UIA Stands for the Independence of the Justice in Poland

Following the adoption of the UIA Governing Board Resolution at the Luxembourg Congress, expressing concern about the situation of the Rule of Law in Poland, new developments have occurred, and threats against judicial independence in Poland have escalated.

Among other issues, UIA followed with particular concern the process of adopting a New Bill amending the Act - Law on the system of common courts, the Act on the Supreme Court and certain other acts.

Late on December 12, 2019, in what has been considered a reaction to CJEU’s November 19 decision, a new draft bill was introduced in the Polish parliament proposing a new and open set of disciplinary offences to be brought against judges and prosecutors. According to this draft, judges would risk disciplinary action for refusing to apply a legal provision, including those contrary to the Polish Constitution and the EU and international law, unless it had been deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. Judges also could be brought up on disciplinary charges for acts of a “political nature.” On December 20, 2019, the Sejm (the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament) adopted this controversial legislation. Even though a few amendments were introduced to the original draft, external opinions on this bill are unanimous: if adopted it would further undermine the independence of the judiciary and the country’s rule of law and should be therefore rejected. Among the main concerns, the new bill introduces worrying constraints on the freedom of expression of judges. It also introduces overbroad and open-ended definitions of disciplinary offences that could be easily abused to interfere with the judiciary, e.g., “acts or omissions which may prevent or significantly impede the functioning of an organ of the judiciary” and “an infringement of the dignity of the office”.

The Polish organization of judges, Iustitia, launched an appeal calling the legal profession to join a silent and peaceful march (MarszTysiacaTog- the March of the 1000 togues) that was held on January 11, 2020 in defence of the Rule of Law. Several Polish national and local bar associations echoed the appeal, including several UIA’s members. Judges and lawyers from at least 14 countries marched in Warsaw that day in defence of human rights and the rule of law in Poland. UIA sent a letter to Iustitia and the International Association of Judges to express its support and solidarity (see below).

The Polish Senate considered the draft bill on January 15-17. UIA sent a letter to the Marshal of the Senate to express its grave concerns about the draft bill (see below). On January 17, 2020, the Senate rejected the draft bill. However, despite the national and international mobilization, on January 23, 2020, the Sejm gave their final approval to the draft, and President Andrzej Duda signed the Bill into law on February 4, 2020.