Constitutional Tribunal effectively removes human rights commissioner from office

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TVN24 News in English, PAP
Wyrok TK w sprawie kadencji RPOTVN24
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TVN24Wyrok TK w sprawie kadencji RPO

The Constitutional Tribunal led by Julia Przyłębska has ruled that a provision allowing the Commissioner for Human Rights to remain in office after the end of his term is unconstitutional. The verdict effectively removes Adam Bodnar from the office, and no successor has yet been appointed.

The Tribunal (TK) was asked by a group of Law and Justice lawmakers to examine a provision allowing the Commissioner for Human Rights to continue his work after the end of the 5-year term, when no successor has been appointed. The term of the current Commissioner Adam Bodnar ended on September 9, 2020, and since then the parliament has failed to appoint his successor.

Ahead of the verdict's announcement, a group of Adam Bodnar's supporters gathered in front of the constitutional court. "I'm grateful for the support. It's about you standing in defence of human rights, not about me" - the Commissioner said entering the building.

The verdict was announced by Julia Przyłębska, who said the Tribunal found the provision in question unconstitutional.

The judge added the provision will cease to be legally binding 3 months after the ruling has been published in the Journal of Laws. She also informed the verdict was unanimous.

The chairwoman of the TK Julia PrzyłębskaConstitutional Tribual

Judge Stanisław Piotrowicz read the substantiation for the verdict, in which the court argued the provision in question had introduced the institution of acting human rights commissioner, which is unrecognised and unregulated in the constitution.

He also stressed that the case did not pertain "to any particular human rights commissioner, nor the commissioner's office as such". "The Tribunal focused only on the provision regulating the Human Rights Commissoner's term" - he added.

Piotrowicz added that the three months after the ruling should be "a time for the parliament to adjust the legal system to the Tribunal's ruling". "In the three coming months a law should be adopted which would regulate the situation in which the Commissioner position is vacant for some time after the end of the term" - he explained.

TK judge Piotrowicz, a former PiS party lawmaker, was a prosecutor during the martial law in communist Poland.

Adam Bodnar argued ahead of the verdict that finding the provision unconstitutional would spark "a whole series of negative consequences, shake the stability and continuity of this institution's actions", and leave the citizens without the possibility to seek the Commissioner's protection.

Adam Bodnar in front of the Constitutional TribunalPAP/Leszek Szymański

After the ruling was passed, Bodnar told reporters it meant that two scenarios could develop in that situation. "The first one is that the parliament appoints a new commissioner in a constitutional manner, which would be most desirable" - he said.

He also warned "the second scenario is much more dangerous". "Adopting a new legislation will lead to appointing someone who will be a commissioner of sorts, but not the Commissioner of Human Rights. In terms of this institution's independence, it would not be too good" - he explained.

Bodnar called upon "all political forces" to agree to propose a candidate who would be backed by both houses of the parliament.

Speaker of the Senate Tomasz GrodzkiTVN24

The Speaker of the Senate - the opposition-controlled, upper house of the parliament - Tomasz Grodzki said on Thursday that any new draft legislation would be examined with utmost care. He added the Senate would act as usual and either suggest certain amendments to the draft, or reject it.

In his opinion, the TK ruling and creating the necessity to adopt a new law were "pathetic". "Replacing the real ombudsman with some commissioner will spark huge international confusion, it will be incomprehensible" - he explained.


Źródło: TVN24 News in English, PAP

Źródło zdjęcia głównego: PAP/Leszek Szymański