Partly not in conformity with the constitution: Poland criticizes the EU human rights convention

Partly not constitutional
Poland criticizes the EU human rights convention

In the conflict with the EU about the value of national and European rights, Poland is stepping up: The constitutional court declares parts of the EU human rights convention to be incompatible with the national constitution. The EU is concerned about the ruling. But there is also criticism in the country.

According to the Constitutional Court in Warsaw, the EU’s human rights convention is in part incompatible with the Polish constitution. With this finding, the court rejected a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). “The Constitutional Court overturns the ECHR ruling that violates our system,” tweeted Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta. The Council of Europe then stated that the ruling gave cause for “concern”.

Specifically, it is about Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was signed by 47 states – including Poland. “Everyone has the right to a fair trial (…) of any disputes (…) or any criminal charges brought against them by an independent and impartial court based on the law (…),” it says .

“You cannot see the Constitutional Court as a court”

However, this article may not be used by the European Court of Human Rights to examine the independence of judges at the Constitutional Court, the judgment now says. Because the basis of the independence of the constitutional judges are “the Polish constitution and other laws”. In his judgment, the constitutional judge Wojciech Sych summed this up as follows: “The constitutional court cannot be viewed as a court.” Thus Poland does not have to implement a certain judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

It was a “beautiful day for the Polish rule of law and sovereignty,” Kaleta said. With the ruling, the Constitutional Court “stopped another attempt at external and illegal interference in the Polish system”. The Polish Ministry of Justice brought the case to the Constitutional Court after the ECHR convicted Poland in May for the “irregular” appointment of a constitutional judge.

The Council of Europe expressed concern at the decision. “Today’s ruling by the Polish Constitutional Court is unprecedented and gives cause for serious concern,” said General Secretary Marija Pejcinovic Buric. All 47 member states of the Council of Europe have committed themselves to “guaranteeing the rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights”.

Opposition politicians: situation like in Russia

The Polish opposition politician Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz also sharply criticized the verdict. “In Russia, the Constitutional Court also chooses the judgments it wants to abide by,” she said. Poland signed the European Convention on Human Rights 30 years ago, and the government is now trying to “push the country out of the group of democratic countries”.

Critics accuse the government in Warsaw of undermining the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers with its judicial reforms. The ECHR has condemned Poland several times for its controversial judicial reforms. Among other things, he passed a judgment in July against the so-called disciplinary chamber, by means of which the ruling law and justice party (PiS) intends to take action against corruption, other misconduct and the “legacy of communism” in the judicial system. For example, the chairwoman of the constitutional court, Julia Przylebska, is a close confidante of PiS boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski. This court recently ruled that national law took precedence over EU law.

The current decision of the Constitutional Court refers to a judgment of the Human Rights Court on May 7th of this year. The Xero Flor company sued after the Polish Constitutional Court rejected their case. Because there were doubts about the legal appointment of one of the judges who made this decision, the company went to the Strasbourg court. This confirmed the plaintiff and awarded him compensation.

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