Compromise around the appointment of the new human rights defender in Poland

It’s an appointment that sounds like a “PiS Stalingrad” noted, Thursday, July 22, the left newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza in reference to the famous episode of WWII. A defeat of the ultraconservative party in power, incomprehensible as the PiS (Law and Justice) is used to being in a position of strength in Poland.

Wednesday, after six failures, and months of blockages, the Senate approved by consensus (97 votes out of 100), the appointment of Marcin Wiacek to the post of mediator of rights. Until then, the opposition was engaged in a standoff with the PiS around this strategic position, one of the last not to have fallen under the rule of power, despite the attempts of the nationalists to place complacent candidates there. . To the point that the former incumbent, Adam Bodnar, was forced to exceed the end of his mandate, for lack of a replacement.

“The position of the PiS was untenable in view of the pressure put by the European Union” decrypts Georges Mink, holder of the chair of European civilization at the College of Europe and great connoisseur of Poland. “The Poles are waiting for the new money from the post-Covid European recovery plan. PiS politicians have announced a new deal which would assure them re-election in the next elections and they must comply with the demands of Brussels to obtain it ”, The European Union’s annual rule of law report on Tuesday singled out Poland for threats to the independence of judges and freedom of expression.

If the chosen profile did not appeal to PiS, Marcin Wiacek is however far from being an activist. This former lawyer of the Polish constitutional and administrative courts, declared from the outset, in the address which followed his appointment, his desire to “Support the primacy of our Constitution over all international agreements. “ Between the lines, the new defender of rights takes a position on the bickering between Poland and the European Union, choosing the camp of the government in Warsaw, which refuses the injunctions of European justice.

But as a man of compromise, he nevertheless warned that the authorities should respect the recent decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which denounces the new disciplinary system imposed on magistrates by the PiS. Another signal of the role he intends to play, he warned that he would not reverse the decision of his predecessor to interrupt the takeover of the press editor Polska Press by an oil group close to power, in the name of the independence of the media.

As head of the human rights department at the University of Warsaw, like Adam Bodnar before him, Marcin Wiacek is appreciated for his “Rare righteousness, notes one of his colleagues from the law school. It fits perfectly with this post which, in principle, is neutral, while having a sensitivity on human rights. “ Barely appointed, he announced on Wednesday that his most urgent cases would be devoted to “Marginalized”, the poor and transgender people, whose rights and freedoms must be protected, he said.

“His style will be different, says Jakub Jaraczewski, research coordinator for the NGO Democracy Reporting International. Where Bodnar worked with NGOs, was very into advocacy and garnered media attention, Wiacek has a more reserved academic profile. He is a shadow worker who suits his role well.


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