European Court of Human Rights says Poland denied judges the right to appeal

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Flags of the European Union fly in front of the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium on May 5, 2021. REUTERS / Yves Herman

WARSAW, June 29 (Reuters) – Poland’s justice minister violated the rights of two judicial officials by sacking them without letting them appeal, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday, issuing a blow to the judicial reforms of the government.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced a series of judicial reforms that critics, including the European Union’s executive say, could undermine the independence of the courts.

These included legislation giving the Minister of Justice the power to hire and fire heads of courts of general jurisdiction. These judges coordinate the work of the court and perform administrative tasks.

Under the new rules, judges Mariusz Broda and Alina Bojara were removed from their posts as vice-presidents of the Kielce Regional Court before the end of their six-year term without being given an explanation or the opportunity to appeal. .

“As the premature termination of the applicants’ mandate as vice-presidents of courts had not been examined by an ordinary court or by another body exercising judicial functions, the respondent State violated the very essence of the right to applicants’ access to a court ”, declared the ECHR.

It decided that Poland should pay each claimant 20,000 euros in damages. Both parties have three months to appeal.

The Justice Department said it is analyzing the verdict and will comment soon.

“We respect the court but we are implementing our programs, including justice reform, according to our timetable,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at a press conference.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro dismissed more than 150 presidents and vice-presidents of courts over a six-month period in 2017 and 2018, according to the Polish Judges Association Iustitia.

In May, the ECHR ruled that a Polish company had been denied its right to a formal hearing over the illegal appointment of a Constitutional Court judge, paving the way for challenges to the highest Polish court. Read more

Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz; edited by Alan Charlish and Angus MacSwan

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