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Ruling widens rift over Warsaw’s moves to increase control over a judiciary it claims is in dire need of a purge.26 July 2018
The European Union’s highest legal arbiter has stepped in to the deepening dispute over the nationalist Polish government’s judicial policies.
Less than a month ago, the European Commission opened proceedings against Poland designed to “protect the independence of the Polish Supreme Court,” after the nationalist ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) enacted laws forcing many court justices to retire.
The Commission will not have been pleased when, earlier this week, as Reuters reported, the Polish Senate opened the way for the government to name the next Supreme Court chief justice.
Since the PiS returned to power in 2015, dozens of judges from the country’s highest courts have been dismissed. The party says the cleanout is needed to overhaul an elitist judicial system that was never fully purged after the end of communism.
The ECJ ruling took up the case of a Polish man who was arrested in Ireland in May last year for suspected drug trafficking. He argued that if handed over to Polish authorities he would face “a real risk of not receiving a fair trial” because of the judicial reforms being enacted in the country, the ECJ said in a press release.
According to Politico, if Irish courts refuse to extradite the man, “they will in effect be deciding that Poland’s judiciary no [longer] functions as a normal part of the EU’s justice system.”
It is now up to Irish courts to decide if the man’s right to a fair trial would be breached if he were extradited to Poland. In that case, Irish or any other EU court “must refrain from giving effect” to the European arrest warrant,” the court said.
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