Democracy under threat in Poland

Poland's drift to authoritarian rule is beginning to cause problems in other EU states. Eleven extradition cases are held-up in the Dutch courts, while they ponder whether the defendants can expect a fair trial in Poland. Meanwhile, the Polish deputy justice minister launched an extraordinary homophobic attack against an Irish High Court judge, hearing the case of a Polish man, Artur Celmer. He is accused of illegal drug-trafficking and is fighting extradition back to Poland, claiming he can't rely on a fair trial in his home country. This case has been dragging on, in the Irish courts, since 2017 with no end in sight.

What caused EU27 courts, the EU commission and the European Court of Justice, to question the quality of justice in Poland? And why a is a Polish government minister flinging personal abuse at a judge in another EU state?

The Polish government has enacted a law giving politicians the power to sack judges, or discipline them, at will. This makes it clear to everybody, lawyers and the public alike, who's in charge in the law courts and it's not the judges. If the ruling politicians don't like a court judgment they can get rid of the judge and try again. Judges are expected to follow political guidelines, regardless of their independent analysis. This goes against a fundamental principle of justice and of European Union law.

Judges hold great power to alter peoples' lives. Justice must be free of interference by politicians, if law-court decisions are to be respected. If respect for law fails then democracy is in danger. EU states share a united vision of justice and democracy. This allows a high level of trust and co-operation. A citizen accused of crimes in one state can be arrested anywhere in the EU & sent back for trial. This system relies on trust between EU states. If trust fails the system will fail, as is happening in Poland.

Polish journals with government links, like Dziennik Narowowy made extraordinary personal attacks against the “Irish lesbian judge” who suspended the Celmer extradition. Poland's Deputy Justice Minister displayed his contempt for the presumption of innocence by calling the accused a "dangerous criminal" connected to a "drugs mafia", despite the lack of a courtroom trial or conviction on these charges. This alone suggests Celmer's lawyers may have a case when they question their client's prospects of a fair trial in Poland.

If there was any doubt about Polish Deputy Justice Minister Marcin WarchoĊ‚'s understanding of the word “Justice” this was clarified when he attacked the professionalism and integrity of the Irish High Court judge claiming she was ignorant, partial and biased, “an openly homosexual person”.... “who had worked for the Irish Council of Civil Liberties” and was “delaying the punishment of a serious drug mafia criminal”.

The Polish justice minister's irrational outburst against a judge in another EU state, doing what she is appointed to do, without being fired in disgrace, tells us there is something seriously wrong in Warsaw. The Irish judge is a perfect expression of everything the Polish right-wing government holds in contempt gay, female, independently minded and an advocate for civil liberties.

In fact, any delay in dealing with Polish cases in EU courts is caused by the right-wing government in Warsaw refusing to accept shared EU basic principles of law. The Warsaw government wants the right to sack or discipline judges, at will, in breach of EU law. It is against the interests of the Polish people and European democracy to allow the Warsaw autocrats to get away with this.

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