The President of Iustitia, the Association of Polish Judges, is suing the country’s justice minister over a smear campaign aimed at magistrates that was allegedly orchestrated from within the justice ministry, according to the TVN 24 news channel.
The move follows the publication of transcripts purporting to show former Deputy Minister of Justice Łukasz Piebiak and a woman called “Emilia” discussing plans to circulate rumours about judges including Iustitia President Krystian Markiewicz.
In one of the transcripts, published by the Polish news website Onet, Piebiak, speaking about the smear campaign, is alleged to have told Emillia:
“I think it will help. It is important that it sweeps through Iustitia (the association of Polish judges) to let them know who we are dealing with. People will spread it, and Markiewicz will fade away, knowing what we have on him.”
Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has denied any knowledge of the alleged smear campaign, as has Piebiak, who resigned shortly after the transcripts emerged and promised to fight the accusation.
Speaking on Polish TV, Krystian Markiewicz said he decided to file the lawsuit against the Justice Minister in order to show “what the mechanisms operating in the Ministry of Justice are.”
“They resemble the functioning of a mafia state, rather than a democratic rule of law state…We must show how the Polish state functions or doesn’t function, because everyone has a right to that…I too as a victim have a right to that, hence the lawsuit,” Markiewicz said.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) suffered a drop in the polls following the revelations of the smear campaign in August, but with less than a week to go before general elections on October 13, the party has more than regained that lost support and leads the main opposition Civic Coalition by 20 percentage points, according to a Politico poll of polls.
Since the victory of PiS in the 2015 elections, the Polish government has launched a series of controversial reforms of the judicial system, including the reform of the Constitutional Court and the system for electing the highest magistrates, which has caused a wave of criticism within the Polish judiciary.
The EU has also been very critical of the justice reforms which they say undermine the rule of law and the democratic principle of the separation of powers.