polish legal profession which is working tirelessly to defend the rule of law in their country.