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Human Rights Commissioner concerned with prosecutor's actions against judge Tuleya

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Judge Tuleya directed a question to the ECJTVN24 International
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TVN24 InternationalJudge Tuleya directed a question to the ECJ

The Commissioner for Human Rights Adam Bodnar has asked the prosecutor's office for information on actions taken regarding judge Igor Tuleya from the District Court for Warsaw. Investigators want to waive his immunity in order to press charges against him. According to Bodnar, such actions may force other judges to avoid passing verdicts unfavourable for the government.

The National Public Prosecutor's Office (PK) wants to waive the immunity of judge Igor Tuleya from the District Court for Warsaw. The investigators claim the judge is guilty dereliction of duty, overstepping authority and unlawful dissemination of information from the preliminary proceedings. According to prosecutor Dariusz Ziomek, judge Tuleya has allowed the media to record proceedings of the District Court for Warsaw and revealed the verdict regarding the case and its substantiation.

Waiving judge's immunity is necessary to press criminal charges against him, regarding decision he took in 2017 when examining a complaint against discontinuation of inquiry into the Sejm session that had taken place in the end of 2016, in the Column Hall. The motion submitted by the PK is to be examined on March 20, by the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which legality is questioned by that very court.

Ombudsman's intervention

On Monday the Commissioner for Human Rights (RPO) Adam Bodnar asked the National Public Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski for information regarding the latter's decision to allow judge Tuleya to face criminal liability. Furthermore, the ombudsman added his suggestions aimed at reassuring respect for human rights and freedoms of the citizen in that case.

The RPO wrote in a letter that the substantiation of the motion directed to the Disciplinary Chamber was insufficient to allow a reliable assessment of the legality of the PK's actions. Moreover, the commissioner doubts there are sufficient grounds to accuse judge Tuleya, who in 2017 allowed the media to record court proceedings, during which a decision was made to reopen the inquiry into the events that had taken place in 2016 in the Column Hall.

Crucial public interest

Commissioner Bodnar also stressed that the case ran by judge Tuleya was of crucial public interest, as it pertained to allegations of illegal conduct on part of some MPs. "Ensuring full transparency of proceedings over the said case was important due to crucial public interest and constitutional rights of citizens" - the ombudsman wrote.

Here, the RPO listed, among other things, the right to a fair trial, the rule of transparency of state actions stemming from the general principle of democratic rule of law state, the freedom of speech and the right spreading information, as well as citizens' right to information.

Social and moral duty

"Hence, the judge had social and moral duty to make the proceedings public, in order to ensure public opinion was informed. It was particularly important in the context of social protests sparked by the very issue in question, namely moving the Sejm session to the Column Hall" - the Commissioner points out.

Furthermore, Mr Bodnar stressed that during justifying his decision, "judge Igor Tuleya did not reveal any classified information, but only quoted statements made by some witnesses, to which he had every right".

The RPO also argued the case judge Tuleya was presiding over had a "clear political and public dimension". "Therefore, all the more concerning is pressure of all sorts exerted by the state authorities on the impartial and independent court adjudicating over this case" - human rights commissioner stressed.

Potential liability the judges might face - Adam Bodnar argued - could lead to a "freezing effect", namely force other judges to avoid passing verdicts unfavourable for the government.

"Muzzle law" against judge Tuleya

Adam Bodnar also highlighted that actions taken against judge Tuleya are to sanctioned by the so-called muzzle law, that became effective in February. The Commissioner pointed out that the National Public Prosecutor had sent the motion regarding judge Tuleya to the Disciplinary Chamber on February 14 - the very day when the muzzle law entered into force - despite the alleged misconduct is said to have taken place on December 18, 2017.

Mr Bodnar also added that before February 14 (before muzzle law entered into force), motions to hold judges to account had been examined by three judges from disciplinary court of the court of appeals. Currently, such decisions are being taken by only one judge from the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court.

Judge opens the door for media

In December 2017, judge Tuleya presided over an adjudicating panel that had to examine a complaint against the decision to discontinue the inquiry into the budget vote conducted in the Column Hall in 2016. The then Speaker of the Sejm Marek Kuchciński had moved the session out of the Plenary Hall because the opposition MPs had staged a protest there against banning Civic Platform MP Michał Szczerba from taking part in the proceedings, as well as against restricting of access for journalists in the Sejm, that had been planned at the time.

After the vote in the Column Hall, opposition MPs notified the prosecutor's office. They argued that they had limited access to the session, and that there had been no quorum during the vote. Because of that - they claimed - the budget could have been passed with violation of the law.

The investigators did not find any irregularities and the case was discontinued. Judge Tuleya recognised the complaint, revoked the prosecutor's decision and ordered the case to be reopened. He also allowed the media to record the verbal substantiation of the verdict.

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