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Last updated on 02.10.2018 at 14:28

Poland - Overview

The Polish constitution enshrines protections for the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and these rights have for the most part been respected.

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Poland deports human rights activist as EU takes it to court over rule of law concerns

Poland deports human rights activist as EU takes it to court over rule of law concerns

Lyudmyla Kozlovska, a Ukrainian activist based in Poland, has been deported and banned from entering the Schengen zone.

Association

In August 2018, Ukrainian activist Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s was deported from Poland after her application for permanent residency was rejected. She was also banned from entering the 26 countries of the Schengen Area. Kozlovska runs the Open Dialogue Foundation, a human rights foundation committed to the "protection of human rights, democracy and rule of law in the post-Soviet area". She has run the organisation for nine years without interference from the authorities in Poland. Kozlovska is married to a Polish citizen, Bartosz Kramek, who also works for the foundation.

Kozlovska believes that her deportation was linked to her human rights activism and that of her husband. A spokesman for the Polish government had earlier claimed that they had “serious doubts concerning the financing of the Open Dialogue Foundation, which is run by Ludmila Kozlovska”. The situation turned sour, according to Kozlovska, when her husband called for civil disobedience, strikes and anti-government protests on social media in July 2018. Soon after Kramek’s post, the Polish Foreign Ministry had the foundation's finances reviewed, and attempted to get the existing board of directors replaced. On August 23rd, protestors took to the streets of the Polish capital Warsaw holding photos of Kozlovska and calling for her deportation to be overturned.

In September 2018, the German embassy in Kiev gave Kozlovska an entry permit so that she could address the Bundestag (German parliament) on the human rights situation in Poland. The decision sparked an angry reaction in the pro-government media in Poland, which described Kozlovska as a Soros-paid mercenary.  The German invitation also provoked a negative reaction from some of Poland's most senior government officials. Polish President Andrzej Duda told his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier that the Bundestag's invitation was harmful to bilateral relations between the neighboring countries. On 26th September, Kozlovska was also allowed to travel to Brussels where she spoke at a meeting of a group of MEPs at the European Parliament:

Poland’s relations with Germany and the EU are becoming increasingly strained. On 17th September 2018, Poland was banned from the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) over its courts' perceived lack of independence following controversial government reforms.

On 24th September, the European Commission referred Poland to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) because of the government's refusal to heed calls by Brussels to halt its interference with the Polish Supreme Court.


Association

Freedom of association is generally respected in law and practice in Poland, where a wide range of civil society groups and unions operate without undue interference. There are however concerns that provisions of the new anti-terrorism bill, and provisions of a new Police Act adopted in February 2016, may be used to target individuals and groups working on sensitive topics or expressing dissenting opinions. Specifically, these laws give the authorities wide-ranging powers to conduct surveillance and access personal information, without sufficient safeguards.

Peaceful Assembly

Most recently, tens of thousands took to the streets and organized other meetings and events as part of the “Black protests” to express their opposition to a proposed total ban on abortion.

Freedom of peaceful assembly is generally respected, and protests occur with regularity. Most recently, tens of thousands took to the streets and organized other meetings and events as part of the “Black protests” to express their opposition to a proposed total ban on abortion. Days after the protests, lawmakers rejected the proposal. However, the new anti-terrorism law contains provisions which seriously undermine protected rights. Under the new law, where a sufficiently high ‘state of alarm’ is declared, the Minister of Internal Affairs may order a prohibition on public assembly. Evidentiary support is not required to declare a state of alarm. The law also allows for heightened surveillance, increased police powers to search individuals, and in some cases increased power to shoot to kill.

Expression

The media in Poland is mostly independent and diverse, and freedom of expression and freedom from censorship are constitutionally protected.

The media in Poland is mostly independent and diverse, and freedom of expression and freedom from censorship are constitutionally protected. However, these protections are to some extent undermined by subsidiary laws, including those which make defamation a criminal offence. There are also fears that the new government is seeking to exert greater control over the media. The new anti-terrorism law allows for websites to be blocked without prior judicial order. Additionally, at the end of 2015, parliament passed a law allowing a government minister to appoint and dismiss the supervisory and management boards of public television and radio, thereby undermining guarantees for their independence. President Duda signed the law on 7 January 2016, despite vigorous protests from civil society, the OSCE, and the EU.