A year has passed since August 9, 2020, when Belarus held a presidential election that officially gave Alexander Lukashenko, who had been in power since 1994, another term in office. Tens of thousands of Belarusians considered the election rigged and took to the streets in mass peaceful protests.
Over the last year, according to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Viasna, a Belarusian organisation documenting torture, at least 35,000 peaceful protesters have been detained, there have been 4,691 documented criminal court cases, 608 political prisoners and about 1,800 reports of torture. Hundreds of human rights activists have been persecuted and thousands have had to flee the country.
What is it like to be a judge in Belarus? Judges for Judges had a chance to speak to one of the few judges that decided to leave their function. Mr. J* worked as judge in a regional court in Belarus until October 2020. In August 2020, judge J refused to hear cases against citizens who had been arrested on the streets during the protests against the outcome of the Belarus presidential election. He felt morally obliged to resign and was later forced to leave the country for fear of reprisals.
*J is for Judge: for security reasons his name is not mentioned here.
Judges for Judges and Professor Laurent Pech have submitted joint third party interventions before the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Polish judges Biliński and Juszczyszyn.
The case of Biliński v Poland primarily concerns the proceedings concerning the applicant’s forced transfer from the Criminal to the Family and Juvenile Division, which amounted to a disguised reprisal for his rulings and was unfair in many aspects.
The case of Juszczyszyn v Poland concerns the proceedings for and following the suspension of the applicant from his official duties by a body itself since suspended twice by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and whose lack of independence has also been definitively established by the ECJ as a matter of EU law.
The Rule of Law has been suspended in Turkey for the last five years. In the tragic backsliding that followd the attempted Coup d’État of 15 July 2016, the Turkish judiciary has seen one of its darkest pages: the dismissal of thousands of judges and prosecutors, long imprisonments in life endangering detention conditions after unfair trials, and socially stigmatized and economically threatened families.
The Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey, consisting of the four major judicial associations in Europe, in an official statement directed at the Council of Europe and the European Commission therefore:
continues to stand in solidarity behind the unlawfully and illegally detained and/or dismissed Turkish judges and prosecutors;
strongly urges the European institutions to call on Turkey to provide guarantees and standards for a de iure and de facto independence of the judges and prosecutors as well as to take responsibility to demand so in their various partnerships and relations with Turkey;
strongly urges the European institutions to call on Turkey to carry out the European Court judgments and to review all decisions for dismissal of Turkish judges or prosecutors since 15 July 2016 and all pre-trial detention orders and criminal convictions regarding membership of an illegal organization.
If ‘Europe will be forged in its crises’, then this is the crisis of our times. In a joint public statement (also available in Polish) on the recent developments in Poland, the four European Associations of Judges and Prosecutors today call upon the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council:
to act institutionally towards Polish national authorities and the heads of the Polish executive branch to immediately restore the rule of law;
to take all necessary measures and activate all instruments enshrined in the Treaties, in order to guarantee the respect for the EU legal order.
The President of the Supreme Court of Poland Judge Józef Iwulski is suspended by the Disciplinary Chamber, notwithstanding unambiguous rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union and a similar motion of the European Commission. Judges for Judges endorses the statements issued on this ‘resolution’ by the National Board of the Polish Judges Association Iustitia and 74 Supreme Court Judges.
June 14th marks International Fair Trial Day. Focus country for this inaugural edition is Turkey. In a joint statement, Judges for Judges and 92 other legal organisations call on the Turkish authorities to implement ten steps and on the international community to increase its efforts.
Six Kenyan Judges currently serving on the bench, were recently denied appointment to higher courts by the President. The Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association calls this ‘shocking turn of events’ in a recent statement ‘baffling, unfounded and patently unconstitutional’.
Judges for Judges, the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA), the Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA) and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) urge the Kenyan President to respect both domestic law and international applicable standards in the appointment of judges, to ensure the independence of the judiciary: cornerstone of the rule of law.
On 28 April 2021 the Constitutional Tribunal will be considering a case P 7/20 in response to a question of law concerning the constitutionality of the second subparagraph of Article 4(3) TEU (principle of sincere cooperation) in connection with Article 279 TFEU (power of the Court of Justice to grant interim measures).
The Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland will hold a hearing on Wednesday, 28 April at 1 p.m., on the constitutionality of EU legislation defining the obligations of Member States to enforce securing orders issued by the CJEU (case ref. P 7/20).
The question was presented by former prosecutor Małgorzata Bednarek from the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, who wants the Constitutional Tribunal to assess whether the imposition of security measures by the Court of Justice of the EU – the so-called interim measures – is in line with the Polish Constitution. The CJEU imposed such a safeguard on the Disciplinary Chamber on 8 April 2020 by prohibiting it from operating in disciplinary cases regarding judges. Continue reading What will happen in the Constitutional Tribunal on 28 April 2021?→
IUSTITIA: Disciplinary Chamber Denies Validity of CJEU Ruling and Intends to Rule upon consent to detain Judge Igor Tuleya
On 21 April 2021, in Warsaw, the politicised Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court will hold a meeting to decide upon consent to detain Judge Igor Tuleya and forcefully bring him to the Prosecutor’s Office. This is another act of negating the validity of the ruling of the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) by the Disciplinary Chamber. In the judgement of 8 April 2020, case C-791/19 Commission v. Poland, the CJEU ordered the suspension of the Disciplinary Chamber’s activity in cases of disciplinary liability of judges.
The proceedings against Judge Tuleya exemplify a gross disregard for the CJEU ruling and European Commission actions. Let us recall that on 9 June, the politicised Disciplinary Chamber ruled once on Tuleya’s immunity. On 24 June 2020, the Polish government submitted explanations to the European Commission in how this action complied with the CJEU ruling. Since then, the European Commission has not requested the CJEU to impose financial penalties. It submitted another complaint regarding interim measures that would suspend the Disciplinary Chamber in all its activities. Continue reading IUSTITIA: Disciplinary Chamber Denies Validity of CJEU Ruling and Intends to Rule upon consent to detain Judge Igor Tuleya→