For the first time UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examined the report of the Polish government on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights Sylwia Spurek in the opening statement said:
We express our firm opposition to the words used by Mariusz Błaszczak, Minister of National Defence, in an interview that was broadcast by one of TV channels. The words concerned the participants of the Equality March held on 11 August 2018 in the streets of Poznań. The minister’s statement might be considered an expression of hate speech on the grounds of sexual orientation, used in relation to LGBT persons, says a statement of CHR Adam Bodnar and Deputy CHR for Equal Treatment Sylwia Spurek.
Despite his objections to the parliamentary acts on the Supreme Court, the Commissioner for Human Rights filed the first extraordinary complaint to the Supreme Court under the amended regulations. The complaint concerns a family in relation to which, over several years, courts issued two contradictory decisions with regard to succession of property. The CHR emphasized that the constitutional rights of the persons concerned have been violated, as they found themselves in a situation which should not have taken place in a democratic state based on the rule of law.
As former Commissioners for Human Rights we express our opposition to the instrumental treatment of human rights in the national political struggle. We consider disturbing and reprehensible the attempts made to discredit the work and the person of Adam Bodnar, 7th term Commissioner for Human Rights, made by means of a dissenting opinion of the Constitutional Tribunal, a measure used improperly and in bad faith, unprofessionally and in violation of good practice.
The Supreme Court is usually invisible to citizens. On daily basis, an average citizen underestimates the Supreme Court’s important role in the development of the legislative system. Yet, let us look at the Supreme Court’s recent resolution (of 20 June 2018) concerning mortgage loans denominated in Swiss francs.
Firstly, only specialists know what “a resolution of 7 judges” is. Secondly, only specialists understand its legal significance and know how it differs from a court’s ordinary ruling or judgment.
The regulations on cyclical assemblies should be removed from the Polish legislation as they seriously limit the constitutional freedom of assembly, believes the Commissioner for Human Rights. This is his opinion regarding the draft bill amending the Act on Assemblies, submitted by the PO senators.
The Commissioner withdrew from the Constitutional Tribunal his motion regarding the Act of 10 June 2017 on Counter-Terrorism Measures. As the reason, he indicated the change of the formerly determined composition of the Constitutional Tribunal’s adjudicating panel and the fact that the current panel includes three persons not entitled to adjudicate in the Tribunal.
Here in Poland, we are headed into a period of darkness when it comes to legal guarantees, the role of the constitution and the sanctity of EU treaties. Hope is slowly vanishing. We can only hope that — being deprived of institutional guarantees of independence — individual judges will be strong enough to safeguard their own independence in their judicial decision-making.
European politicians must look beyond the next month or year. Everything possible must be done in order to save the independence of Poland’s Supreme Court.
- Without independent courts, there can be no appropriate protection of civil rights and freedoms in Poland, said CHR Adam Bodnar after his meeting with Frans Timmermans. The Commissioner presented his opinion on the reform of the Polish judiciary system to the First Vice-President of the European Commission and concluded that it poses a risk to the independence of the judiciary and the protection of civil rights and freedoms.
The Commissioner for Human Rights and German Institute for Human Rights organized the joint workshop on protection of human rights of older persons which will take place on 7th March, in the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Warsaw.
The Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Poland plays the role of both the national human rights institution (NHRI) and the equality body. It works extensively on the issues of equal treatment, anti-discrimination, and combating all kind of violence also against older persons.
It is necessary to change the legislation and practice concerning people with mental or intellectual disabilities who take part in criminal proceedings. Otherwise, the rights of such persons, their human rights, will be seriously endangered in our country - said Commissioner for Human Rights Adam Bodnar while presenting a report on a two-year survey conducted by the CHR Office experts. In that period they examined over 100 cases of persons with a mental illness or intellectual disability.
The Congress, which was held in December 2017, gathered over 1500 participants in 37 panels co-organized by non-governmental institutions.
Specific Congress recommendations relate to education and civic empowerment, the rights of citizens in their contacts with the judicial system, healthcare, work, home and the position of Poland in Europe.
The Congress, organized by the Commissioner for Human Rights to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the institution of independent ombudsman in Poland, was held on 8-9 December in Warsaw. It consisted of 36 panels on key topics relating to human rights.
The Parliamentary Committee on Justice issued a negative opinion on the CHR’s draft budget for 2018. The ruling coalition MPs attacked the CHR for being focused “on pathological groups" . On the following day, the Parliamentary Committee on Petitions refused to issue its opinion on the petition to dismiss the CHR due to his reply to a TVP reporter’s question as to whether the Holocaust was a solely German crime.
The Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that the regulations which allow so-called eviction to the street of persons living in uniformed service members’ apartments are inconsistent with the Constitution. The ruling is the CHR’s major success in the fight for strengthening the protection of the rights of tenants.
Societies and states, granting themselves the right to sentence people to death, undermine the foundation of human rights: the inalienable dignity of the individual. The consequence of this inevitable dignity is the unconditional right to exist, pointed out Halina Bortnowska, President of the Council of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the initiator of the Polish celebrations of the World Day Against the Death Penalty. On the occasion of the Day, in the CHR Office a conference was held with the participation of scientists and representatives of non-governmental organizations.
I have the honour to present the report on the activity of the Commissioner for Human Rights and on the status of the observance of human and civil rights and freedoms in 2016.
The report is a long document; it has nearly one thousand pages. It covers, however, over 50 thousand cases of people who turned to the Commissioner in the belief that the state and public institutions violated their rights.
The task of the Commissioner is to check, to answer and to help people.
In the Czech city of Brno, an annual V4 meeting was held of ombudspersons from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. In the adopted declaration "Human Rights for Everyone", the Visegrad Group ombudspersons emphasized their common goals and values, as well as the significance of the institution of ombudsman maintaining independence of the authorities. Thanks to such independence, the ombudspersons may support ordinary people in their conflicts with the state.
A 95-year-old Warsaw uprising insurgent wrote to the Commissioner for Human Rights in fear of losing his social benefits as a result of the Act on retirement benefits for persons serving in the state uniformed services and intelligence services under the former political system. The person had once worked for the former Ministry of Internal Affairs. After the matter was made public, the Ministry of Interior and Administration verified his documents and stated he was not covered by the Act’s provisions.
The situation with the Supreme Court is a bit as if here, at the Przystanek Woodstock, Jurek Owsiak tried to determine what should be happening at the festival, said Commissioner for Human Rights Adam Bodnar while speaking with judge Jarosław Gwizdak during the “Academy of Truly Fine Arts” at the 23rd edition of the Przystanek Woodstock festival held in Kostrzyń nad Odrą. The conversation concerned, among others, the judicial system reform and citizens’ communication with the justice system.
„I believe that the recently generated great energy of the citizens may also be used to control staffing decisions in the judiciary sector at every level: the appointments of judges, court presidents, heads of court departments, spokespersons, etc. What should be ensured is the transparency of procedures, assessment of qualifications of candidates, explanations of unclear decision. Non-governmental organizations know how to do it, they have experience. It is important to combine this experience with the energy generated by the protests.
Adam Bodnar was present throughout the parliamentary sessions devoted to the work on the bills on courts. He tried to explain the objections and indicated the threats to the rights of ordinary people, caused by the reform which was proceeded hastily, without consultations, and which covered three bills: on Common Courts, on the National Council of the Judiciary and on the Supreme Court.
Sebastian Kaleta, former press spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and currently a member of the Verification Commission for Property Restitution, posted the formulation on Twitter that the Constitution permits “plowing up” of the courts. These words have inspired me to explain to citizens what this “plowing up” will consist of.
The Government Plenipotentiary for Civil Society, appointed in 2016, was expected to draw up a National Programme for Civil Society Development Support, to provide a basis for further works, including institutional solutions. However, the Programme was not drawn up, and the government submitted a proposal of establishing a new institution, the National Freedom Institute.
The 8th Session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing took place on 5-7 July in UN Headquaters in New York City. That was the first time when National Human Rights Institution were granted the right to speak during UN meetings. Anna Chabiera from the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights spoke on results of research focused on direct and indirect discrimination on the ground of age taking place in Poland.
The system of free legal aid, introduced in early 2016, already requires changes. It turned out that in practice, the aid was used only by a low number of people. Often, persons in need of such aid were not eligible for it as they did not meet the criteria set out in the relevant Act of Parliament. The Commissioner heard about the problem in his meetings across the country, and has thus written to the President of Poland with regard to the matter.
Contrary to what one might expect, the adoption of the three Acts of Parliament relating to the judicial system: the Act on the National Council of the Judiciary, the Act on the System of Common Courts and the most recent Act on the Supreme Court does not serve the purpose of comprehen