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HFHR comments on Re-privatisation Review Commission Bill

The HFHR has presented an opinion on the government-sponsored Re-privatisation Review Commission Bill. The opinion, delivered to the Sejm Legislative Committee, read that the proposed law is incapable of attaining any of the objectives set by sponsors of the Bill.

The key element of the proposal is the appointment of a special Committee tasked with reviewing re-privatisation decisions issued for real property nationalised under the so-called Bierut Decree. If the Commission finds that certain grounds defined in the new law are satisfied, it will be able to revoke a decision or even oblige the decision’s recipient to return obtained benefits. According to sponsors of the Bill, the purpose of establishing the Commission is to facilitate detection of violations of law that occurred during the re-privatisation proceedings conducted in Warsaw and also to protect tenants of re-privatised buildings.

The opinion also indicates that irregularities appearing in re-privatisation cases can be detected and their consequences corrected as part of already existing procedures and no extraordinary measures are needed to attain this goal, especially considering the dubious effectiveness of such measures.

In the opinion of the HFHR, the proposed law will not enhance protection of tenants. “The negative phenomena related to the infamous ‘townhouse cleaning’ may appear also in cases where re-privatisation is completely legal. If the legislator wants to ensure that tenants are protected, a better option will be to amend the Tenant Protection Act rather than create an extraordinary procedure for reviewing final decisions”, says Marcin Szwed.

The HFHR also criticised the unlimited temporal scope of the application of the proposed law, according to which the Commission may revoke re-privatisation decisions issued even decades earlier.

The Foundation criticised another proposal, namely empowering the Commission to revoke final administrative decisions based on laws introduced with a retroactive effect. The HFHR argues that this is contrary to the constitutional principles of protection of acquired rights and an individual’s trust in the state and law. “It is even more inadmissible given that the newly proposed grounds for revocation of decisions are not linked to the legality of re-privatisation proceedings. The grounds allow for challenging lawfully issued decisions whenever violence was used against tenants after a decision was made or where the Commission rules that claims to a property had been sold for depressed prices”, Mr Szwed notes.

The opinion states that the only way to deal with the problems related to re-privatisation once and for all is to enact a comprehensive law that would award the right to compensation to all owners of the property nationalised in the era of People’s Republic of Poland, in Warsaw and elsewhere, which would extinguish all their claims. The HFHR emphasised that neither the European Convention on Human Rights nor the Constitution of the Republic of Poland requires such compensation to represent the full market value of lost property.

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