A court in Spain has sent a court in Rzeszów in south-eastern Poland a request for answers to four questions on judicial independence. The answers given will be analysed with regard to issuing a decision to extradite to Poland a suspect under the European arrest warrant.
Click here to read an analysis from Poland in English.
According to a letter sent by the Spanish court, it has been obliged to act in this way following the ECJ verdict in July. The ECJ then ruled that extradition must always be preceded by an examination of whether a court to the jurisdiction of which the suspect is being released is independent and impartial according to article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
The ECJ ruled in July following a request from a court in Ireland. Poland had sought the extradition of a man suspected of smuggling narcotics and the Irish Court asked the ECJ to rule on whether the Polish judicial system was still independent and impartial in its make-up and proceedings.
The Spanish Court has requested that the District Court in Rzeszów responds to its questions in a matter of no more than 10 days. The questions it has posed seek to determine whether the court is fully independent in coming to its judgement, the judges irremovable, its composition free of outside interference and any disciplinary proceedings free of political influence and open to appeal or review.
source: TVP.Info, RMF.FM
This is yet another development linked to the dispute over the judicial reform taking place in Poland. But it is also a clear threat to the effectiveness of the European arrest warrant arrangements.
It is difficult for people to fathom why a simple criminal case should in any way be political, or dependent on political decisions. Neither of the two suspects in the Irish or Spanish cases is being pursued for offences which are in any way related to the political process in Poland.
But it is yet another reminder to the Polish authorities that their judicial reform process is leading to some unintended practical consequences in judicial relations with other member states as well as high-level disputes with the EC. Defence lawyers will use any doubts to advance the cause of their clients. That is their job.
The worry is that in the pursuit of high principles of guaranteeing judicial independence justice will not be able to be carried out in terms of potential criminals being punished for their crimes.