Meeting with the Venice Commission
The legislative procedure and the changes introduced in the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal – these were the main issues raised by the representatives of HFHR during the meeting with the Venice Commission.
At the beginning of December 2015, HFHR and eight other NGOs sent a letter to the Venice Commission concerning the constitutional crisis taking place in Poland (the letter to the Venice Commission is available here). On 23 December 2015, the Minister of Foreign Affairs submitted to the Venice Commission a request for an opinion on the Act amending the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal which was being proceeded at that time in the Polish Parliament. Without waiting for the opinion, the Parliament adopted the amendment and the President signed the Act on 28th December 2015. The Act came into force on that day.
During the legislative procedure, HFHR submitted an opinion regarding the draft Act. HFHR strongly protested against adopting the amendment at the accelerated pace and without proper consultations. At that time, HFHR argued that the real aim of the amendment is to paralyze the work of the Tribunal and prevent it from fulfilling its constitutional obligations (HFHR’s opinion is available here).
„The representatives of the Venice Commission are very well-oriented in the situation of the Constitutional Tribunal. The questions they asked referred to particular articles of the adopted Act amending the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal and our assessment of these regulations,” says Maciej Nowicki, HFHR’s deputy president.
HFHR’s representatives focused on concrete solutions adopted in the amendment, among others, the necessity to issue judgements by a 2/3 majority and hearing the cases in the sequence of their submission with the Tribunal. “In our opinion, those two regulations lead to the complete paralysis of the Constitutional Tribunal,” says Barbara Grabowska-Moroz, HFHR’s lawyer. The representatives of HFHR underlined that those two regulations may significantly influence the judges’ independence, the right to a fair trial and access to justice.
HFHR is also concerned about the provisions introducing the new deadlines for the hearings. In the light of the amended Act, the first hearing can be organised only after 3 or 6 months from the notification of the parties. “In our opinion, this is yet another provision of the amending Act which may cause a slowdown in the Tribunal’s work,” says Maciej Nowicki. HFHR underlines that this particular provision may violate the Constitution. “This provision does not foresee any exceptions. However, in the light of the Constitution, the President’s motion concerning the Act on the annual budget of the state should be recognised within 2 months,” says Barbara Grabowska-Moroz.
HFHR’s opinion regarding the amended Act on the Constitutional Tribunal available is here.