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Amnesty International chides Poland in global report on human rights

TVN24 | TVN24 News in English

TVN24 News in English, Amnesty International
Heavy police presence during Women's Day protest in
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tvnwarszawa.plHeavy police presence during Women's Day protest in Warsaw

"The COVID-19 pandemic and some of the measures taken to tackle it had a devastating effect on the lives of millions, but also revealed, and sometimes aggravated, existing patterns of abuses and inequalities" - Amnesty International wrote in its international report for 2020/21. The document closely examines human rights situation across the world. In the section devoted to Poland, the organisation lists, among other things, further erosion of the independence of the judiciary, attack on LGBTI rights, and restricted access to abortion.

Amnesty International Report 2020/21: The State of the World’s Human Rights covers 149 countries and delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights trends globally in 2020. In it, the organization describes those already most marginalized, including women and refugees, as bearing the devastating brunt of the pandemic, as a result of decades of discriminatory policy decisions by world leaders.

The organisation listed a number of the most blatant cases of human rights violation in each country, including Poland.

"The authorities continued to erode the independence of the judiciary. COVID-19 measures served as a pretext to crackdown on peaceful protesters and to restrict access to asylum. Criminal charges were used to curtail freedom of expression. LGBTI rights remained under attack. Authorities attempted to further restrict access to abortion" - the AI summarised the situation in the central-European country.

"Legislation intended to support businesses and workers affected by the pandemic included amendments on unrelated matters. This included enhanced penalties for illegal abortion and for insulting the President" - the report reads.

Furthermore, Amnesty International wrote that "the government continued to implement legal and policy changes that undermined the independence of the judiciary". "Parliament adopted a new law in January imposing severe restrictions on judges’ rights to freedom of expression and association".

"A number of cases against Poland regarding attacks on the judiciary were pending before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In September, the European Parliament adopted a resolution expressing concerns regarding the independence of the judiciary and threats to human rights in Poland" - we read.

Furthermore, "during the electoral campaign, police arrested hundreds of peaceful protesters simply for protesting in the streets and imposed heavy fines. The police especially targeted with fines protesters demanding respect for the independence of the judiciary and those criticizing the lack of support for small companies during the COVID-19 lockdown. The authorities imposed fines against peaceful protesters outside the Trójka state radio station who were opposing censorship of a song".

As regards to freedom of expression and association, the report mentioned activists charged for "replacing advertisements on bus shelters with posters that accused the government of manipulating COVID-19 statistics".

Also "human rights defender Elżbieta Podleśna was indicted for 'offending religious beliefs' for allegedly possessing and distributing posters and stickers depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo".

Polish government also proposed a law "requiring NGOs to declare any sources of foreign funding and to publish them in a public register".

Another problem on the list is persistent and "widespread anti-LGBTI rhetoric from politicians".

"In July, the President signed an anti-LGBTI rights pamphlet before the election called the 'Family Charter', which pledged to ban marriage equality, adoption of children by LGBTI people and LGBTI education in schools" - the report reads.

In August, during a peaceful protest against a prominent activist’s arrest, the police arrested 48 LGBTI activists - the authors add.

"In July, the European Commission rejected six town-twinning applications because local authorities had declared so-called LGBTI-free zones or had adopted 'family rights' resolutions. In September, the head of the European Commission stated that so-called LGBTI-free zones were in fact 'humanity-free zones' that had no place within the European Union" - we read in the report.

Amnesty International also provided data from a report compiled by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, according to which "15% of LGBTI people in Poland had experienced a physical attack or sexual violence in the last five years. This was the highest rate in the EU. Most reported attacks on LGBTI people resulted in no prosecution".

"A parliamentary debate was scheduled for April to address two 'citizens’ initiatives' that would set criminal penalties for sex education in schools and would further restrict access to abortion. Large protests took place, held virtually or while respecting physical distancing owing to COVID-19. Members of Parliament voted to send the bills to parliamentary committees, postponing the debates" - Amnesty International reminded.

In July, the report lists, "the Ministry of Justice announced a plan to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty on violence against women". Polish government also "openly lobbied other countries to withdraw as well".

"In October, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that access to abortion on the ground of 'severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life' are unconstitutional. The Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling will mean an almost total ban on abortion in the country" - the report lists.

Finally, the authors of the report reminded "the CJEU ruled that Poland had failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law by refusing to relocate asylum-seekers under the EU relocation scheme".

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 10 million people in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end abuses of human rights.


Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Amnesty International

Źródło zdjęcia głównego: Tomasz Zieliński /

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