Polish Judicial Council expelled from European network

The Polish Judicial Council (KRS) has been expelled from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ).

The decision to expel the Polish KRS was taken during a sitting of the ENCJ Extraordinary General Assembly in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Thursday.

The ENCJ believes that the Polish KRS no longer meets the condition for membership, according to which, a Council for the Judiciary must be independent from the executive and legislature.

The ENJC executive Board has stated that the KRS is not independent from political power, and that the election of judges sitting on the council does not secure independence from the executive and legislative bodies.

"...the ENCJ has followed developments closely and the Board believes that there are no improvements in the way the KRS fulfils its duty to guarantee the independence of the judiciary," reads a statement on the ENCJ website.

KRS President Paweł Styrna, who refused to attend the Vilnius meeting, wrote in a letter to ENCJ President Filippo Donati that the earlier decision to suspend the KRS had been unjustified and was in disagreement with the ENCJ statutes.

The ENCJ General Assembly decided to suspend the KRS membership in September 2018. At that time, the KRS was stripped of its voting rights and excluded from participation in ENCJ activities.

A motion to expel the KRS from the European network was submitted by the ENCJ Executive Board in May 2020 because, in its opinion, the KRS had committed serious breaches of the aims and objectives of the organisation.

Following the decision to expel the KRS, the ENCJ president, Filippo Donati stated that it should be absolutely clear that the door remained open to the Polish KRS, and that the ENCJ would be happy to welcome it back as member after it fulfilled the requirement that it is independent from the Executive and Legislature.

"The decision taken by the ENCJ will have no impact on the activities of the KRS," PAP was told by the KRS head later on Thursday. 

"Irrespective of opinions voiced by international organisations, the Polish Judicial Council has been and is a constitutional independent body, which protects the independence of judges and courts," Styrna added. 

"The KRS will not bow to any pressure, exerted also by international bodies," he added.  

At the same time Styrna stated that the KRS would not avoid contact with the ENCJ, but in his opinion, "the initiative is on the side of the ENCJ, which is, in fact, fully responsible for the existing crisis."

The European Commission has long accused Poland of politicising the justice system because the top judicial self-governing body, the KRS, has now been dominated by ruling party politicians.

The ENCJ unites national institutions of EU member countries which are independent of the executive and legislature, and which are responsible for the support of the Judiciaries in the independent delivery of justice, according to its website.

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