The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held Thursday that the Civil Chamber of Poland’s Supreme Court composition lacks impartiality and independence, violating a company’s right to a proper hearing.
In Advance Pharma Sp. Z o.o v. Poland, a company argued against the Main Pharmaceutical Inspector’s decision to withdraw a product from the market. The inspector decided against the product, because some samples of the product were found to contain an active molecule not allowed in dietary supplements and not listed on the product’s label. The appellate court quashed the previous decision, finding that the inspector had failed to establish whether the supplement had been a dietary supplement or a medicinal product. The court further determined that the decision had been given in breach of domestic law.
During the proceedings, Advance Pharma destroyed its stocks of the supplement and filed a claim for damages in tort against the state in 2014. During the compensation proceeding proceedings, it was proved that the company had destroyed the supplement on its own initiative and was not ordered by the inspector. Also, Alpha Pharma was unable to prove that it was prevented from reintroducing the supplement once it had been made compliant with the relevant regulations.
After failing at two levels of jurisdiction, the company filed an appeal before the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court. This appeal was dismissed by the judges newly appointed through the procedure involving the new National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ). This council was established in 2018.
The issue before the ECHR concerned whether the appointment of judges by NCJ violated the rights to a fair hearing. This right is enshrined under Articles 6 and 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In Dolinska-Ficek and Ozimek v. Poland, the ECHR held that procedure followed for the appointment of judges was influenced by legislative and executive powers.
In the present case, the ECHR followed judicial precedent and held that the procedure was improperly influenced by legislative and executive powers. It further held that the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court was not a “tribunal established by law,” due to compromised independence and impartiality issues of deficient procedure for judicial appointments is prevalent. The ECHR ordered Poland to pay Advance Pharma non-pecuniary damage worth EUR 15,000 and EUR 3,000 in for costs and expenses.