• Sheet of paper Report

Annual Report: Poland 2013

May 23, 2013

Republic of Poland

Head of state Bronislaw Komorowski

Head of government Donald Tusk

The investigation of Poland's involvement in US-led renditions and secret detentions progressed slowly. Public access to information in the case of al-Nashiri being considered by the European Court of Human Rights continued to be denied. Discussions about changes to the law on abortion continued while the European Court ruled that Poland had denied a teenage girl's right to a legal abortion.

Counter-terror and security

The criminal investigation, begun in 2008 into Poland's role in the CIA's rendition and secret detention programmes, was moved in February from the Warsaw Prosecutor's Office to Krakow, raising concerns about further delays and staff changes. The Warsaw Prosecutor's Office had previously granted victim status to Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn (also known as Abu Zubaydah), both of whom remained in detention at Guantánamo Bay. The men alleged that between 2002 and 2003 they were illegally transferred to Poland, subjected to enforced disappearance, held in a secret CIA detention centre and tortured and otherwise ill-treated.

Polish media reported in March that the former head of the Polish Intelligence Agency, Zbigniew Siemiątkowski, and his deputy had been charged with crimes relating to the detention and ill-treatment of people held in secret by the CIA on Polish territory. Polish prosecutors refused to confirm or deny that such charges had been brought. The investigation continued to be conducted in secret and victims expressed concern about access to information and full participation in the proceedings.

The European Parliament adopted a report in September on alleged transportation and illegal detention of prisoners in European countries by the CIA. The report called on all EU member states alleged to have hosted secret CIA detention centres to comply with their legal obligation to conduct independent, impartial, thorough and effective investigations into their involvement in the CIA programmes. The Rapporteur on the report visited Poland in May to discuss Polish complicity in the programmes with the authorities.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights communicated the case of al-Nashiri v. Poland to the Polish authorities. In September, the government submitted its observations confidentially to the Court, which then instructed the al-Nashiri legal team to respond confidentially, so denying public access to information on the case.

Sexual and reproductive rights

In June, Poland's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review. Poland was asked to improve access to reproductive health services, including lawful abortion. In October, parliament rejected a proposal to widen legal access to abortion, introduce comprehensive sex education and subsidize contraception.

  • In October, in the case of P. and S. v. Poland, the European Court of Human Rights held that Poland had violated a 14-year-old girl's right to a lawful abortion, following an alleged rape. Although legally entitled to terminate her pregnancy, she was hindered from timely access to abortion services. Workers in three hospitals, the police and private actors obstructed the girl's access to lawful health care and subjected her to harassment, humiliation and intimidation, including by detaining her in a juvenile centre. The European Court ruled that such treatment violated the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and the rights to private life and to liberty.

Freedom of expression

Defamation continued to be a criminal offence.

  • In April, in the case Kaperzyński v. Poland, the European Court of Human Rights found that Polish authorities interfered with the right to freedom of expression of a journalist who had not published a local authority's reply to his article accusing them of environmental mismanagement. He was given a four-month suspended sentence of community service and banned from working as a journalist for two years. The European Court held that imposing a criminal sentence for a failure to publish a reply was disproportionate and discouraged free debate on issues of public interest.
  • In September, the editor of Antykomor.pl website was sentenced to 10 months' community service for publishing satirical materials about the President of Poland.
  • Also in September, the European Court of Human Rights found that Poland had violated the right to freedom of expression of a local councillor in the case Lewandowska-Malec v. Poland. The councillor had publicly expressed an opinion that the town's mayor was putting extra-legal pressure on the prosecution service in the case relating to alleged fraud by municipality officials in Świątniki Górne. Following a complaint by the mayor, the councillor was found guilty of defamation in 2006. The European Court held that imposing a criminal sentence – in this case a fine of 1,900 euros – was disproportionate.

Refugees and migrants

In October, Poland announced its plan to introduce a ban on detaining unaccompanied migrant children under 13 years of age. However, according to available statistics, most unaccompanied children in Poland were over 13 years old. In September, Poland rejected the full implementation of the recommendation of the UN Universal Periodic Review for a complete ban on placing migrant minors in detention facilities.