Court orders man's surrender despite 'generalised deficiencies in the independence of the judiciary in Poland'

The High Court has ordered the surrender of a Polish man to face trial in his native country despite finding “generalised and systemic” violations to the independence of Poland’s judiciary.

Polish authorities had sought the surrender of Artur Celmer, 31, who is wanted to face trial in his native Poland on drugs trafficking charges.

He was arrested in Ireland on foot of a European Arrest Warrant last year and his lawyers had opposed their client's surrender over “radical changes” to the Polish justice system, which has put the country at odds with the European Union in recent years.

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, the judge in charge of High Court extradition, postponed the surrender of dozens of suspected criminals to Poland earlier this year over concerns for their fair trial rights.

Following a referral of Mr Celmer’s case by Ms Justice Donnelly to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in Luxembourg, the High Court was advised that it must assess whether there was a specific risk to Mr Celmer that his fair trial rights would be breached.

Ordering Mr Celmer’s surrender today, Ms Justice Donnelly said the High Court had originally found “generalised and systemic” violations to the independence of the Polish judiciary which “gave rise to a real risk” that fair trial rights would be breached.

However, she said the High Court was only concerned with determining whether the issues in Poland specifically related to Mr Celmer, in accordance with the CJEU’s ruling.

She said the High Court had concluded that “systemic and generalised deficiencies in the independence of the judiciary in Poland of themselves” did not amount to a real risk that Mr Celmer’s right to a fair trial would be denied.

She said the threshold was a high one and, on the evidence before the court, it had not been reached.

It is important to state that it is the courts in Poland and, perhaps if he were to be convicted and have that conviction upheld on appeal, the European Court of Human Rights, that will have to decide whether any trial of this respondent (Mr Celmer) actually meets the Polish and ECHR standards respectively of right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial judiciary.

Ms Justice Donnelly had sought further assurances in respect of Mr Celmer after Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister was quoted as calling him a "dangerous criminal" connected to a "drugs mafia", despite the presumption of innocence.

However, she said the possibility of a flagrant denial of justice had not been established by Mr Celmer “despite the adverse comments on his presumption of innocence by the Deputy Justice Minister”.

She ordered Mr Celmer be surrendered to Polish authorities within the next 25 days.

His lawyers have the option of appealing her decision and the case will be mentioned before the High Court again next Monday.

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