BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Civil society organisations and legal experts from around the world urged the European Commission on Sunday to sue the Polish government in the EU’s top court for undermining the independence of judges and ignoring EU court rulings.
A letter, signed by 15 civil society organisations 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.
It asked the Commission to sue Poland for penalising judges who abide by EU law or question changes introduced by the nationalist coalition led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party.
“We urge you to refer the case to the Court of Justice without more delay and to apply for a broad set of interim measures … to avoid the usual dilatory tactics of the Polish authorities,” the letter, dated March 28, said.
Poland has been at odds with the EU since the eurosceptic PiS took power in 2015 and started dismantling checks and balances that had made courts independent.
In response, the EU launched a probe into whether Poland was violating the rule of law. But, helped by Hungary which is under the same rule of law investigation, Warsaw has avoided sanctions because they require unanimity among the bloc’s 27 governments.
The Commission has launched several infringement procedures against Poland, but as they drag on, Warsaw continues to introduce more changes, which critics say further remove safeguards of independence.
Ignoring an EU court ruling suspending a Polish panel created to discipline judges, Warsaw has allowed the chamber to function and remove immunity from government critics.
“The Commission considers that Poland violates EU law by allowing the Disciplinary Chamber … to take decisions,” Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said. “You can expect the Commission to take swift and decisive action.”
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Giles Elgood)