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UPR of Poland: despite impressive steps forward, issues remain similar to the first cycle
Monday, 04 June 2012 13:47

 

On Thursday 30 May, the Working Group of the UPR examined the human rights situation in Poland.  The 23-member delegation was headed by Ms Grażyna Bernatowicz, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland.

 

The delegation opened the session with an extensive review of the significant progress in human rights developments over the last four years, including giving answers to written questions. Mention was made of the creation of the Office of the Ombudsman, the progress made towards ratifying additional international human rights instruments, including the process of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (due to be completed by the end of 2012) and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. The Prevention and Counteracting Domestic Violence Act was amended to completely ban corporal punishment in 2010, while an extensive information campaign about domestic violence has been introduced. In addition, the Government has issued a standing invitation to UN special procedures.

 

A National Action Plan for Equal Treatment (2012-2017) now addresses discrimination based on sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and disability, among other things, while trainings on equal treatment and non-discrimination are also planned for public servants alongside public campaigns. Supporting this, a quota system of 35 % women has been introduced in the electoral law. Furthermore, persons with disabilities have been better integrated into political life by enabling them to vote through proxies or by post, and offering overlays on ballot cards in the Braille alphabet.

 

Note was made of the drop in imprisonment numbers, down to 95% of the capacity of detention centres, through a wider application of alternative punishments. As regards measures taken to address cases of libel and slander, the head of delegation noted that penal sanctions for such cases were reduced in June 2010.

 

Despite these positive developments, States voiced similar concerns to those from the first cycle:

  • While lauding positive steps in fighting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Australia, the UK, the US, Spain, and Brazil recommended implementing further steps to promote and protect LGBT rights as well as the adoption of a law allowing same-sex couples to enter into partnership agreements.
  • Norway, France, Germany, Slovenia, and Sweden held their ground regarding the restrictive State policies and programmes on abortion, recommending that obstacles to women accessing legal therapeutic abortion in line with the 1993 Family Planning Act should be removed. They were met with similar responses to those received during the last review, that action to address these issues was ongoing.
  • Measures to address instances of racist acts and hate crimes, notably anti-Semitic crimes, were of concern for the US, Germany, and Poland. Indeed, the issue of safeguarding the rights of vulnerable groups was mentioned by numerous States. Concerns regarded the rights of migrants, such as those from Roma and Lithuanian communities, and their right to housing, education, and employment, a concern voiced by Malaysia, Thailand, Chile, and Ireland. This led to a call for the ratifying of the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families and the ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers, and the creation of a registry of children of illegal migrants.
  • States also echoed the first cycle recommendations to further improve conditions of detention, particularly for foreigners, as well as to ensure their right to a fair trial, to amend provisions allowing for excessive pre-trial detention, and to ensure access to legal services.
  • Both Cuba and Belarus asked for follow-up to and greater transparency regarding investigations into the secret detention centres allegedly hosted by Poland. Poland responded that since the investigation was pending it could offer no comment.

 

New issues also arose. While lauding legislation to limit sentences for libel and slander, calls were made to review article 212 of the Penal Code relating to criminalising defamation with the aim of removing it from the Penal Code, despite it being found constitutional by the European Court of Human Rights.

 

The Working Group also recommended ratifying the third Optional Protocol on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, enabling individual communications, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, laws to combat the sexual exploitation and prostitution of children, and the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on abolition of the death penalty.

 

The Netherlands made a pertinent point regarding the fiscal situation throughout Europe. Poland retorted that the programmes underway in the country would not be affected by cuts.

 

Poland also used its speaking time to assure States that Polish law already includes race, and gender or sexual orientation of the victim, as aggravating grounds when crime is committed. However, it added that the issue has been raised by numerous Polish NGOs and international bodies, as a result of which the Ministry of Justice has requested the codification commission to further amend Polish law in this respect.

 

The Polish delegation had to confess that pre-trial detention periods were one of the biggest problems to date and that it remained a priority. However, measures such as limiting the grounds on which pre-trial detention can be extended, allowing pre-trial time to be credited against future detention, the use of surveillance as an alternative to detention, and the dissemination to judges of information regarding international standards through training, websites, and books have reduced the numbers of those in pre-trial detention by 35% from 2007 to 2011. Poland also gave assurances that the Roma issue was high on its agenda, with the implementation of a special programme for their full integration into society. It however pointed out that no official complaint had been made regarding Lithuanians’ access to education and called on those with information regarding hate crimes against this community to speak out to ensure that the issue can be addressed.

 

The Polish delegation thanked the Working Group for its work, expressing its appreciation for the constructive dialogue. At the adoption of the report, on 4 June, it was announced that Poland would examine and provide a response to the 124 recommendations made to it no later than the 21st session of the Human Rights Council, in September 2012. 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 June 2012 16:32
 
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