Who receives information about cases from Prosecutor General?
The Helsinki Foundation has received the statement of reasons to the decision of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw from March 2018, in which the PAC admitted the HFHR’s complaint against the Prosecutor General’s decision to deny access to information about the number of instances in which the PG provided access to individual court cases and the identity of recipients of such information.
The country’s top prosecutor has obtained such power under art. 12(1) of the Prosecution Service Act. This provision, first introduced in 2016, enables the Prosecutor General to provide information about individual cases not only to public authorities but also to “other persons” provided that this information may be material for the security or proper operation of the state.
The HFHR has submitted the relevant application to the Prosecutor General in August 2017. In response to our application, the National Prosecutor’s Office argued that the requested information was processed information because the prosecutor’s office “has at its disposal a device that would be used to separately register cases in which access to information was provided based on article 12(1)”.
The Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw has considered the HFHR’s complaint and decided that by denying access to the requested information the Prosecutor General had committed a material violation of the principle of the rule of law expressed in the Code of Administrative Procedure and the Constitution. Above all, PAC challenged the accuracy of the Prosecutor General’s classification of the requested information as “processed”.
PAC held that the Prosecutor General’s argument is all the more incomprehensible given the fact that “the challenged powers of the Prosecutor General, afforded under article 12(1) of the Prosecution Service Act, has raised much controversy led to a heated discussion among lawyers”.
PAC also ruled that even if the information requested by the HFHR was processed, “one cannot agree with the contention that the HFHR has failed to show a special public interest in the disclosure of the requested information”. In the Court’s assessment, it must be recognised that the constitutional principle of transparency of actions of public administration bodies encompasses the obligation to ensure that organisations such as the HFHR have the full knowledge of how the Prosecutor General’s exercises his controversial power. The Supreme Administrative Court also reminded that “it has been emphasised in the case law that the activities so far performed by the HFHR as part of the organisation’s statutory objectives clearly and unambiguously show that the Foundation’s operations have had a positive impact on the functioning of specific public structures in the area of human rights protection”.