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    January 28, 2021

    Following the publication by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal of the ruling invalidating the constitutionality of access to abortion on the ground of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life”, Esther Major, Senior Research Adviser at Amnesty International, said:

    “Today is a terrible day for women and girls in Poland. This harmful ruling roll back on pregnant people's sexual and reproductive rights and puts their health at risk.

    “This dangerous ruling is the latest in a coordinated and systematic wave of attacks on women’s human rights by Polish lawmakers. Legal prohibitions on abortion do not prevent abortion or reduce the rates of abortion. Instead, they serve only to damage women’s health by pushing abortions underground or forcing women to travel to foreign countries to access abortion care they need and to which they have a right.

    “We stand in solidarity with women and girls in Poland and share in their outrage at this cruel decision.”

    For more information or to arrange an interview contact:

    October 24, 2019

    On October 24, 2019, we received wonderful news from Poland in the case of 14 brave human rights defenders who stood up to fascism with their banner “Fascism stop!” during the Independence Day march in 2017. A Polish court declared that the women, who had been charged with “interference with a lawful assembly”, were not guilty.

    During the annual Independence Day march in Warsaw in 2017, when many far-right protestors gathered calling for things like a “white Poland”, the 14 women refused to let it go unchallenged. They headed to the Poniatowski Bridge to peacefully confront the hatred.

    What they encountered there was deeply disturbing. Hundreds of people brandishing racist and fascist symbols, messages saying things like “Europe will be white or deserted”, and members of far-right groups and their sympathizers holding flares and throwing firecrackers. Undeterred by the aggression in the air, the women unfurled their own banner saying “Fascism stop!”.

    June 24, 2019

    The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled today that Poland’s contested Law on the Supreme Court is in breach of EU law. Under an interim decision from the CJEU from November 2018, Polish authorities had already been ordered to restore the Supreme Court to its composition before April 2018, when the law came into force.

    In response to the news, Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, said:

    “Today the European Union’s top court has confirmed what we have long been saying, that the Polish government acted against EU law when it attempted to force almost a third of Supreme Court judges to retire and attempted to exert control over the judiciary.”

    The amendment of the Law on the Supreme Court is part of a broader “reform” of the judiciary in Poland. Amnesty International considers that these changes effectively politicize the judiciary and undermine its independence.

    May 06, 2019

    Responding to news that the Polish authorities detained an activist, Elżbieta Podlesna for several hours, on suspicion of offending religious beliefs, Amnesty International’s Regional Europe Researcher, Barbora Cernusakova, said:

    “We are extremely concerned to hear that Elżbieta Podlesna, a Polish human rights activist, was arrested and detained for several hours on spurious charges today upon her return to Poland from a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands with Amnesty International.

    Elżbieta is suspected of "offending religious beliefs", after the police claimed that they found copies of a posters depicting the Virgin Mary with a halo around head and shoulders in the colours of the LGBTQ flag in her house when they raided it. The image had been posted around the town of Płock at the end of April.

    December 11, 2018

    The Human Rights and Climate Change working group, together with other coalitions working on gender, just transition, Indigenous peoples, and youth, have been working hard at the international climate change negotiations in Poland to make sure that human rights and other principles referred to in the preamble of the Paris climate agreement are also explicitly referenced in the Paris rule book that will guide countries in the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

    Unfortunately the outcome is not looking good, as references to human rights have now been reduced compared to the initial negotiated text. 

    July 24, 2018

    Ahead of the Senate vote on a bill that would further undermine judicial independence by making it easier for the government to replace the president of the Supreme Court, Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International European Institutions Office, said:

    “This cynical attempt to speed through a law just so the president of the Supreme Court, Małgorzata Gersdorf, can be ousted before European Commission action can be taken, must be resolutely rejected.

    “The passing of this bill – part of a deliberate attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary by subjecting it to political influence and control - will strip away what are some of the last remaining vestiges of judicial independence.

    “Legal proceedings launched by the European Commission into the law which will force Supreme Court judges to retire early, must be allowed to run their course. Poland’s Senators should reject this bill, the President should not sign it and the European Commission immediately request interim measures to prevent the further devastation of Poland’s judiciary.”

    June 25, 2018

    Despite an escalating crackdown on peaceful protest, people in Poland continue to take to the streets and courageously demonstrate against abuse of their rights and threats to the rule of law, Amnesty International said in a new report.

    The Power of ‘the street’: Protecting the right to peaceful protest in Poland, documents how people are taking to the street in an environment where restrictive legislation combined with heavy-handed policing, surveillance, harassment and prosecution threaten to strangle the right to peaceful protest.

    “Protestors’ refusal to stay silent is a testament to their resilience. Polish authorities are threatening peaceful protestors with detention and prosecution, while in some cases police officers have even beaten and mistreated them. Many protestors are also put under surveillance as peaceful protest is increasingly criminalized,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    July 26, 2017
      Responding to an announcement by the European Commission (EC) that it is launching infringement proceedings against Poland, and stands ready to trigger legal action if laws are passed giving the government tighter controls over the judiciary, Gauri Van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International, said:   “The message from the EU is clear: respect the rule of law, or face serious sanctions. These reforms would seriously compromise the independence of the courts and severely undermine the right to fair trial in Poland, and are out of step with European standards and the Polish Constitution.   “The government’s assault on the justice system calls for an extraordinary response from the EU, and the EC must be prepared to follow through on its words and trigger Article 7 if these alarming reforms are written into law.  
    July 19, 2017
      Following the news that the European Union has threatened to trigger Article 7 against Poland if currently tabled judicial reforms are passed into law, Iverna McGowan Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office said:   “Triggering Article 7 would be an unprecedented move, and the strong message sent by the EU today that it is close to making that step is a welcome demonstration of the seriousness with which it’s taking the assault on judicial independence in Poland.   “The Law and Justice Party’s ongoing efforts to dismantle Poland’s system of checks and balances is at a critical phase. The prosecution service and the Constitutional Tribunal of the country’s justice system is already under the political control of the government. Successful passage of these current reforms would amount to a wholesale political takeover of the judiciary. The consequences of this for the future integrity of Polish justice are far reaching and deeply concerning.’’  
    July 18, 2017
      Amnesty International is alarmed by the amendments to the Law on the National Council of Judiciary and the Law on Common Courts adopted by the parliament: the lower chamber, Sejm on 12 July and the Senate on 15 July. The amendments are now awaiting the signature of the President of Poland. Another amendment, of the Law on the Supreme Court, put on the agenda of Sejm at night of 12 July raises further concerns over the government’s attempt to put the judiciary under political control.   This amendment is going for the first hearing on 18 July. The changes and why they are problematic are listed below.   These changes follow earlier, already problematic amendments to the composition of the Constitutional Tribunal that severely affected its independence to the extent that the European Commission issued a recommendation under the Rule of Law Framework in which it found that there was a “systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland”.  Another source of concern in relation to the independence of the justice system is the large-scale personnel changes in the prosecution service carried out in 2016.
    May 11, 2016

    The Polish government is today putting before parliament an anti-terrorism bill to consolidate power in the hands of the Polish Internal Security Agency (ISA). In its bid to have the new law in place by 1 June 2016, the government has failed to seek input from human rights or other civil society organizations. In response to the proposed bill, Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counterterrorism and human rights, said:

    “The Polish government is trying to rush through a dangerous anti-terrorism bill that would give seemingly unlimited powers to its intelligence services without allowing for democratic oversight of its operations. The Polish parliament must reject this bill and call for an effective oversight mechanism to be put in place with a view to ensuring that human rights are protected."

    The bill includes provisions for banning assemblies and public protests, as well as long pre-trial detention periods and discriminatory measures targeting foreigners in Poland. It will also give the ISA new powers to access data held by virtually every government agency and private companies. 

    September 17, 2015

    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.

    Targeted by hatred, forgotten by law shows how the state has excluded whole communities from hate crime legislation, including homeless people, people with disabilities and the LGBTI community.

    “Poland has a two-tiered legal system that protects some minority groups but leaves others to fend for themselves. If you are a gay man or woman, a person with a disability or a homeless person in Poland and attacked because of who you are, the police will just treat it as an ordinary crime, not as a hate crime – this dangerous protection gap must be closed immediately,” said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination in Europe and Central Asia.

    July 24, 2014

    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, Amnesty International said as it applauded two landmark human rights judgments handed down today. 

    The European Court of Human Rights found that the Polish government colluded with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to establish a secret prison at Stare Kiejkuty, which operated between 2002 and 2005. At the site, 180 km north of Warsaw, detainees were held in secret detention and tortured.

    “Today’s historic rulings finally unlock the truth about a dark period of Poland’s recent history and mark a milestone against impunity. Poland knowingly became part of the USA’s illegal network of black sites that was used to secretly detain and torture individuals rounded up in counter-terrorism operations,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.

    October 30, 2013

    By granting “injured person” status to a torture survivor currently detained by the US military at Guantánamo Bay, the Polish authorities are a step closer to revealing the truth about the US-led secret detention and rendition program in Poland, Amnesty International said today.

    Yemeni national Walid Mohammed bin Attash is the third person to be recognized as a victim by the Polish Prosecutor General in its five-year investigation into alleged human rights violations by the CIA on Polish territory.

    "Walid bin Attash’s allegations of torture are extremely serious and deserve investigation – it is good that the Polish prosecutors agree,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights. 

    “This development should provide the much-needed push forward for the lagging investigation, which is now over five years running.”


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