The European Court of Justice (ECJ) yesterday authorized EU members to refuse arrest warrants issued by Poland if they have doubts whether defendants will get a fair trial in the Central European country. The decision serves as a legal support for EU member states to reject Polish arrest and extradition warrant but it is not legally binding. The judgment says that legal authorities in the country, which receives the warrant, must put off executing it if they believe that there is a “real risk of breach…of fundamental” human rights.
However, judgment on the fairness of other EU legal systems is for each EU country to make a decision on its own when it receives a European arrest warrant. The case was brought to the ECJ by Dublin after Poland issued an arrest warrant for a Polish national living in Ireland on charges of drug trafficking. The ECJ decision allows the Irish to reject the EU extradition warrant if they have “objective, reliable, specific and properly updated” proof of a “real” risk of a defendant being denied their right to a fair trial due to “deficiencies in the Polish system of justice”.
The ECJ decision ensues a number of controversial changes and reforms to Poland’s judiciary. The Commission started the Article 7 procedure against Poland at the end of 2017 after it drew the conclusion that the changes to the country’s judicial system posed a threat to the rule of law and democracy. Under the Article 7 process, Poland could be taken away the voting rights in the EU. The procedure had never been used previously. The European Commission condemned the reforms in Poland last December as posing “a clear risk” of a “serious” breach of the rule of law by handing the government control over legal matters.