The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Wednesday that EU member states can refuse to execute a European arrest warrant issued by Poland if they doubt the independence of the judiciary in the country.
At the origin of the case is a Polish national accused of drug trafficking. After being arrested in Ireland last year, Poland issued three European arrest warrants, but they have still not been executed. The accused refused his transfer to Poland on the ground that he ran the risk of being denied a fair trial.
Consulted by the Irish High Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union has held that Polish arrest warrants need not be executed. According to the Court, Ireland must first consider whether there is a risk of breach of safeguards for independent tribunals and fair trials in Poland and then whether the accused in question might be at risk.
This decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union adds to the arguments of the opponents of the reforms to the judiciary currently being rolled out in Poland. Even if the Court does not issue a direct judgement on the Polish judicial system, it considers that the equivalence between the national legal systems on which the European arrest warrant is based is no longer sufficiently guaranteed in Poland.
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro criticised what he called “a failure” of the Dublin High Court because the ruling did not mean that extraditions to Poland should be automatically stopped, but only that other courts would be free to decide on it.
“The Irish court has suffered a defeat,” said Ziobro, insisting that there was no problem with rule of law in Poland.