‘They’re trying to break me’: Polish judges face state-led intimidation (The Guardian)

Igor Tuleya. Photograph: Ralf Lotys via Creative Commons

Three high-profile Polish judges have complained of a “state-led campaign of intimidation and harassment” against them, as Poland’s ruling party tightens its grip on the judiciary.

Since taking power in 2015 the Law and Justice party (PiS) has assumed direct oversight of state prosecutors and the judicial body that appoints, promotes and disciplines judges, as well as the power to dismiss and appoint court presidents, who wield considerable power and influence in the Polish justice system.

A disputed law on the supreme court, forcing the retirement of 40% of its judges, is due to take effect on 3 July.

Judges involved in politically sensitive cases or who have expressed opposition to threats to judicial independence have told the Guardian they are frequently threatened with disciplinary proceedings and even criminal charges, and in many cases are subjected to allegations of corruption and hate campaigns orchestrated by leading PiS politicians.

Prosecutors are preparing charges against Igor Tuleya, a Warsaw district court judge who last year ruled that Law and Justice MPs had deliberately obstructed opposition MPs from participating in a vote on the state budget during a parliamentary crisis in December 2016. He found that more than 200 PiS MPs and staff had given false testimony about the existence of a pre-conceived plan to do so.

“They use the same methods for all of us, it’s always the same scenario,” said Tuleya, who has become a hate figure in the pro-government press. He recently received an anonymous email warning him that rumours were being circulated in legal circles that he was a drug addict. 

In May it was announced that Tuleya would be summoned before a new “ethics panel” of government-appointed judges and MPs. The panel includes Krystyna Pawłowicz, a PiS MP who has already publicly stated that Tuleya should not be a judge, declaring during a session of parliament’s justice committee last year that certain judges should be sent to North Korean-style concentration camps for “re-education”.

My report for the Guardian can be found here.

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