Legislation lowering retirement age to 60 for female judges in violation of European Convention of Human Rights (ECtHR)

In Chamber's judgment in the case of Pająk and Others v. Poland (applications nos. 25226/18, 25805/18, 8378/19 and 43949/19), the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority (5 votes to 2), that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right of access to a court) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of all applicants, and a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private life) in respect of the three applicants who had lodged complaints under those provisions. 

The case concerned four judges who complained about legislative amendments that had lowered the retirement age for judges from 67 to 60 for women, and to 65 for men, and had made the continuation of a judge’s duties after reaching retirement age conditional upon authorisation by the Minister of Justice and by the National Council of the Judiciary (“the NCJ”). 

The Court took the view that judges should enjoy protection from arbitrary decisions by the legislative and executive powers and that only oversight by an independent judicial body of the legality of a disputed measure was able to render such protection effective. In the present case, it found that the decisions taken in respect of each applicant by the Minister of Justice and by the NCJ had constituted arbitrary and unlawful interference, in the sphere of judicial independence and protection from removal from judicial office, on the part of the representative of executive authority and the body subordinated to that authority. It concluded that the applicants’ right of access to a court had thereby been impaired in its very essence. 

The Court also found that the legislation complained of had clearly introduced a difference in treatment, on the ground of sex, as to the mandatory retirement age for members of the same profession. It noted that the applicants’ working life had ceased five years earlier than that of male judges in similar circumstances, and that their compulsory early retirement had had obvious negative repercussions on their careers and their prospects in terms of professional and personal development. (echr.coe.int/photo:freepik.com)

Full text of judgement (in French) is available here

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Editorial

Editorial
George Kazoleas, Lawyer

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