The International Legal Assistance Chamber of the Amsterdam District Court has refused to order the extradition of a 33 year old Polish national to Poland on drug trafficking charges on the grounds that, if extradited, there is a real risk that he will not receive a fair trial.
The court cited its own earlier judgment in which it held that structural changes in Poland, in particular the establishment of a disciplinary regime for judges, mean that the independence of the judiciary is no longer guaranteed. The court held that the disciplinary regime interferes with judicial decision-making to such a degree as to amount to a violation of Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which guarantees the right to an effective remedy and fair trial.
The court considered evidence of executive and legislative powers being used to put pressure on the judiciary in Poland. In particular, evidence before the court indicated that 14 judges from Kraków are currently being prosecuted for substantive decisions they have taken in the course of their judicial duties.
The court also noted the failure of the Polish issuing authority to respond fully to questions posed by the court in relation to the functioning of the disciplinary regime and raised concerns over the particular attention that this case has already received in the Polish media. Taken together, these factors led the court to conclude that there were compelling grounds for believing that the requested person would face a real risk to his fundamental rights if extradited. The Divisional Court recently considered these arguments in Wozniak v District Court in Gniezno, Poland – a decision in that case is expected in March 2021.
Tensions within the EU bloc over concerns about democratic standards in Poland and Hungary came to a head in December 2020 following the announcement of a proposed EU budgetary measure that could cut off funding to countries found to be in breach of the rule of law. Implementation of that measure is on hold while its validity is considered by the CJEU.
Infringement proceedings brought by the European Commission against Poland in respect of its judicial ‘reforms’ are ongoing. On 27 January 2021, the Commission submitted an ‘additional reasoned opinion’ outlining its concerns. Poland has one month to respond to the opinion before the Commission may refer the case to the CJEU.