EIT: Lech Wałęsan oikeutta oikeudenmukaiseen oikeudenkäytiin loukattiin – voittamansa kunnianloukkausjutun tuomio purettiin vuosien kuluttua

27.11.2023 | Oikeusuutiset

Markku Fredman

Under this pilot judgment, Poland must take appropriate legislative measures to comply with Article 6 § 1 requirements, including the principle of independence of the judiciary

In Chamber judgment on 23.11.2023 in the case of Wałęsa v. Poland (application no. 50849/21) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

  • a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) of the European Convention on Human Rights as regards Mr Wałęsa’s right to an independent and impartial tribunal established by law;
  • a violation of Article 6 § 1 for breaching the principle of legal certainty; and
  • a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).

The case concerned a civil suit that Mr Wałęsa had taken against a former friend and associate, Krzysztof Wyszkowski, who had accused him publicly of collaboration with the secret services under the communist regime. Although he had won the case, the final judgment in his favour had been overturned, nine years later, by the Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Affairs following an extraordinary appeal by the Prosecutor General.

The Court found in particular, as it has done in previous cases, that the Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Affairs, which had examined the extraordinary appeal, was not an “independent and impartial tribunal established by law”. Therefore, Mr Wałęsa’s right to a fair hearing had been breached.

As to whether the extraordinary appeal had violated the principle of legal certainty, as alleged by Mr Wałęsa, the Court noted that entrusting the Prosecutor General – a member of the executive who wielded considerable authority over the courts and exerted a strong influence on the Nation al Council of the Judiciary – with the unlimited power to contest virtually any final judicial decision ran counter to the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers, with a risk that extraordinary appeals could turn into a political tool used by the executive. It held that the extraordinary appeal procedure was incompatible with the principles of legal certainty and res judicata (a case that has been resolved by a final judgment cannot be brought back to court for a second trial or a new appeal), finding that the extended time-limits for lodging an extraordinary appeal allowed to the Prosecutor General and operating retrospectively, were not only in breach of those principles but also failed to satisfy the requirement of foreseeability of the law for Convention purposes. It further found indications that the State authority had abused the extraordinary appeal procedure to further its own political opinions and motives. Indeed, the Court observed that Mr Wałęsa’s case could not be separated from its political background and the political context in Poland at the time and the long-lasting and public conflict between Mr Wałęsa and the leadership of the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the United Right alliance Government.

Press release


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