Polish ombudsman must remain independent, EC vice-president says

Adam Bodnar, also called the ombudsman, will now leave his post in three months’ time following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal. Leszek Szymański/PAP

Vera Jourova, the European Commission’s vice-president for values and transparency, has expressed the Commission’s “concern” after Poland’s top court ruled that the country’s independent commissioner for human rights should leave his post.

Adam Bodnar, also called the ombudsman, will now leave his post in three months’ time following a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal.

"We are following closely and with concern the developments relating to the Polish Ombudsman," Jourova wrote on Twitter.

"It's of great importance to ensure that this institution, which defends citizens’ rights and plays an important role in upholding the rule of law, remains independent," she went on to say.

Earlier on Thursday, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that a law stating that Bodnar may perform his duties until a replacement is chosen is inconsistent with the Constitution.

The law ceases to be in force three months after the ruling is published in the Journal of Laws, the Constitutional Tribunal said, giving Bodnar three additional months in office, and parliament equal time to amend the laws.

The ombudsman’s five-year term in office expired last September but he has stayed at his post because parliament has so far failed to agree on a successor.

Bodnar has been a thorn in the flesh of Law and Justice, Poland’s governing party, and his removal will be seen by some, both in Poland and abroad, as a blow to the country’s democratic principles.

Law and Justice had asked the Constitutional Tribunal to verify the legality of him continuing as ombudsman.