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Helsinki Foundation stands up for detained protesters

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has intervened with the Chief Commissioner of the Police and a prosecutor with a Circuit Prosecutor’s Office regarding the possibility of serious violations of law during the protests before the Sejm that took place last Friday, on 20 July 2018.

Protesters detained

According to media reports, four people were detained during the protest and charged with physically assaulting police officers present at the scene. A detained protester named Dawid Winiarski was rushed to hospital after police intervention. He claims to have been taken out of the crowd by several police officers, who then hit him repeatedly against a wall, then knocked him down to the ground and continued to beat him. The man was released from hospital on Saturday morning and transported to a police station.

Bartosz Adamczyk was the second person who was hospitalised after the police action on Friday. A recording of his arrest (made by Civil Platform MP Michał Szczerba) shows Mr Adamczyk being escorted by police officers with blood on his face. He alleges that the police were choking him and pressing his head to the ground with their combat boots. Moreover, according to Mr Adamczyk, “the police officers were saying to each other, ‘choke him more’”.

Inappropriate police behaviour can also be seen in many videos posted on social media. The police twisted out protesters’ hands, pinched them, and pressed on them. One of the recordings shows a man’s bullhorn being thrown out of his hand by a police officer and violently hitting another officer seconds later. Immediately afterwards, the bullhorn-wielding protester was taken out of the crowd, thrown over the railings and dragged on the pavement. He was tackled to the ground and handcuffed. The man was later charged with an assault against a police officer.

 Violation of European Convention’s Article 3

Responding to these events, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has sent a letter to the Chief Commissioner of the Police and to a prosecutor of the Circuit Prosecutor’s Office, in which it invoked the principle of prohibition of torture laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights, and in the Constitution. HFHR lawyer Piotr Kubaszewski notes: “The prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is of fundamental importance and subject to no exceptions. This prohibition applies in particular to public officials, including police officers on duty.”

Dr Piotr Kładoczny, another member of HFHR legal team, adds: “if a person has remained in good health and condition while deprived of liberty, but later injuries or signs of violence appear on their body, then it is the responsibility of the state to reliably explain how such injuries occurred”.

Officers’ responsibility for life and health of arrestees

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that the state has an absolute obligation to comprehensively investigate every case in which public officials might have violated the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. Accordingly, the HFHR asked the authorities to explain the incidents that s that had occurred during the demonstrations of 20 and 21 July 2018.

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