A Dutch circuit court has refused to extradite a drug trafficker to Poland as it suspects “Polish courts are no longer independent” after the judicial reforms of the last few years.
Click here to read an analysis from PolandIN.
A court in Amsterdam has refused to extradite a man sought by Poland for drug trafficking. A European warrant had been issued for his arrest. Polish investigators have evidence that the man concerned was involved in the purchase and trade of 200 kg of soft and hard drugs.
According to the court Polish courts are no longer independent of Poland’s Parliament and government. A submission has been filed to the ECJ to rule whether any extraditions should be carried out to Poland.
Poland’s judicial reform has led to changes at senior levels of the judiciary. The Dutch submission argues that the institution of the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court and the law on disciplining judges have undermined judicial independence.
This is not the first time that a court in an EU state has questioned extradition on the grounds of judicial independence. A German court in Karlsruhe in March refused to extradite a suspect on the grounds that they may not have the right to a fair trial.
The Polish ministry of justice argued that the ECJ has in the past rejected such arguments in other criminal cases. It has ruled that courts should judge each case on its merit and should not assume that all cases in Poland would be affected by the judicial reforms. He also pointed to the fact that a Dutch family has recently sought asylum in Poland in a dispute involving parental rights.
The Dutch action will be viewed as political pressure and an example of judge activism. In what way does Polish judicial reform affect the execution of laws governing drug related crimes?
It would be understandable if a Dutch court was reluctant to hand over a person sought by Poland for offences relating to their political activities. But to declare that the reforms in any way affect ordinary criminal cases is disingenuous. It also opens up the Dutch courts to suspicion that it may be acting unduly in favour of a potential perpetrator of crime, which begs the question why?
Maybe in the Netherlands 200 kg of drugs is viewed as a political issue. The country may wish to promote the liberalisation of drug laws that it has itself implemented. But that is not an EU matter.
The issue is serious as it affects the effectiveness of criminal proceedings and the way the European warrant system works. Once member states begin to behave this way towards each other trust disappears and criminals are encouraged to play political games.
The public in Europe want to see policing and courts being effective in the pursuit of crime. Such wrangles do not serve the image of the courts and public trust in them.