Members of Poland's ruling Law and Justice have pushed through further measures that will raise international concerns about judicial independence in the country. In a surprise move on Friday deputies forced through an amendment cancelling the right of failed candidates for the Supreme Court to appeal.
Poland already faces international criticism over measures potentially submitting judges to political control. Earlier this month the European Commission opened an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Poland on a new disciplinary regime for judges. The letter states that the commission is 'of the opinion that Poland failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union read in connection with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which enshrine a right to an effective remedy before an independent and impartial court'.
According to the letter, ordinary court judges can be subject to disciplinary investigations, procedures and ultimately sanctions on account of the content of their judicial decisions. 'Also, the new disciplinary regime does not guarantee the independence and impartiality of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court which reviews decisions taken in disciplinary proceedings against judges. This Disciplinary Chamber is composed solely of new judges selected by the National Council for the Judiciary whose judges-members are now appointed by the Polish parliament.'
Warsaw has two months to reply to the letter.
Last year the General Council of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) agreed to suspend the membership of the Polish National Judicial Council, the KRS. It said at the time that the Polish national council no longer met the condition that institutions are independent of the executive and legislature.