A stable democracy is based on the following five pillars: 1) efficient and independent judiciary, 2) free media, 3) vibrant, influential civil society, 4) legitimate democratic institutions, 5) and inclusive societies. According to the recently released report by the Council of Europe, judiciary in Europe is undergoing a crisis.
Flaws in the functioning of judiciary have a direct impact on the functioning of democracy. According to the report, in over a third of member states the pillar of an efficient and independent judiciary is shaken.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe (Thorbjørn Jagland) has said that honest and decent courts are the bedrock of any healthy democracy. Without them executives cannot be restrained, faith in state authorities plummets, tension ensues and stability cannot be guaranteed. The lack of judicial independence and impartiality has been identified as one of the biggest challenges to a modern democratic state.
It is no exaggeration to say that the judiciary is the most important of the three powers. Its role is to provide justice to the members of a democratic society and to oversee the implementation of the separation of powers.
Under the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 6), everyone has a right to a fair trial. This means that anyone’s case must be tried by an independent and impartial court within a reasonable time. Without a timely access to justice, all of the constitutionally guaranteed rights are a mere façade. In a leading case concerning impartiality before an English court, the Judge has said that not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done. Article 6 is one of the most often violated rights in all European countries, according to case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.
According to the report, judicial inefficiency is often caused by the lack of resources, insufficient investment in professional education of judges and court clerks, and outdated electronic and statistical court management.
The judiciary in Poland has seen some improvement over the years. Polish courts are now better prepared to handle complex cases. The number of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights against Poland has fallen. However, lengthy court procedures still remain a problem.
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