Extraordinary Congress of Polish Judges is a historical and unprecedented event. The general debate on the fundamental principles of the functioning of the judiciary in a democratic state of law will be attended by many distinguished guests, among them a man who has become a European symbol of the struggle for independence of the judges and the courts - András Baka.
András Baka for seventeen years he served as a judge of the European Court of Human Rights (1991-2008). In June of 2009. Hungarian Parliament entrusted to him for a 6-year term role of the President of the Supreme Court. His the highest position in the Hungarian judiciary was inextricably linked with the position of Chairman of the National Council of Justice, a body who`s right is to opinion all the draft regulations relating to the judiciary.
András Baka during the parliamentary debate, openly criticized the government reform of constitutional law including, inter alia, lowering the retirement age of judges from 70 to 62.
On January 1st 2012. the new Hungarian constitution came into power. On the basis of the new constitutional regulations theSupreme Court was replaced by the institution named the Curia. In accordance with the transitional provisions the mandate of the President of the Supreme Court expired with immediate effect on the date of entry into force of the new constitution. At the same time the constitution had changed the criteria for the selection of the head of the highest judicial authority by requiring at least a five-year career as a judge in Hungary, which excluded András Baka from the list of the potential candidates. It should be noted, that the legislative work on the transitional provisions had began just three weeks after the parliamentary speech given by judge Baka.
András Baka decided to defend his rights before the European Court of Human Rights. In its judgment of May 27th 2014. ECHR explicitly granted the applicant right, finding the activities of the Hungarian government as a blatant and obvious violation of the provisions of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Court first found that there was a breach of the right to a fair trial (Art. 6 of the Convention). András Baka was in fact deprived of his office by changing the constitution, without any possibility of appeal.
ECHR also found that the violation of art. 10 of the Convention due to a disproportionate interference with the applicant's freedom of speech. The Court had no doubt that the deprivation of the applicant's position was a response to expressed his critical opinion on the proposed government changes to the political system.
By judgment of June 23rd 2016. The Grand Chamber of the Court upheld the judgment of May 27th 2014., sharing all the ideas given in the justification argument. It is hard to overestimate the importance of the decision, which was reached in the proceedings initiated by the judge András Baka. In its judgment the ECHR clearly and explicitly stated that any violation of the Convention by State - as the Parties of the Convention resulting in breeching the fundamental rights, by making the reform the constitutional system in contrary to the Convention is unacceptable.
Comments contained in the grounds of the judgment are valuable guidelines on standards of judicial independence and the relationship between the authorities in a democratic state of law.