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Meeting with UN Rapporteur on human rights defenders

On 28 November, representatives of several non-governmental organisations have met with Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has proposed the idea for a mutual conversation.

The meeting’s agenda included a discussion on the current situation of activists and non-governmental organisations in Poland and new challenges faced by such entities.

One of the issues raised was the legislative changes that may negatively affect the situation of the civic society, including the proposed amendment to the Assemblies Act and the Institute of National Remembrance Act, and also plans to create the National Centre for Civic Society. It was emphasised that the centralisation of cooperation and financing of NGOs and their direct subordination to the Prime Minister may limit the independence of non-governmental organisations. A note was also made of the expanded surveillance powers of the police and security services, which may have the most detrimental effect on the work of watchdog organisations.

NGO representatives also commented on the witch hunt against non-governmental organisations and activists in the public media as well as other types of attacks targeting activists. They expressed their concerns about the prosecution service’s involvement in court proceedings related to rights of LGBT persons, which may be seen as the acceptance of hate speech and discriminatory practices.

A more detailed summary of the subjects discussed during the meeting has been included in a report, which was presented to the Special Rapporteur.

The mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation was created in 2000 by the UN Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur is tasked with analysing the situation of human rights defenders on a country-by-country basis, engaging in a dialogue with governments and proposing strategies implemented to ensure that human rights defenders may operate safely and effectively.

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