The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that the Irish High Court was correct in its decision to postpone the extradition of a Polish man suspected of drug trafficking, due to concerns that he would not receive a fair trial in the Polish courts.
Artur Celmer is a Polish citizen who has three separate European arrest warrants (EAWs) issued against him by the Polish authorities for a number of alleged offences relating to drug trafficking. In May 2017, he was arrested in Ireland on foot of these warrants but has resisted a return to Poland for prosecution, with his lawyers claiming that there is a significant risk that his right to a fair trial would be compromised.
Such fears are based on the fact that the Polish government has introduced a number of reforms to the country’s judiciary, giving the government a prominent role in the appointment and retirement of judges, resulting in significant political influence which is viewed as undermining the judicial system.
Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly of the High Court echoed these concerns, citing that the legislative changes made by the Polish government have challenged the rule of law and judicial independence in Poland. She subsequently referred the case to the CJEU.
On referral, the CJEU stated that responsibility lay with the Irish High Court to perform an “objective, reliable, specific, and properly updated’’determination to conclude whether there was a lack of independence within the Polish judiciary and that the suspect was at risk of having his right to a fair trial breached.
The CJEU declared that the High Court was right in its refusal to execute the warrant, asserting that; “a judicial authority called upon to execute a European arrest warrant must refrain from giving effect to it if it considers that there is a real risk that the individual concerned would suffer a breach of his fundamental right to an independent tribunal and, therefore, of the essence of his fundamental right to a fair trial on account of deficiencies liable to affect the independence of the judiciary in the issuing Member State.”
The case coincided with a European Commission investigation which concluded that there was “a clear risk of a serious breach by Poland of the rule of law”,with such actions being regarded by the CJEU as particularly relevant to the case.
The ruling by the CJEU allows the High Court to make its own decision on whether or not to proceed with the extradition.
Click here for the decision in full.