In an urgent Opinion issued today, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, together with the organisation’s Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law, concludes that the amendments to laws on the judiciary passed by the lower house of the Polish parliament (Sejm) on 20 December 2019 and now being scrutinised in the Senate may further undermine judicial independence.
The Venice Commission prepared the urgent opinion in response to a request from the Marshal of the Senate so it could be ready before the end of the Senate session from 15 to 17 January at which these amendments have to be discussed.
The December 2019 amendments curtail the freedoms of expression and association of judges and prevent Polish courts from examining whether other courts in the country are “independent or impartial” under European rules. Polish judges are put into the impossible situation of having to face disciplinary proceedings for decisions which may be required by the European Convention on Human Rights, or under the law of the European Union, and other international instruments.
Following its preparation under the urgent procedure, the opinion will be presented to the Venice Commission for endorsement at its Plenary Session in Venice on 20-21 March.