The process of ‘”orbanizacja” is now becoming more and more a reality in Poland. The lighting quick push for reform by the Law and Justice party (PiS) after eight years of center-right rule has taken a heavy toll on the judicial system in Poland during the past week.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, who took office at the Belwedere Palace in Warsaw in August 2015, has granted pardon to 4 agents from the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA), including its former director Mariusz Kamiński. All of the accused officers were sentenced at first instance for abuse of power.
During his tenure at the head of CBA, Kaminski exerted political pressure to forge corruption charges against innocent citizens, a practice that evokes the bygone “Przesuwanie zródeł” (literally “the shifting of the sources”), a method followed by Security Service (SB) that become popular in the eighties in Poland during the period of martial law under Communism.
The clemency given by the Polish head of state will enable Kamiński to serve as a coordinator of the intelligence agencies in the newly formed cabinet of Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło. For the first in its modern history, Poland granted pardon to its citizens before the final ruling has been issued.
In his new tailor-made role with plenipotentiary powers, Kamiński will be accountable for drafting the program of combating abuse in public institutions. The CBA representatives will remain entitled to apply other operating techniques used in the prosecution of corrupt state officials.
Following his appointment, Kaminski is in also in charge of overseeing the eligibility of any public officials hired in joint-stock companies having a share owned by Polish Treasury. On the other hand, the supervision of military intelligence activities will still fall within the scope of the Minister of Defense.
Duda’s initiative caused an uproar among the magistrates, who were also struck by another measure that undermined the fairness and objectivity of the justice system. Five judges of the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland (TK) appointed before the political shift that brought PiS to power were pre-emptively discharged prior to their taking office as a result of the Constitution Tribunal Bill.
The latter decision will give the political party created by the Kaczynski brothers the chance to appoint new members of TK closer to the political line pursued by PiS. “The idea behind these changes brings to mind rather Minsk than Budapest”, commented opposition MP Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz during last Thursday’s parliamentary debate.
The European Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muizieks, said, “The amendments altering the composition of the constitutional Court currently rushed through Polish Parliament undermine the rule of law and should be withdrawn.”
The government led by Szydło is aiming to scrap the autonomy of the judges responsible for investigating judicial cases. One of the main points of the “orbanization” program put in place by PiS consists indeed in the reunification of functions of the Prosecutor General and Ministry of Justice.
The tug-of-war between Duda and Constitutional Tribunal of Poland has escalated since the court ruled on December 3 that the choice of two of the five judges elected in October by outgoing PO government is not constitutional. Still, Duda was faulted for refusing to swear in the remaining three.
The head of the Chancellery of Prime Minister Beata Kempa, subsequently, put on hold the publication of the ruling in the Journal of Laws in order to prevent it from coming into force.
Unlike the Fidesz goverment in Hungary, which has already green-lit major constitutional changes, the political agenda of PiS includes a number of broad reforms that could be implemented without necessarily having to change the Constitution.However the latter still remains one of the long-term goals of PiS that obtained an overwhelming majority in Poland’s newly formed Sejm.