Constitutional Tribunal: what next?
The Helsinki Committee in Poland and the Council and Board of the HFHR issued a joint statement on the Constitutional Tribunal today. The document emphasised that the moment when the judges appointed without a valid legal basis took up their official duties and the Tribunal’s President was illegally elected marked the emergence of “a major loophole in the human rights protection system in Poland”.
Statement of the Helsinki Committee in Poland, the Council and Board of the HFHR
“The constitutional crisis that has been ongoing in Poland since 2015 now reached its critical point”, reads today’s statement. “The Constitutional Tribunal’s ability to perform its constitutional functions have been called into question as the judges appointed without a valid legal basis took up their official duties and the Tribunal’s President was elected in contravention of a law. A major loophole will appear in the human rights protection system”, note the signatories of the statement.
Constitutional crisis in Poland
The dispute over the appointment of new judges of the Constitutional Tribunal was a constituent element of the constitutional crisis that erupted in 2015. In December 2015, the ruling majority elected three constitutional judges without a valid legal basis. The new judges were appointed to replace the three judges elected by the previous ruling majority in October 2015. The President refused to take oath from the latter three but swore in the former three judges almost immediately despite the absence of a valid legal basis (for more information about the subject, please refer to the report “Constitutional crisis in Poland, 2015-2016”).
Professor Andrzej Rzepliński, the President of the Constitutional Tribunal whose term of office ended on 19 December 2016, did not assign cases to those judges. Upon the expiry of Professor Rzepliński’s term, the President appointed Julia Przyłębska the new President of the Constitutional Tribunal (to find out more about this, follow this link). As soon as the new President took office, she started assigning cases to the newly appointed judges. This brings up important concerns about the status of rulings issued by the Constitutional Tribunal sitting in an inappropriate panel of judges.
“The Helsinki Committee in Poland and the Council and Board of the HFHR have taken the view that in this situation the key role will be played by the jurisprudence of independent courts and international human rights protection bodies”, reads today’s statement.