Polish Courts Mostly 'Fair and Professional' in Handling Freedom of Assembly Cases - Report

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights's report, entitled "Freedom of Assembly in the Practice of Polish Courts", presents an analysis of the monitoring of court proceedings brought against citizens participating in public assemblies.

The report covers the findings of 250 monitoring sessions held in 142 cases. Monitoring was carried out in 16 common courts throughout the country between March 2018 and June 2019.

The proceedings monitored by the Foundation concerned events that took place during such events as “Smolensk monthlies”, independence marches, assemblies organised by the far-right movement ONR, demonstrations held in the vicinity of the Parliament building, protests in the Białowieża Forest, Memorial Marches for Cursed Soldiers, and anti-government demonstrations.

Analysis found that court proceedings were usually fair and professional

During the monitoring sessions, HFHR representatives examined the details of hearings and the conduct of judges, public prosecutors, witnesses and the audience present in court.

“A review of the comments made by HFHR monitors shows that in the majority of cases judges, public prosecutors and attorneys treated the parties respectfully and the proceedings were conducted in a fair and professional manner”, says Justyna Jezierska, HFHR lawyer and the author of the publication.

The report shows that the vast majority of cases monitored by the HFHR ended with an acquittal or discontinuation. Justifying these rulings, the courts frequently invoked the guarantees stemming from the European Convention on Human Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“The courts recalled that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is a cornerstone of a democratic society, whose fundamental functions include providing a forum for public debate. Peaceful assemblies are intended to protect the common interests of the people and to express personal convictions of citizens”, Ms Jezierska adds.

The authors of the report point out that the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights intends to continue its monitoring of court proceedings involving participants in public assemblies in Poland.