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October 01, 2020 PRESS RELEASE

Poland: Allow Monitors to Observe Disciplinary Proceedings of Judge Igor Tuleya

The American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights announced today that it submitted a request to the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court to monitor the upcoming appellate hearing in the Polish State Prosecutor’s Office case seeking to impose criminal sanctions against Judge Igor Tuleya of the Warsaw Regional Court, who has been a vocal critic of recent laws that have increased executive control of the judiciary in Poland.

Based on public reports, in 2017, Judge Tuleya allowed media representatives to be present during the delivery of his decision to annul the prosecutors’ discontinuation of an investigation into an allegedly unlawful vote in Parliament. The Speaker had convened the vote outside Parliament’s chamber, in Column Hall, as the opposition party occupied the chamber in protest.

At the time of Judge Tuleya’s decision, the prosecutors did not object to the presence of media. In 2018, however, the State Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) opened an investigation [1] and in February 2020, requested that the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court waive Judge Tuleya’s judicial immunity so he could face criminal charges. The SPO asserted that Judge Tuleya had lost the right to immunity because he exceeded his authority and failed his duties by permitting journalists to attend and record the decision.

On June 9, 2020, a judge denied the prosecutor’s request, ruling that Judge Tuleya had ”in no way” overstepped his authority and could not be prosecuted for making a hearing public at his legitimate discretion. The SPO has appealed that decision.

Poland is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect Judge Tuleya’s right to fair and public proceedings in any matter in which his judicial rights and responsibilities are at issue. [2] It also has an obligation to ensure the independence of the judiciary, which is severely undermined when judges may face criminal sanctions for their decisions. [3] In light of these important rule of law issues,  the Center for Human Rights urges the Disciplinary Chamber to admit monitors to observe the proceedings.

[1] Sup. Ct. Resolution June 9, 2020, Case no. I DO 8/20, 9 June 2020.

[2] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, opened for signature Dec. 16, 1966, U.N. Doc. a/6316, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force Mar. 23, 1976), The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Europ.T.S. No. 5; 213 U.N.T.S. 221.

[3]  United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, adopted by the 7th U.N. Cong. on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, endorsed by G. A. Res. 40/32 (Nov. 29, 1985) and G.A. Res. 40/146 (Dec. 13, 1985).