Venice Commission concerned by risk of paralysis of Ombudsman in Poland

Strasbourg, 12.10.2020 – The Venice Commission made the following statement: “The term of office of the current Polish Human Rights Commissioner expired on 9 September 2020. While the successor has not yet been elected, on 17 September some MPs requested the Constitutional Court to declare unconstitutional the provision of the Human Rights Commissioner Law stating that the outgoing Commissioner performs his duties until the incumbent assumes the position.

The Ombudsman is an important element in a State based on democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and good administration.

The Venice Commission recalls that continuity in office is of outmost importance. A situation where the institution of the Human Rights Commissioner is prevented from functioning fully and effectively pending the election by parliament of a new Commissioner would have a significant adverse effect on the protection of the rights of the Polish citizens and of all people living in Poland.

The Principles on the protection and promotion of the Ombudsman institution (“the Venice Principles” ) state clearly that States shall refrain from taking any action aiming at or resulting in the suppression of the Ombudsman institution or in any hurdles to its effective functioning, and shall effectively protect it from any such threats”.

The Venice Principles were endorsed by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 2 May 2019, by the Parliamentary Assembly on 2 October 2019 and by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on 30 October 2019.

The European Commission for Democracy through Law – better known as the Venice Commission as it meets in Venice – is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters.

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