On June 9th, 2020 in Warsaw, the Supreme Court Disciplinary Chamber will conduct a hearing on the revocation of judge Igor Tuleya’s immunity. The proceedings against the judge demonstrate blatant defiance of the CJEU ruling ordering to suspend the work of the Disciplinary Chamber. The Disciplinary Chamber is composed of the persons appointed in a political procedure. Judge Igor Tuleya is persecuted for his ruling, in which he ordered the prosecution to investigate irregularities during the voting in the lower chamber of the Parliament (Sejm) in December 2016, committed by MPs of the ruling party in Poland. Judge Tuleya announced that he would not attend the hearing and in case of unlawful revocation of his immunity – he would not appear before the prosecutor. “They will have to use the force” - he states. Iustitia – the largest Polish association of judges, together with a number of NGOs have planned a number of protests and gatherings supporting judge Tuleya for 8th and 9th of June 2020. On June 8th 150 Polish towns will host support rallies.
On June 9th judges all around Poland will suspend their `hearings for 30 minutes "The case of Igor Tuleya is to have a freezing effect on the judiciary, to show other judges that making decisions which for some reason may not suit the ruling party may be met with severe punishment and repression. We will not give in to be broken. Politicians cannot interfere in judgments," judges from Iustitia firmly declare.
The motion to revoke the immunity of judge Igor Tuleya is related to his ruling in the case concerning the vote in the Polish Parliament in 2016, which was moved in the atmosphere of a scandal, from the plenary hall to the column hall and members of the Parliament from the opposition parties complained that they faced obstacles when they tried to enter this hall. Judge Tuleya pointed out that the prosecution dismissed the investigation prematurely. He indicated that the evidence gathered in the case shows, that the voting minutes had been altered and the required quorum may not have been reached. Judge Tuleya also ordered the prosecution to assess, whether some members of the ruling party, acting as witnesses had delivered false statements during their depositions. The court hearing was open to the media, to which the prosecutor present had not objected, and which is allowed for by the Code of Criminal Procedure. But just after the verdict was delivered, the prosecution, which in Poland is led by a politician of the ruling party – Zbigniew Ziobro, decided to charge judge Tuleya with “disclosing confidential information from the trial”. The investigation into voting irregularities in the Parliament was dismissed again and the prosecution did not initiate investigations of ruling party deputies delivering false statements by. Currently the only person prosecuted in this case is the judge, who pointed out the irregularities of the actions of politically controlled prosecution.
The Disciplinary Chamber is to rule on revocation of judge Tuleya’s immunity. The chamber is composed entirely by judges nominated by the neo-National Council of the Judiciary, which has been recently suspended in the rights of the member of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary and will be soon expelled from this organization (similarly to earlier expelled Turkish NCJ). The entire neo-NCJ was appointed by the Sejm, which prematurely ended the term of office of the then members of the National Council of the Judiciary and changed the law so that the judges-members of the Council are no longer elected by their peers, but by the members of the lower chamber of the Parliament. In the result, out of the total of 25 members of the Council, 15 are elected judges most of whom were nominated to the positions of Presidents of Courts by Zbigniew Ziobro. Out of the remaining 10 members of the Council, 8 persons were nominated by the ruling party. In recent years the Council has not taken the position in defense of the independence of courts from the political pressure even once.
Many new appointees to the Chamber are former prosecutors, close associates of Zbigniew Ziobro. They were appointed to the Chamber by the current neo-NCJ in a widely criticized competition, where the interview took just a few minutes. Other persons taking part in the competition were denied the effective appeal to the court, since President Andrzej Duda handed out the nominations without waiting for the court’s ruling and the law was later changed so that all appeals were dismissed. All that constituted the grounds for the European Commission’s motion to the CJEU for Interim Measures and suspension of this chamber in the disciplinary cases of judges. However, the Disciplinary Chamber’s standing is that the suspension does not apply to the cases of revoking judicial immunity (according to Polish law, the prosecution may charge a judge only after revoking their immunity).
Associations of judges and human rights organizations indicate, however, that since the Chamber is not allowed to adjudicate even in a simple disciplinary case, it is obvious it may not decide on a much more important case of revoking a judge’s immunity. The Chamber’s decision in the case of a judge prosecuted for his ruling may become the first political trial of a Polish judge.
“This selective approach to the CJEU ruling by the persons leading the Supreme Court, whose political past is well known, is the continuation of the strategy of demolishing judicial independence and
a mocking affront to the competencies of the European bodies. I warn here, that the consequences will apply to all Poles. From the European bodies I expect the understanding that these actions are a part of the political plan, executed step by step for already several years.” – says president of the Polish Judges Association IUSTITIA, prof. Krystian Markiewicz.
“I have no intention to participate in the hearing of the so called Disciplinary Chamber, I do not consider it an independent court. My positions is that first: the Disciplinary Chamber is not an independent court, second: we have the CJEU ruling. In the result, no decision of the Disciplinary Chamber constitutes a ruling. If my immunity is revoked, I believe that I should not appear before the prosecutor who would intend to press charges against me. This is because I would have been deprived of immunity by an organ which is not an independent court. Faced with such circumstances I shall not appear before the prosecutor willfully. And I will make sure that if the prosecutor does not withdraw their motion, they will have to bring me by force. And I shall certainly demonstrate that I do not fear something that is not a court and I shall appear in the front of the Supreme Court at 9:00 am on Tuesday” – says judge Tuleya.
Events in support of judge Tuleya
On 8th and 9th June 2020, a number of events are planned to express solidarity and support to the repressed judge. "We appeal to judges to come and be in front of the Supreme Court on 9th of June, 2020 and – if they just hear cases – to order a 30 minutes recess as an expression of solidarity with judge Igor Tuleya” – says the statement of the board of the Polish Judges Association “IUSTITIA”.
The support is also organized by the largest pro-democracy organizations. The day before the hearing, on 8th of June 2020, 150 demonstrations with a maximum allowed number of 150 participants are planned to take place all around Poland.