A High Court judge in Ireland referred a Polish extradition case to the European Court of Justice on Monday because Poland’s recent judicial reforms mean its “common value of the rule of law” has been “systematically damaged,” the Irish Times reported.
Artur Celmer, a Polish national, was arrested in Ireland under a European Arrest Warrant for drug trafficking last May. Celmar’s lawyers opposed their client’s extradition to Poland in light of significant changes to Poland’s judiciary, which they claimed undermine its independence and jeopardize cooperation on warrants.
Irish High Court Justice Aileen Donnelly found that Poland’s “immense” legislative changes have “systematically damaged” the rule of law and “seriously undermined” the independence of its judiciary and the legitimacy of its constitutional court.
“The constitutionality of Polish laws can no longer be effectively guaranteed,” Donnelly said, adding that “respect for the rule of law is essential for mutual trust in the operation of the European Arrest Warrant” process.
Celmer’s lawyer, Ciarán Mulholland, said Poland’s legislative reforms “fundamentally undermine the basis of mutual trust and recognition between Poland and the executing judicial authority,” meaning the European Arrest Warrant system is “seriously jeopardized” as a result.
“This landmark case may ultimately lead to an abrupt termination of the mutual understanding between Poland and other EU member states in extradition proceedings,” he said, adding that the ramifications were “highly significant.”
Ireland’s High Court will request a ruling from the ECJ before making a final decision, Donnelly said.
Poland’s governing Law and Justice party has deeply restructured the Polish legal system since taking power in 2015, placing it under the control of the ruling party. Many of the changes were condemned by Polish judges and external observers as violating the Polish constitution.
The European Commission has launched an unprecedented Article 7 procedure against Poland for violating the rule of law, which could end with the country being stripped of its voting rights as an EU member.