Poland

Polish Women’s Strike activists targeted by the state: Our livelihoods and families are under threat

On 27th January 2021 the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling, which outlaws abortion in cases of foetal abnormalities, was published in the Polish Journal of Laws, and came into effect. Following the ruling's enforcement, protesters took to the streets, and demonstrations are expected to continue in the weeks to come. Thus far at least 150 people have been detained during protests. Founders of the Polish Womens Strike have been charged for their role in protests. Police have used execessive force, tear gas, pepper spray, kettling tactics and physical violence. They have also used concerning detention methods which were documented in a recent report by the Polish ombudsperson. Amid these protests, censorship is a concern, with a draft law proposed which aims to prohibit social media platforms from blocking, banning or removing content that does not violate Polish law. In a further threat to press freedom, the government is pushing to introduce an advertising tax which will adversely impact independent media.
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Polish Women’s Strike activists targeted by the state: Our livelihoods and families are under threat

Civic space under threat: protesters intimidated, journalists attacked, LGBTI rights targeted

On 22nd October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion due to foetal abnormality is unconstitutional, sparking massive protests around Poland. Protesters have been met with the use of excessive force, physical violence and detention. In a concerning development, protesters including minors have been intimidated and threatened with charges for participating in protests. Journalists covering protests have faced detentions and the use of excessive force - including being pepper sprayed and beaten by police batons. Meanwhile LGBTI rights remain under attack, with a proposal to ban LGBTI parades and public gatherings submitted to the Polish Parliament. In a "Hungarian style takeover" of independent media, PKN Orlen -- a state-owned oil company -announced the acquisition of Polska Press- one of the country’s largest media publishers with an audience of 17,4 million internet users. The CEO of PKN Orlen, Daniel Obajtek, is said to be a loyal supporter of Law and Justice party president Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Read more  |  Read in Polish

Civic space under threat: protesters intimidated, journalists attacked, LGBTI rights targeted

Government stalls near abortion ban; while women protest leaders face threats to their safety

As reported in our previous update, on 22nd October 2020 the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland ruled to impose a near-ban on abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother is in lethal danger due to her pregnancy. The latest attack on women's sexual and reproductive health rights has led to thousands taking to the streets to protest. On the ninth consecutive day of protests, 30th October 2020, the largest protest since the fall of communism in 1989 was staged in Poland. It is estimated that about half a million people attended demonstrations which took place in various cities across the country. Following almost two weeks of continuous protests, on 3rd November 2020 the ruling PiS party announced that it is delaying the publication of the Tribunal decision and its implementation. Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) from the Women's Strike, organisers of protests, report facing continuous threats, to the extent where they cannot return to their homes due to fears for their safety. Several incidents of violence have been documented against protesters and journalists.
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Government stalls near abortion ban; while women protest leaders face threats to their safety

Thousands protest as Constitutional Tribunal imposes a near ban on abortion

On 22nd October 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal of Poland ruled that access to abortion care on the grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life” is unconstitutional. The court’s decision outlaws almost all abortions accept in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother is in lethal danger due to her pregnancy. Poland's abortion laws were already among the strictest in Europe and it is estimated that about 100,000 women seek a termination abroad each year to get around the tight restrictions. Following this ruling , people in Poland have staged protests since 22nd October 2020 across the country. The protests have been joined by a variety of groups including miners, taxi drivers, farmers and trade unions. However, protesters have been met with the use of excessive force, including tear gas, pepper spray and physical assault. Thus far, 17 people have been detained, but this figure may be underreported. The Prime Minister has also announced that the miltary will be deployed for COVID-19 emergency reasons. Read more  |  Read in Polish

Thousands protest as Constitutional Tribunal imposes a near ban on abortion

Crackdown on LGBTI rights continues; feminists protest over withdrawal from domestic violence treaty

In July 2020, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced that Poland would begin the process of withdrawing its ratification from the European convention on preventing violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention. The announcement by the government sparked massive protests on 24th July 2020 in Warsaw. Thousands of women, gathered outside the offices of Ordo Iuris, a conservative right-wing legal foundation. Meanwhile the government has continued its crackdown on LGBTI rights. On 7th August 2020, an activist of the queer collective “Stop Nonsense” known as Margot S was arrested on charges of earlier vandalising a van belonging to a homophobic group and attacking its driver and for hanging LGBTI rainbow flags on Warsaw statues. When a crowd of protesters tried to block the police car that was taking Margot, and the police began to arrest them. Forty-eight people were arrested in total and are facing sentences of up to three years.
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Crackdown on LGBTI rights continues; feminists protest over withdrawal from domestic violence treaty

Duda narrowly wins election; Public TV serve as a mouthpiece, independent media come under attack

On 12th July 2020, the incumbent president, Andrzej Duda (supported by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party) faced a runoff vote against Rafal Trzaskowski, Warsaw mayor and presidential candidate from the main opposition centre-right Civic Platform (PO) party. Duda narrowly secured a victory, winning 51,2% of the vote. Duda’s campaign focused on emphasising “traditional family values,” and on attacking the LGBTI community. The reporting period saw concerning developments regarding freedom of expression. Independent media outlet Gazeta Wyborcza, for example, has repeatedly been subjected to legal attacks by the governing party. Government also continued to attack domestic foreign-owned media outlets. In addition a report found that during the run up to the first round of presidential elections, public television was biased in favour of Duda, while painting the opposition in a negative light. Read more

Duda narrowly wins election; Public TV serve as a mouthpiece, independent media come under attack

Elections to go ahead during Coronavirus pandemic; campaign warns voters ‘elections can kill’

While several European countries declared a state of emergency and justified the exceptional measures and rights restrictions introduced, the Polish government has refrained from doing so. Under Polish law, introducing a state of emergency would delay any election by 60 days after it is lifted. However, the governing Law and Justice party (PiS) insists that the presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for 10th May 2020, must go ahead as planned. On 6th April 2020 Polish lawmakers voted for the elections to go ahead through a postal vote. In response to the decision to go ahead with elections, an informal group of activists who call themselves the headquarters of a spontaneous civic campaign have begun placing billboards in PiS strongholds reading: “May elections can kill. " Read more

Elections to go ahead during Coronavirus pandemic; campaign warns voters ‘elections can kill’

New law set to erode judicial independence and municipalities declared “LGBTI Free- Zones”

During the past few months, the Polish government has continued its quest to destroy the independence of the judiciary. Unaffected by protests and international outcry, President Andrzej Duda approved legisation which radically restricts judicial independence. In a separate development, close to a hundred municipalties have adopted resolutions against "LGBTI propaganda”. Meanwhile the government has continued to attack journalists. Read more

New law set to erode judicial independence and municipalities declared “LGBTI Free- Zones”

Poland: Attempts to compromise the judiciary, a threat on media independence and attacks on LGBTQIA+

Poland faces threats to judicial independence, media freedom and a clamp down on LGBTQIA+ rights. Read more

Poland: Attempts to compromise the judiciary, a threat on media independence and attacks on LGBTQIA+

Poland faces EU legal action over reforms undermining judicial independence

Poland’s conservative government is facing legal actions by the European Union over controversial judicial reforms adopted in April 2018. The European Union Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union argue that these reforms threaten independence of the judges and are in violation of the EU law. Additionally, the Human Rights Ombudsman faced serious threats by state-owned media, as LGBT marches proceeded defying threats, hate speech and ban attempts. Read more

Poland faces EU legal action over reforms undermining judicial independence