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EU sides with Ireland in landmark denial of extradition of man due to problems with the Polish courts

In March the High Court ruled that Artur Celmer could not be extradited due to his not being able to get a fair trial in his own country.

shutterstock_1031912935 The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg Source: Shutterstock/Nitpicker

THE EU JUDICIARY has backed the decision of Ireland to refuse the extradition of a Polish man to his own country due to the allegedly compromised nature of that country’s courts.

The High Court ruled in March that Polish national Artur Celmer should not be extradited as there is no chance for him to receive a fair trial in his own country.

In 2017, Poland passed a series of laws which saw the country’s government grant the power, amongst other things, to replace its supreme court judges at will.

The ruling was ostensibly invoked in order to allow an overhaul of the country’s judiciary, which the ruling PiS party claimed was necessary in order to heighten the legal system’s effectiveness and weed out appointees who were hangovers from Poland’s communist past.

Artur Celmer has been living in Ireland for 10 years. Prior to March he had spent nine months in custody pending three separate extradition orders served against him by his home country, wherein he is wanted in connection with alleged drug trafficking offences.

Today, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg passed its own judgement on an appeal against the High Court decision of Justice Aileen Donnelly, in which it agreed with that ruling.

‘Real risk’

It said that the Irish decision was justified if it believed there was a “real risk of breach of the fundamental right of the individual concerned to an independent tribunal, and, therefore of his fundamental right to a fair trial”.

The landmark ruling gives precedent to the notion that the independence of Poland’s judiciary has been compromised.

The European Commission had not taken kindly to the recent amendments made to its legal system by the Polish government.

Following a long-running investigation, last December the EC invoked Article Seven of the Treaty on European Union against Poland, which gives it the power to suspend certain (funding or voting) rights for a member state, a decision which left the Polish government ‘furious’.

The EC’s arguments were that Poland is in danger of sporting a judicial system which is overly vulnerable to political interference, and incapable of impartiality via the separation of powers.

In today’s ruling, the European court stated that the invocation of the Treaty is “particularly relevant” in assessing whether there is a genuine risk that the independence of the Polish judiciary has been compromised, and that therefore the fundamental right to a fair trial could be breached.

Celmer’s legal team previously told the High Court that his is a unique test case, which will provide precedent as to how other EU states comply with Polish judicial decrees in the current climate.

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