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In January, National Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski decided that prosecutors whose decisions put them out of favor with the ruling camp will be seconded to remote post for six months. They were relocated 200-500 km away from their place of residence and had only 48 hours to move. About 20 people were relocated in total, including members of the Lex Super Omnia Prosecutor’s Association- an organization fighting for prosecutorial independence. 

Explaining the decision, the spokesperson for the National Public Prosecutor’s Office argued that the secondments were necessary to support some of the units during the pandemic. Yet, the affected prosecutors are convinced that their forced relocation is in fact a form of punishment.

Ms. Kwiatkowska takes the National Public Prosecutor’s Office to court

Prosecutor Katarzyna Kwiatkowska, head of the Lex Super Omnia Prosecutors’ Association, previously working for the District Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw’s Praga district, was sent to a unit in Golub-Dobrzyń (nearly 200 km away from her place of residence). She fell out of favor with the authorities after suing the management of the prosecutor’s office for demotion in 2016.

Ms. Kwiatkowska announced her decision to take the issue to court in an interview with "Wyborcza". She filed a lawsuit against the National Public Prosecutor's Office and the Prosecutor's Office for Warsaw’s Praga district.

Her demands include compensation of PLN 76.000 for discrimination and unequal treatment. In her view, she became the target of discrimination because of her activity in the Lex Super Omnia association, the aforementioned lawsuit from 2016, and the fact that she sided with the demoted prosecutor as a participant in another court proceeding. She claims that her secondment is a form of quasi-disciplinary punishment, the only difference being that she was not given the right to defense or an appeal trial (which is the case with disciplinary proceedings). She has also filed a motion to secure the claim: she asks the court to order her employer to withhold the secondment for the duration of the trial.

National Public Prosecutor threatens a countersuit

Last Wednesday, the National Public Prosecutor's Office announced on its website that it had filed a lawsuit against Ms. Kwiatkowska. Reason? Her "defamatory statements" made in an interview she gave in late January.

According to the National Public Prosecutor, the interview contained "insinuations alleging that the leadership of the National Public Prosecutor's Office committed crimes and other violations". Such statements supposedly "undermine the authority of the National Public Prosecutor's Office and damage its good reputation".

The National Public Prosecutor’s Office did not specify when and who exactly filed the lawsuit against Ms. Kwiatkowska. Neither did it say where the lawsuit was filed or what form of compensation, in addition to an official apology, it demands. We have asked the National Public Prosecutor whether the lawsuit is an attempt to intimidate Ms. Kwiatkowska (who has already sued it twice), but we didn’t receive an answer.

- I suppose the decision-makers at the National Public Prosecutor’s Office realized that it would be difficult for them to defend forced relocations in court. It will be difficult to prove that these were not instances of harassment and discrimination. Threatening the prosecutors who sued it with countersuits is part of the strategy. It is an attempt to improve their own legal position in proceedings concerning the forced relocations in the absence of reasonable arguments. In my opinion, it’s an ineffective attempt to show us in a bad light- said one of the seconded prosecutors, Mr. Onyszczuk, commenting on the case.

In its communiqué, the National Public Prosecutor accuses Ms. Kwiatkowska of “insinuation”. - But what is this insinuation all about? For me, the prosecutor presented facts, not insinuations. In my opinion, the prosecutor did absolutely nothing to violate the authority of the National Public Prosecutor's Office or its reputation. We present our findings and evidence in the official reports prepared by the Lex Super Omnia association – he adds. 

Mr. Onyszczuk follows suit

Mr. Onyszczuk decided to take legal action against his forced secondment, too. Last Thursday, he filed a lawsuit with the Warsaw Central District Court. He was delegated from the Warszawa-Mokotów District Prosecutor's Office to a unit in Lidzbark Warmiński (263 km away). Just like prosecutor Kwiatkowska, he had already sued the authorities for demoting him in 2016.

Accusing the national and district prosecutor's offices of discrimination and unequal treatment, Mr. Onyszczuk demands compensation of PLN 20.000. - I want the court to review the decision of the National Public Prosecutor and assess whether it was a discriminatory decision against the employee. I do not demand protection by withholding my relocation, because I am already doing my job in the designated unit. I want to show that I will not be scared and cope everywhere. Let the top management at the prosecutor's office understand that no delegation scares me- Mr. Onyszczuk told us.

Other harassed prosecutors announce further lawsuits.

Who else was forcibly seconded? Prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek, whose investigation into the organization of presidential election during the epidemic has been taken away from her, had to move from Mokotów to Śrem (311 km away). Prosecutor Katarzyna Szeska from Warsaw's Wola district is to be relocated to the prosecutor's office in Jarosław (324 km away). Daniel Drapała from the District Prosecutor's Office in Wrocław had been moved to a unit in Goleniów (411 km). Mariusz Krasoń from the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Kraków was delegated to the District Prosecutor's Office in Kraków-Podgórze. It is already his third relocation since he fell out of favour with the ruling camp two years ago. The National Public Prosecutor also decided to delegate Artur Matkowski. He worked at the District Prosecutor's Office in Poznań-Grunwald and was relocated to the District Prosecutor's Office for the city of Rzeszów (over 520 km away from his place of residence). He also sued the prosecutor's office earlier over his salary.

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