Venice Commission concerned by risk of paralysis of Polish Ombudsman institution

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TVN24 News in English, The Venice Commission
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"A situation where the institution of the Human Rights Commissioner is prevented from functioning fully and effectively pending the election by parliament of a new Commissioner would have a significant adverse effect on the protection of the rights of the Polish citizens and of all people living in Poland" - the Venice Commission said in a statement issued on Monday. The Council of Europe's advisory body also said it was "concerned by the risk of paralysis of the Ombudsman institution of Poland". After Polish parliamentary committee twice rejected Zuzanna Rudzińska-Bluszcz's bid to become the new Commissioner for Human Rights, the office remains in the hands of Adam Bodnar, whose term had expired in early September.

On October 5, the Justice and Human Rights Committee once more rejected Zuzanna Rudzińska-Bluszcz's candidacy for the Commissioner for Human Rights. The previous negative decision had been issued on September 17, but the vote was later nullified.

In accordance with the Polish law, the Commissioner for Human Rights performs duties until a new ombudsman has been chosen. Currently, Adam Bodnar remains in office, although his term came to an end on September 9.

The statement

The Venice Commission issued its statement regarding the matter on Monday, in which it stressed it was "concerned by the risk of paralysis of the Ombudsman institution of Poland".

"The term of office of the current Polish Human Rights Commissioner expired on 9 September 2020. While the successor has not yet been elected, on 17 September 2020 some MPs requested the Constitutional Court to declare unconstitutional the provision of the Human Rights Commissioner Law stating that the outgoing Commissioner performs his duties until the incumbent assumes the position" - the Venice Commission said. Its members stressed that "the Ombudsman is an important element in a State based on democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and good administration". "The Venice Commission recalls that continuity in office is of outmost importance. A situation where the institution of the Human Rights Commissioner is prevented from functioning fully and effectively pending the election by parliament of a new Commissioner would have a significant adverse effect on the protection of the rights of the Polish citizens and of all people living in Poland" - reads the statement. "The Principles on the protection and promotion of the Ombudsman institution ('the Venice Principles') state clearly that 'States shall refrain from taking any action aiming at or resulting in the suppression of the Ombudsman institution or in any hurdles to its effective functioning, and shall effectively protect it from any such threats'" - the Venice Commission underscored. The statement was concluded by a reminder: "The Venice Principles were endorsed by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 2 May 2019, by the Parliamentary Assembly on 2 October 2019 and by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on 30 October 2019".

Constitutional dispute

Polish lawmakers had until August 10 to submit their candidates for ombudsman. Civic Coalition and The Left put forward Zuzanna Rudzińska-Bluszcz as their candidate.

In mid-September, PiS lawmakers asked the Constitutional Tribunal to examine, whether or not, the automatic prolongation of the Ombudsman's term after its expiration, and in case of lack of a new commissioner, was constitutional. The constitutional court is to look into the case on October 20.

The Venice Commission

The European Commission for Democracy through Law - better known as the Venice Commission as it meets in Venice - is the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters.

The role of the Venice Commission is to provide legal advice to its member states and, in particular, to help states wishing to bring their legal and institutional structures into line with European standards and international experience in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

It also helps to ensure the dissemination and consolidation of a common constitutional heritage, playing a unique role in conflict management, and provides "emergency constitutional aid" to states in transition.

Autor:gf

Źródło: TVN24 News in English, The Venice Commission

Źródło zdjęcia głównego: Radek Pietruszka/PAP