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HFHR comments on situation of Sejm protesters and limited access to parliamentary premises

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has expressed its concerns over the situation of the persons with disabilities and their carers who protest at the Sejm building. The HFHR also protests against the current policy of suspending parliamentary single-entry passes and single-entry press cards.

Protesters’ situation

“We’ve been particularly alarmed by attempts at restricting the personal freedom of protesters, and specifically by, the already revoked, decision of Sejm administrators which prevented certain protesters from talking a walk outside. We also think that the way in which some public persons refer to and comment on the protest is unacceptable”, says Marcin Wolny, a lawyer working for the HFHR.

Foundation’s concerns are are related to accounts of the conditions of the protesters’ stay. “When they decided to start the protest in the Sejm building, the protest leaders were most likely aware that they would need to endure certain inconveniences while conducting their actions. However, this does not release representatives of public authorities from the obligation to respect individuals’ right to privacy and prohibition against violations of one’s dignity”, observes Julia Gerlich, a lawyer working with the HFHR.

Restricted access to Sejm

The HFHR also emphasises in its statement that the decision to suspend the issuance single-entry passes and single-entry press cards constitutes a serious limitation of the right to obtain information about the activities of public authorities, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Sejm administrators explain that the temporary restrictions in access privileges are a consequence if an elevated risk to safety and order. What they failed to explain is how a peaceful protest of persons with disabilities and their carers may contribute to an elevated level of security risk. “In itself, a reference to security considerations may not justify discretionary restrictions imposed on access to the parliamentary grounds”, says HFHR lawyer Konrad Siemaszko. “The ongoing protest of persons with disabilities and their carers seems to be a doubtful justification for limitations of media access; in fact, such a protest should serve as an excellent justification for increased media presence”, Mr Siemaszko adds.

HFHR calls for new approach

“The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights calls for the respective and emphatic consideration of demands made by the protesters and also for the reinstatement of full access of individuals, including journalists, to the buildings under the Sejm’s administration”, the summary of the HFHR’s statement reads.

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