Civil society and legal experts urge EU to act for Polish rule of law

BRUSSELS, March 29 (Reuters) – Civil society organizations and legal experts around the world on Sunday urged the European Commission to take the Polish government to the EU’s highest court for undermining the independence of judges and non-compliance with EU court decisions.

A letter, signed by 15 civil society organizations, including Amnesty International and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and more than 60 legal academics, urged the EU executive to act before the damage becomes irreparable.

He called on the Commission to prosecute Poland for sanctioning judges who respect EU law or question changes introduced by the nationalist coalition led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party.

“We urge you to send the case back to the Court of Justice without further delay and to ask for a wide range of interim measures (…) to avoid the usual delaying tactics of the Polish authorities,” said the letter dated 28 March.

Poland has been at odds with the EU since the Eurosceptic PiS took power in 2015 and began to dismantle the checks and balances that had made the courts independent.

In response, the EU launched an investigation into whether Poland violated the rule of law. But, aided by Hungary, which is under the same rule of law investigation, Warsaw has avoided sanctions because they require the unanimity of the 27 governments of the bloc.

The Commission has launched several infringement cases against Poland, but as they drag on, Warsaw continues to introduce other changes, which critics say further remove guarantees of independence.

Ignoring a European court ruling suspending a Polish panel set up to discipline judges, Warsaw has allowed the chamber to operate and lift immunity from government critics.

“The Commission considers that Poland is violating EU law by allowing the disciplinary chamber (…) to take decisions,” said Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand. “You can expect the Commission to take swift and decisive action.” (Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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