Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has led a debate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the issue of Judicial Independence, with a resolution calling on Poland and Moldova to refrain from attack on its judges’ freedoms.
Speaking on behalf of the United European Left, Senator Gavan said:
“Access to Justice before independent and impartial courts is essential to the rule of law in any country and is one of the core values of the Council of Europe.
“In Moldova there have been efforts to support moves towards a more independent judiciary. In Poland however there is an altogether different direction of travel. Since 2015, under the rule of the so-called Law and Justice Party, Poland has been sliding rapidly towards an authoritarian rule.
“We have witnessed a power grab of the judiciary by this right-wing government, which regrettably seems all too happy to disregard the need for judicial independence. The Polish Government has been forcing Supreme Court Judges to retire and appointing new ones seen as obedient. There is international concern with regard to the passing of the so called ‘repressive law’ or ‘gag law’ of 20 December 2019.
“I welcome this resolution which is a clear call on the Polish Government to refrain from applying the provisions of this law.
“The resolution before the Council of Europe notes many judges have been subjected to various forms of harassment in recent months. Disciplinary or pre-disciplinary proceedings have been brought against judges who have spoken in public about the independence of the Judiciary or been outspoken against the ongoing reforms.
“It is vitally important I believe, to see these steps to remove judicial independence in the wider context of a government bent on removing space for civil society, its attacks on LGBT Communities, women’s rights including the disgraceful decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and its crude anti-immigrant stance.
“Poland is on a dangerous path right now, and it is the duty of all of those who value democracy and human rights to support this very clear call to halt the erosion of judicial independence.”