Human Rights and Equality Commission Welcomes Clarity Set Out in Significant Right to Fair Trial Case

Commission Exercised Amicus Curiae Role in Supreme Court Case Holding EU-Wide Significance on European Arrest Warrants

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the ‘Commission’) has welcomed today’s Supreme Court judgment in an internationally significant case relating to the European Arrest Warrants system and the right to a fair trial.

In its judgment in Artur Celmer v. Minister for Justice and Equality the Supreme Court held that independence of the judiciary forms part of the essence of the fundamental right to a fair trial. The Court further set out that systemic deficiencies in a particular system, where far reaching, could by themselves amount to a sufficient breach of the essence of the right to a fair trial.

However in Mr. Celmer’s case, while the systemic changes in Poland were viewed as serious and grave, they could not themselves be sufficient to cross the threshold of a real risk of breaching his right to a fair trial.

In its ruling the Supreme Court clarified that the recent LM judgment of the Court of the Justice of the EU sets out the relevant tests to be applied in these kinds of extradition cases.

The case was appealed directly from the High Court to the Supreme Court due to its significant public importance. It centres on the requested extradition of Mr. Artur Celmer, a Polish national, to Poland under the European Arrest Warrant system, where concerns have been raised by Mr. Celmer over the impact of recent legislative changes in Poland on the independence of the judiciary, the courts and the Public Prosecutor. These changes, according to Mr. Celmer, undermined the possibility of him receiving a fair trial.

In November 2018, the High Court (Ms. Justice Donnelly) found that Mr. Celmer’s concerns did not amount to a real risk of a flagrant denial of his right to a fair trial in Poland and, on that basis ordered Mr. Celmer’s surrender on each of three European Arrest Warrants.  That decision was suspended however pending this appeal to the Supreme Court and so Mr. Celmer had remained in custody in Ireland.

In its role as amicus curiae (friend of the court), the Commission has contributed its expertise on the human rights and equality issues under consideration, particularly the right to a fair trial from an EU law perspective.

Mr. Justice O’Donnell in ruling, stated today; “ …a breach of judicial independence is a breach of the essence of the right to a fair trial.”

He went on further to say “Again while the individual features of this case are undoubtedly troubling, I agree with the trial judge that, in light of the evidence, they do not bring the case over the threshold.”

Mr. Justice McKechnie made separate additional observations, setting out that national courts play a crucial role in the operation of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system – “…they are mandated to uphold the integrity of fundamental rights where without any countervailing justification, these are under challenge if not attack.”

Director of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Laurence Bond stated:

“The European Arrest Warrant has become a commonly used mechanism across the EU. The Commission welcomes the clarity set out in today’s Supreme Court’s ruling on the legal test to be applied in the context of extradition proceedings between EU Member States where general and systemic human rights issues arise”

“We expect that this Irish ruling will be studied across Europe in relation to EU extradition law and practice.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The Commission’s written submissions to the Supreme Court are available at the following link:

https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/celmer-vs-minister-for-justice-and-equality-ihrec-legal-submissions-of-the-amicus-curiae/

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

 

 

 

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