Polish barrister wins case against Poland in ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favour of a Polish barrister, saying that she had not been given a fair trial as guaranteed under an article of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Joanna Reczkowicz had gone to the court because the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, which had decided on a case concerning her, had not been, according to her, a "tribunal established by law" and had lacked impartiality and independence.

The ruling comes just days after the Polish government was given until August 16 to adhere to a demand issued by the European Court of Justice to suspend the operations of the Disciplinary Chamber because, according to the court, it lacks independence from the government.

Reczkowicz’s case was one of 38 applications against Poland lodged in the years 2018-2021, concerning various aspects of an overhaul of the Polish judicial system initiated in 2017. 

In today's judgment, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously in favour of Reczkowicz.

The Court noted that its task had not been to assess the legitimacy of the changes to the Polish judicial system as a whole, but to determine whether, and if so how, the changes had affected her rights to a fair trial under an article of European Convention on Human Rights.

As such, the Court found that the procedure for appointing judges had been unduly influenced by the legislative and executive powers, which amounted to a fundamental irregularity that adversely affected the whole process and compromised the legitimacy of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which had examined the applicant's case. 

The Disciplinary Chamber was not therefore a "tribunal established by law" within the meaning of the European Convention.

The Court also held that Poland was to pay the applicant EUR 15,000 in damages.