Senior Warsaw judges have described as a “nuclear bomb” the High Court’s refusal to extradite a Polish man over fears judicial reforms there have undermined the independence of courts and threaten the rule of law.
On Monday, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly halted an extradition case involving Polish man Artur Celmer, sought in his homeland on drug-trafficking charges, to seek guidance from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg.
Justice Donnelly said “immense” legislative changes to Poland’s judicial system called into question the mutual trust that forms the basis of the European Arrest Warrant system.
“This is extremely significant because this is the very first case of this type in the history of the European Union
As Poland “appears no longer to accept that there are common European values which must be respected”, Justice Donnelly said she would formulate a question next week seeking clarification from the Luxembourg court.
Andrzej Rzeplinski, until 2016 the president of the constitutional tribunal and leading critic of the government reforms, welcomed the High Court intervention.
“This is extremely significant because this is the very first case of this type in the history of the European Union,” said Mr Rzeplinski to The Irish Times. “The ECJ is the only court which can decide this very important question . . . and resolve this tragic situation.”
‘Rule of law’
Another ex-constitutional tribunal justice, who asked not to be named, described the High Court referral as a “nuclear bomb and a good day for the rule of law”.
The suspended extradition request brings Irish bilateral relations with Poland into uncharted waters. It may also open a second front in the European Commission’s stand-off with Poland’s national conservative Law and Justice party (PiS).