Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Poland

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 24 May 2012
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Poland, 24 May 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fbe39182b.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Head of state: Bronislaw Komorowski
Head of government: Donald Tusk
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 38.3 million
Life expectancy: 76.1 years
Under-5 mortality: 6.7 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 99.5 per cent

The Ombudsperson expressed concerns over the growing number of racist and xenophobic attacks. The parliament rejected a proposal for a total ban on abortion. Concerns were expressed by NGOs over the detention of child asylum-seekers.

Background

The ruling political party, Civic Platform, won the parliamentary elections in October. New members of parliament included two LGBT rights activists, an expert and activist on sexual and reproductive rights and two people of African origin. For the first time in Poland, women were elected to the parliamentary roles of speaker and vice-speaker.

Counter-terror and security

In July, the Prosecutor's Office decided to extend the investigation into Poland's alleged involvement in the CIA's rendition and secret detention programmes for another six months. According to a Radio RMF FM report in September, the President rejected a request by the Prosecutor's Office to relieve former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski of his duty to keep state secrets and allow him to testify. No other information about the progress or outcomes of the investigation had been made public by the end of the year.

In October, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution calling on the Polish prosecuting authorities to "persevere in seeking to establish the truth about the allegations of secret CIA detentions". The resolution also noted that the parliament had "confined [itself] to inquiries whose main purpose seems to have been to defend the official position of the national authorities."

Discrimination

The government failed to allocate the necessary resources to ensure the Ombudsperson's office could carry out its new role as an equality body. Antidiscrimination legislation adopted in December 2010 had entrusted the Ombudsperson to help victims of discrimination to pursue complaints, and to conduct independent research and issue recommendations in relation to equal treatment. The government argued that the new competences could be met without additional funding. However, the Ombudsperson stated in May that there was no specialized antidiscrimination unit in her office due to lack of funding, and that it was illegal to impose new competences on a public body without allocating sufficient resources.

Racism

In October, in a letter to the Prosecutor General, the Ombudsperson also raised concerns about the growing number of racially motivated and xenophobic attacks brought to her attention, and called on the Prosecutor to take the necessary measures to address these crimes.

Freedom of expression

Poland continued to be criticized for legislation criminalizing defamation, which was found potentially to have had an adverse effect on freedom of expression.

  • In July, in Wizerkaniuk v. Poland, the European Court of Human Rights found Poland in violation of the right to freedom of expression. Journalist Jerzy Wizerkaniuk had appealed against a local court judgement and fine for publishing parts of an interview with a local member of parliament without prior consent. The Court held that the provisions of the 1984 Press Act, which allow for criminal sanctions against journalists, did not adequately reflect the significance of freedom of expression in a democratic society. It concluded that criminal sanction was disproportionate in such circumstances, where civil remedies were available for protection of reputation.

Justice system

  • In May, in Bogusław Krawczak v. Poland, the European Court ruled that Poland had violated the right to trial within a reasonable time. Bogusław Krawczak had been in pre-trial detention for almost four years. The Court also held that arbitrary restrictions on physical contact with his family had violated his right to private and family life.

Prison conditions

In July, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture raised concerns about prison conditions for detainees. They included overcrowding, inadequate provision of health care, ill-treatment by police officers and the lack of a developed legal aid system. The Committee called on the Polish authorities to review the regulation on living space for prisoners, and to ensure at least 4m² per inmate in multi-occupancy cells. In September, the Ministry of Justice maintained that, due to high prison population levels, it was impossible to guarantee each inmate the space defined by the Committee. According to the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, 4,370 claims for compensation or personal injury were brought before the courts in relation to placements in overpopulated cells.

Sexual and reproductive rights

In September, parliament rejected a proposed amendment to the 1993 Family Planning Act to ban abortion in all circumstances. It remained lawful in three strictly defined circumstances: when the pregnancy endangers a woman's life or health; in cases where prenatal or other medical tests indicate a high risk that the foetus will be severely and irreversibly damaged or suffer from an incurable life-threatening disease; and where there are strong grounds for believing that the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act.

  • Poland violated the right not to be subjected to torture and inhuman treatment and the right to private and family life of a pregnant woman, R.R., who was denied timely access to genetic tests. The European Court held that as a result of procrastination and refusal by medical professionals, R.R. had to endure weeks of painful uncertainty concerning the health of the foetus and her own and her family's future. Such treatment amounted to humiliation. The child was born with Turner syndrome and R.R.'s husband left her. The European Court emphasized that, as domestic law allowed for abortion in cases of foetal abnormality, a pregnant woman must have access to full and reliable information on the foetus' health.

  • The case of an adolescent rape victim, who was subjected to delays and harassment in accessing a legal abortion, was ruled admissible by the European Court in September.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In July, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Legal Intervention Association and the Halina Nieć Legal Aid Centre expressed concerns over the detention of children alongside their adult relatives, who were being held solely for immigration purposes.

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