(dpa) – Polish Human Rights Ombudsman Adam Bodnar will have to leave his post within three months after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled on Thursday that the provision that allowed Bodnar to stay on after his term of office expired is illegal under the constitution.
The office of human rights ombudsman has been considered by many to be the last state institution not controlled by Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party. At the same time, PiS’ opponents claim the party has undue influence over the decisions made by the court.
Bodnar has come under fierce criticism from the governing party, most notably for defending the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. PiS accused him of politicizing the post.
Outside of the governing majority, Bodnar received high praise, not only for speaking out for the lGBT community, but also for his work for disabled citizens and other marginalized groups.
Bodnar’s five-year term in office ended in September 2020. However, he has continued to fulfil his duties as parliament has not been able to name his successor to date.
The PiS-controlled lower house twice rejected the candidacy of Zuzanna Rudzinska-Bluszcz, an ally of Bodnar. In turn, the PiS-supported candidate, Piotr Wawrzyk, a PiS lawmaker and deputy foreign minister, was rejected by the opposition-controlled Senate.
Both chambers of parliament need to approve a candidate for human rights ombudsman.
The court gave the Polish parliament three months to introduce legislation that would rectify the challenged provision.
The opposition fears that through such legislation the PiS parliamentary majority will try to introduce an interim ombudsman that it supports and circumvent the need to seek the Senate’s approval for the candidate.
Following the ruling, Bodnar called on parliamentarians to select his successor in a regular constitutional procedure, calling the scenario of introducing an interim commissioner “dangerous.”
Meanwhile, in the fourth parliamentary attempt to fill the post, PiS is supporting Bartlomiej Wroblewski, one of the party’s lawmakers who successfully petitioned the Constitutional Tribunal to restrict the country’s abortion laws.