"It's unacceptable". Head of Paris Bar on Polish government's bill on disciplining judges
"It’s unacceptable. Unacceptable. That’s why the European Commission has already launched a sanction procedure against Poland for violating the rule of law principle, that of separation of powers, and of independence of courts. These are fundamental principles of European democracy," said the head of the Paris Bar Association, Marie-Aimée Peyron in an interview for TVN24. The French lawyer was referring to a legislation submitted to parliament on December 12 by Poland's ruling PiS party, under which judges could be sacked if they question the legitimacy of its judicial reforms. The bill also says judges must inform their superiors of past membership of political parties and of any activity in non-governmental organisations and on social media.
"Each country organises its own separation of powers, in other words, it organizes its judicial, legislative and executive powers. The basic principle of any rule of law state, of any democracy, is independence of the judicial power and judges. Therefore, there’s a need to establish who would oversee judges. In France, it is the High Council of the Judiciary, composed mainly of lawyers and judges, and headed by the President of the Republic. This institution safeguards the independence and impartiality of judges," Peyron said.
The bill that has been put forward prohibits judges to criticise the government, both when on duty and off. This may include a ban on participating in manifestations, on political criticism, as well as criticism of the way the government functions. Polish government claims that an exact copy of such law exists in France.
"No, that’s not true. First of all, in democracy there are basic principles of freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and right to protest. These are very general rules. Each public officer must observe the rule of impartiality, but a situation in which judges are no longer independent is unacceptable in democracy. Judges in France have the full right to belong to trade unions, as well as to express opinions regarding bills or their content. Our judges are do not hesitate to tell the justice ministry when there is a problem with the way they carry out their duties, or with provisions of a given law," the head of the Paris Bar Association explained.
Furthermore, Marie-Aimée Peyron added, "in France, judges must observe the rule of impartiality, but they have absolute freedom of speech, thought, opinion and demonstration. Besides, here in France, in response to certain laws, for instance the so-called law on justice organisation, judges and prosecutors have protested together with us, and they have manifested in the streets their dissent to the law proposed by the government".
"This is absolutely democratic attitude, this is freedom of speech, as well as a fundamental principle for courts - they must be able to be independent. Not even must be able to - they simply must be," she underscored.
Asked if the Polish draft law does not guarantee the independence of the justice system Peyron replied: "It’s unacceptable. Unacceptable. That’s why the European Commission has already launched a sanction procedure against Poland for violating the rule of law principle, that of separation of powers, and of independence of courts. These are fundamental principles of European democracy".
She added: "it's an attack on the independence of the justice system, and that independence is fundamental. If judges are not independent, they cannot make independent decisions in the interest of Polish citizens. That’s why it is so important. The justice is balanced on scales: plaintiff and prosecutor on one side, defendant and attorney on the other, and a judge who is above it all and must be 100-percent independent in his or hers decisions. Judges can’t be subordinate to any other power".
The Paris Bar was founded under the reign of Louis XIV in 1274. Nowadays, it represents almost 30 000 lawyers, i.e. nearly half of those practicing in France, with an equal number of men and women among its ranks.
Its prime objectives are to organise and structure the legal profession, to strengthen training and adapt it to the deep changes occurring in society and to expand the role and the influence of law in France and abroad.
Traditionally, the Paris Bar is very often approached when human rights are in danger. It supports the abolition of the death penalty actively and has been a member of the Steering Committee of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty since its creation in 2002.
The Paris Bar is also a founding member of The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (OIAD) launched in 2015. The purposes of the OIAD are to defend lawyers who come under threat because they practice their profession and to denounce situations which are detrimental to the right to defence.
Autor: gf / Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Paris Bar Association
Źródło zdjęcia głównego: tvn24