Irish Court were right to postpone the extradition of Artur Celmer- CJEU Advocate General

This week the CJEU Advocate General, Evgeni Tanchev, issued an opinion which concluded that the Irish High Court was correct to postpone the extradition of Artur Celmer to Poland. The Irish High Court postponed the extradition due to concerns about the Polish government’s interference with the judiciary. Mr Tanchev also pointed out that this did not mean that all Polish extradition requests should be rejected and that in this case it would be for the Irish court to establish all the facts to see if Mr Celmer was indeed able to have a fair trial.

This opinion was issued in light of the European Union’s recent launching of an Article 7 case against Poland for what the European Commission calls the “systematic” undermining of the Polish judiciary and the rule of law. In December last year, under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the European Commission asked the EU Council of Ministers to explore if the changes to the Polish justice system meant there was a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law by Poland.

Mr Tanchev explained that European Arrest Warrants must not be executed if there was a real risk of a “flagrant denial of justice” due to any deficiencies in the justice system of the issuing Member State. He added that there would also have to be clear evidence that the person being extradited was exposed to such a risk. To postpone an extradition there needs to be a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice. Establishing a risk to the right to a fair trial is not enough because the right to a fair trial could be subject to limitations, so long as those limitations respected the essence of that right. Therefore, the executing judicial authority was required to postpone the execution of an arrest warrant only if there was a real risk of a breach of the essence of the right to a fair trial.

Celmer: The protection of fundamental rights in Poland

This Friday the CJEU will be hearing evidence in the case of Artur Celmer, a Polish national who is wanted on drug trafficking charges. He is currently being held in an Irish prison on a European Arrest Warrant. The case was referred, by Justice Donnelly of the Irish High Court, to the CJEU on the question of whether the Polish justice system could protect Mr Celmer’s fundamental rights given that there has been a breakdown of the rule of law in Poland.

Lawyers for the Irish Attorney General, will argue that a fair trial in Poland is possible and therefore Mr Celmer should be extradited. Whereas Mr Celmer’s lawyers will be arguing that given the erosion of the Rule of Law, in Poland, Mr Celmer will not face a fair trial for the drug trafficking crimes he has been charged with.
In Poland this week, the Deputy Justice Minister accused the Irish High Court of playing “political games.” These comments were in response to Justice Donnelly’s previous suggestion that Polish legal reforms had bought the independence of the Polish judiciary into doubt and consequently undermined trust in the European Arrest Warrant system.