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However, arrest warrants should be refused if there are doubts about fair trials.
Problems with the rule of law in Poland or any other EU country shouldn’t automatically trigger the suspension of extraditions to that country, the EU’s top court said in a final judgment issued Thursday.
The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) ruled that “systemic or generalised deficiencies” of the judiciary in an EU country aren’t sufficient on their own to think that all the courts in that country can’t act independently.
At the same time, the EU judges said that the execution of a European Arrest Warrant — an internal EU extradition scheme — issued by a Polish judicial authority must be refused if there are any substantial grounds for believing that the prisoner in question won’t be able to have a fair trial.
Thursday’s decision echoes the opinion of the court’s advocate general issued earlier this year.
The case was sent to the CJEU by Dutch judges, who in September decided to stop extraditing suspects or convicts to Poland over concerns that the country’s courts are no longer independent. The judges said they would completely suspend the procedure of the European Arrest Warrant until they get a final clarification from the EU court.
Also on Thursday, CJEU Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev issued a nonbinding opinion on one of the laws introduced as a part of Poland’s judiciary reforms. He found that a rule prohibiting the possibility for legal review of the National Council of the Judiciary’s assessment of judicial candidates to the Polish Supreme Court violates EU law.
Taking away the right to challenge such assessments “contributes to — indeed reinforces — the absence of the appearance of independence and impartiality on the part of the judges actually appointed to the court concerned,” Tanchev wrote.
The Polish government’s changes to the court system have been strongly criticized by the European Commission, which has launched a series of infringement procedures against Warsaw. Poland is also under an Article 7 procedure over concerns it is backsliding on the rule of law, which could see it lose its voting rights in the European Council.