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Helsinki Committee & HFHR: nobody can serve for the same crime twice

A joint statement by the Helsinki Committee in Poland and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights warns that the draft law “on proceedings against mentally disturbed persons who pose threat to life, health or sexual liberty of others” may infringe human rights protection standards.

Let us remind our readers that the Ministry of Justice is currently working on a special statute that will give authorities power to isolate the most dangerous offenders. The legislative change results from the fact that the year 2014 marks the end of prison terms for the people sentenced for death in the Communist Poland whose penalty was later commuted to 25 years in prison.

The draft law provides for setting up “centres for personality treatment” operating as part of the mental health care system. The centres would serve to accommodate convicts who have completed their prison term but may still pose a threat to others.

“We expect the newly appointed Ministry of Justice to launch a serious discussion before this draft law is enacted, a discussion substantially guided by opinions of experts”, says Danuta Przywara, President of the HFHR. According to the statement signatories, only a fact-based discussion on the proposed legislative changes can result in once again “making the public and policy makers aware of and concerned about the prison as an important public institution.”

The signatories also argue to consider whether the rules of institutionalisation set out in the draft act are transparent enough. “We fear that imprecise rules guiding the placement of convicts in those centres will become a tool for administrative correction of judicial sentences”, says Dr. Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President.

In their statement, the Helsinki Committee and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights reiterate that human rights can be exercised by all individuals, including incarcerated persons. “Human rights defenders and advocates are not supporters of criminals but oppose de-humanising and excluding any human being from the area where fundamental rights operate”, says Halina Bortnowska-D_browska, Member of Helsinki Committee and the Council of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

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