Top EU human rights court orders Poland fix judicial system

A picture taken on Oct 8, 2021 shows the polish flag and EU flag at the entrance of Polish permanent representation to the EU in Brussels. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Poland must quickly end political interference in its judicial system, the European Court of Human Rights ordered in the latest round of a fast-escalating feud between the nation and its western neighbors over the rule of law.

The Strasbourg, France-based tribunal ruled Monday that two Polish judges rejected for positions were denied a fair hearing by a government-controlled panel set up to oversee judicial job applications.

The ruling from the human rights panel adds to a drumbeat of criticism of Poland’s populist government over the rule of law in the country

The makeup of Poland’s Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Affairs, which heard the pair’s cases, isn’t an “independent and impartial tribunal established by law” the human rights court said in a statement on the ruling.

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It said the chamber’s members are composed of judges appointed by Polish President Andrzej Duda on the recommendation of the National Council of the Judiciary, a body whose legal members are largely elected by politicians rather than judges.

“Poland must take rapid action to resolve the lack of independence” of the NCJ, the court said. “In blatant defiance of the rule of law,” Duda “carried out judicial appointments despite a final court order staying the implementation of the NCJ’s resolution recommending judges to the Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Affairs.”

The ruling from the human rights panel adds to a drumbeat of criticism of Poland’s populist government over the rule of law in the country.

The European Union has been withholding 36 billion euros ($42 billion) of stimulus funds bound for Poland after the government said it welcomed a ruling by its top court that some EU laws are incompatible with the country’s constitution, undermining a fundamental precept of the union.

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