Poland


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Poland Human Rights

Discrimination

In May Poland was referred to the European Court of Justice by the European Commission for failing to incorporate into national law EU legislation prohibiting gender discrimination in access to, and supply of, goods and services. The anti-discrimination legislation had not been adopted by the end of December. However, the government did prepare a draft law to strengthen the powers of the Commissioner for the Protection of Civil Rights to act as an equality body.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Women had difficulty accessing abortion services within the health system even when permitted by law, including in cases when their lives were at risk. Medical service providers and health institutions were not held accountable for denying access to lawful health services or for the consequences of that denial on women's health and lives. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights criticized Poland for not guaranteeing basic sexual and reproductive health services such as contraception and family planning services.

Parliament adopted the Patients' Rights and the Ombudsperson for Patients' Rights Act, which allows any patient to file an objection against a physician's opinion or ruling. Its enactment followed a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Tysiac v Poland that Poland violated the right to respect for private life because it provided no timely or effective means for women to appeal against doctors' decisions to deny them access to abortion services. However, the new law required the Medical Board to rule on a complaint within 30 days, a delay that could be too long for certain medical procedures and thus constitute a violation of the right to health. In addition, the Medical Board was allowed to return a patient's complaint unanswered if they were unable to cite the legal basis of the rights or obligations being claimed. The need to hire a lawyer was a serious disincentive for patients in low or middle income groups.

In June the European Court of Human Rights asked the government to clarify the circumstances of the death in September 2004 of a 25-year-old pregnant woman, Z. In the months before her death, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and an abscess that required three operations to remove. Z was admitted to a number of hospitals, but none would perform a full endoscopy and other diagnostic examinations for fear of risking the life of the fetus, despite appeals from her family. Z miscarried on 5 September 2004 in the fifth month of pregnancy and died from septic shock on 29 September 2004.

Justice system

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on pretrial detentions and prison overcrowding in Poland.

In February, in Kauczor v Poland, the Court concluded that numerous cases of excessively lengthy detention on remand revealed a "malfunctioning of the Polish criminal justice system" that affected large numbers of individuals.

In Jamrozy v Poland, the Court ruled in September that the extensive length of pre-trial detention – more than two years – violated the right to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial.

In October the Court found Poland in violation of the prohibition of torture or degrading treatment. Krzysztof Orchowski had passed most of his prison sentence in a cell with a personal space smaller than 3m² and at times 2m². The government acknowledged that prison overcrowding was systemic.

Freedom of expression

Criminalizing defamation, an offence punishable by up to two years' imprisonment for journalists (Article 212 of the criminal code), had – in at least one case – an adverse effect on freedom of expression.

In February the European Court of Human Rights found that Poland had violated the right to freedom of expression. In 2000 journalist Jacek Dlugolecki was convicted of insulting a politician under Article 212 and fined. The ruling stated that the penalty amounted to a form of censorship and that the conviction was likely to deter journalists from contributing to public discussion or performing their task as public watchdog.

Poland Newsroom



November 19, 2017 • Press Release

Amnesty reveals alarming impact of online abuse against women

New research by Amnesty International has revealed the alarming impact that abuse and harassment on social media are having on women, with women around the world reporting stress, anxiety, or panic attacks as a result of these harmful online experiences.

July 24, 2017 • Press Release

Poland Presidential Veto is a Step Back from the Brink

Following an announcement by Poland’s president Andrzej Duda that he will veto two controversial judicial reform bills which would have granted the ruling Law and Justice Party wide ranging control of the judiciary, Gauri Van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International, said the following.

March 10, 2016 • Press Release

Ai Weiwei, Snowden, Pussy Riot take place of online ads to protest censorship

Messages from Edward Snowden, Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot will be broadcast across the internet by AdBlock and Amnesty International on the World Day against Cyber Censorship, 12 March 2016.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.

February 18, 2016 • Press Release

Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

September 16, 2015 • Report

Targeted by Hatred, Forgotten by Law

Poland’s legal system falls dangerously short when it comes to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and other minority groups from hate crimes, Amnesty International said in a new report today less than two months ahead of general elections.

September 16, 2015 • Press Release

Report: Poland abandoning hundreds of victims of hate crimes

Poland’s legal system falls dangerously short when it comes to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and other minority groups from hate crimes, Amnesty International said in a new report today less than two months ahead of general elections.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

July 28, 2014 • Press Release

Landmark Rulings Expose Poland’s Role in CIA Secret Detention and Torture

Poland is the first European Union member state to be found complicit in the USA's rendition, secret detention and torture of alleged terrorism suspects.