The Polish Constitutional Court said on Wednesday that the European Court of Human Rights did not have the power to question the appointment of its judges, rejecting a decision of the highest European court of human rights in May .
Rejected by critics as a politicized body, the Constitutional Court has already triggered a crisis in the European Union this year by ruling that parts of the bloc’s treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution.
Although part of the Council of Europe and separate from the institutions of the European Union, the ECHR is at the origin of many general principles of EU law, which will be a further blow to the bloc.
Judge Julia Przylebska, President of the Polish Court, declared that “Article 6 of the Convention (…) insofar as it includes the Constitutional Court in its definition of a court, is not compatible” with the Polish constitution.
She said the article was unconstitutional as it gave the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the right to assess the legality of the appointment of judges to the Tribunal.
In May, the ECHR ruled that a company had been denied the right to a formal hearing due to the illegal appointment of a judge of the Constitutional Court.
In Wednesday’s ruling, the Tribunal said it was not a Convention tribunal because it oversees the hierarchy of laws and does not rule on the rights of individuals.
Reacting to the decision, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejcinovic Buric said: “The 47 member states of the Council of Europe, including Poland, are committed to guaranteeing the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention. European Human Rights, as interpreted by the ECHR.
“Member States are also required to implement judgments of the European Court.
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The Polish nationalist government says its judicial reforms are aimed at sweeping away remnants of Communist influence and bringing judges who think they are above the law into line.
A cabinet minister welcomed the Tribunal’s decision on Wednesday.
Michal Wojcik wrote on Twitter: “Today the rule of law has defeated the usurpation of powers.”
The Council of Europe is an organization created after World War II to protect human rights and the rule of law.