POSTS BY Wouter van Ballegooij

The AG Opinion in the Celmer Case: Why Lack of Judicial Independence Should Have Been Framed as a Rule of Law Issue

On 28 June 2018, Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev delivered his Opinion in the Case C‑216/18 PPU Minister for Justice and Equality v LM on the surrender of a crime suspect to Poland. The issue is whether Mr. Artur Celmer, referred to by the Opinion as LM, should be surrendered from Ireland to Poland when there are serious doubts as to whether he would receive a fair trial, due to the alleged lack of independence of the judiciary resulting from recent changes to the Polish judicial system.

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Judicial Independence as a Precondition for Mutual Trust

The Celmer case calls for us to reflect on the question what role judicial authorities can and should play in ensuring compliance with democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights (DRF) in other EU Member States. In our view, judicial authorities ultimately have an independent responsibility to put a halt to surrenders, in case the wanted person’s fair trial rights are put in peril due to a general lack of judicial independence in the issuing state. At the same time, the political responsibility for balancing diverse EU constitutional principles needs to be borne by democratically elected institutions. Therefore, the court of the executing state should not only halt or suspend judicial cooperation in the event that persuasive pieces of evidence point to a violation of the values shared by the EU and the Member States in the issuing state, but it should also freeze the case awaiting a resolution of the matter from political actors.

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