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UN human rights office seriously concerned about measures affecting the Constitutional Tribunal

BRUSSELS (23 December 2015) – The UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe today expressed its concern about recent developments in Poland that may negatively affect the work of the country’s Constitutional Tribunal.

“Constitutional courts play a vital role in the system of checks and balances of democratic societies,” said Jan Jařab, who heads the Regional Office for Europe of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “Any reforms involving constitutional courts should be designed to strengthen these independent institutions, not to weaken them.”

Mr. Jařab also commented on the extreme speed with which the Parliament is adopting changes affecting the Constitutional Tribunal, noting that reforms of such far-reaching importance should be the product of broad public consultation.

“It is very regrettable that the current majority insists on rushing these reforms through Parliament as fast as possible – in spite of mass public protests and concerns expressed by independent bodies such as the National Council of the Judiciary, and by Polish human rights organizations,” he said.

Mr. Jařab also echoed the views of representatives of the Council of Europe. The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Anne Brasseur, has characterized the proposals as far-reaching restrictions of the powers of a judicial institution whose independence is constitutionally guaranteed.
“I share her view that the precipitous adoption of such legislation risks seriously undermining the rule of law in Poland – and with it, it risks weakening the protection of human rights,” Mr. Jařab said.

The Regional Representative called on the Polish Senate and President to respond to the joint concerns of critics at the national, European and international level and not to enact these changes.

ENDS

For more information or media inquiries, please contact:

Jan Jařab +32 2 274 0170 / jjarab@ohchr.org or Ravina Shamdasani: +41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org