Polish judges complain to ECHR over Supreme Court independence

FILE PHOTO: The courtroom of the European Court of Human Rights is seen ahead of the start of a hearing concerning Ukraine's lawsuit against Russia regarding human rights violations in Crimea, at in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish barrister and two judges have filed complaints against Poland alleging a lack of independence in the country’s Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said on Monday.

Poland, the largest post-communist state in the European Union, has been in a long-running dispute with the bloc over judicial reforms which critics say limit the independence of the courts.

Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party says its judicial reforms are needed to rid the system of the residue of communism.

The plaintiffs say the chambers of the Supreme Court which dealt with their cases were not sufficiently independent as they were made up of judges selected by the National Council for the Judiciary (NCJ), whose members have been appointed by the PiS majority in parliament.

One plaintiff, barrister Joanna Reczkowicz, had her appeal against suspension dismissed by the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, the ECHR said in a statement.

Judges Monika Joanna Dolinska-Ficek and Artur Ozimek applied for posts elsewhere but the NCJ blocked their applications. They allege that the NCJ and the Supreme Court chamber which heard their appeals are not independent and impartial.

In April, the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, told Poland to suspend its Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber, saying it was not independent and breached EU law.

The Supreme Court itself has been bogged down in conflict as it tries to appoint a successor to Malgorzata Gersdorf, a high-profile critic of PiS and its reforms, after her term ended in April.

Poland’s Justice Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Monday.

Reporting by Alan Charlish; additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Gareth Jones