The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed concerns about the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal and common courts, freedom of speech in the public media, observance of the act on family planning and conditions of the termination of a pregnancy, the absence of an effective measures against discrimination and newly enacted laws, namely the Anti-Terror Act and an amendment to the Police Act.
During the mid-October session, the Human Rights Committee reviewed the Polish government’s report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee’s members asked the Polish delegation about issues concerning the work of the Constitutional Tribunal, access to abortion and counteracting racism and xenophobia.
On November 4, 2016, the Human Rights Committee called on the Polish government to respect the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal and publish all its rulings, and also requested that a transparent procedure for the appointment of new constitutional judges be put in place.
The Human Rights Committee also expressed concerns over the budgetary cuts affecting the Commissioner for Human Rights (the national ombudsman) and the abolishment of the Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
The Committee further made a note of two recently enacted legislative acts: the Anti-Terror Act and the latest amendment to the Police Act.
According to the Committee, the definition of a “terrorist crime” is too broad and provisions of the Police Act may be disproportionate from the perspective of the need to protect the right to privacy.
Rights groups report
In concluding observations, the Committee raised several other issues that have appeared in previous recommendations. Those included extensively long application of pre-trial detention, access to the defense lawyer, inquiry into the alleged CIA prisons in Poland, fairness of juvenile justice proceedings and the lack of an effective anti-hate legal framework.
As part of the reporting process, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights presented two reports on Poland’s performance of obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (a commentary on a list of problems and a report on Poland’s adherence to the ICCPR).
Separate reports were also presented by equal treatment organizations (such as the Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law) and the Commissioner for Human Rights – all documents may be accessed here.