Polish Courts are Our Courts

von Maximilian Steinbeis

Dear Friends of Verfassungsblog,

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is apparently still angry about the German comedian Jan Böhmermann and his notorious Schmähgedicht (poem of revilement). Last February, he managed to get the District Court of Hamburg to ban large parts of Böhmermann’s obscenity-laden jibe, but that did not suffice to placate the President’s wrath: He wants to have all parts of the text forbidden, and he is now pursuing this claim before the Court of Appeals. The Hamburg courts are notorious in their own way, given their exceptionally stern view on freedom of speech and privacy infringements, but the ultimate outcome of the lawsuit remains to be seen – and when push comes to shove, there is still the Federal Constitutional Court. In any case, these are all clearly independent judges, who are not beholden to Erdoğan or anyone else in power.

If Böhmermann had to face a Turkish court, he could not be so sure of his judges' independence. Luckily for him, Turkey is not an EU Member State. For if it were, Erdoğan could, according to EU civil procedure law, seek injunctive relief – and maybe also damages and smart money and whatnot – from the jurisdiction of the country of his "center of interest". Which would be Turkey. And any findings by the court in Ankara would in principle have to be recognized and executed by German law officials. Erdoğan might even have unleashed his criminal prosecutors on the hapless comedian; in Turkey you seem to go to prison for way less nowadays. With an EU arrest warrant, Germany might be requested to surrender him to stand to justice in Turkey.

Turkey is not an EU member, so far. But Poland is. Maybe Mr. Böhmermann one day feels like trying his satirical talent at the expense of Jarosław Kaczyński? He should think twice ...

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