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Rule of LawPoland

Polish court says European rights pact clashes with law

November 25, 2021

Poland's Constitutional court said the Europe's top rights body had no right to review the appointments of its judges. The ruling sparks another conflict between Poland and its European allies over judicial reforms.

People hold up an EU flag and a Polish flag tied together as they take part in a pro-EU demonstration
Poland is engaged in a legal battle with its European allies over judicial reforms and the primacy of EU lawImage: Mateusz Slodkowski/AFP/Getty Images

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on Wednesday ruled that parts of the European Convention on Human Rights were incompatible with the Polish constitution.

The ruling said the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) did not have thejurisdiction to review and assess the legality of the appointments of the Polish court’s judges. 

This came after an ECHR judgment in May questioning the legality of appointments of judges to the Constitutional Court.

"Article 6 of the Convention... as far as it includes the Constitutional Tribunal in its definition of a court, is not compatible," with the Polish constitution, said judge Julia Przylebska, the head of the Tribunal.

The Strasbourg-based ECHR ruled in May that a company had been denied its right to proper hearing due to the illegal appointment of a tribunal judge.

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Reactions within Poland 

"The Constitutional Court throws away the ECHR judgment violating our system," Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said on Twitter, referring to a ruling earlier this year on Poland’s controversial judicial reforms.

Kaleta said that it was "a beautiful day for Polish rule of law and sovereignty" and that "another attempt at external and illegal interference in Poland’s system has been stopped". 

Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, an opposition lawmaker, criticized the ruling and accused the government of pushing Poland out of the convention.

"In Russia, the Constitutional Tribunal also selects the judgments it wants to adhere to," she said. 

Poland had signed the European Convention on Human Rights 30 years ago, she said, accusing Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro of "pushing us out of the group of democratic countries." 

'Unprecedented' judgment

The Council of Europe, of which the European Court of Human Rights is a part, expressed concern over the ruling.

"Today’s judgment from the Polish Constitutional Tribunal is unprecedented and raises serious concerns. We will carefully assess the judgment's reasoning and its effects," COE Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said in a statement.

The Council of Europe is a pan-European rights body formed after World War II to protect human rights and the rule of law. It has 47 member nations, including Poland. 

The Council of Europe is separate from the European Union, which is also engaged in a legal battle over judicial reforms and the primacy of EU law. 

adi/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)