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‘Stop or I’ll shoot!’ – a public debate is required before the new law enters into force

A lack of a detailed analysis, insufficient detail in the needs presented and references to an abstract threat – these are the key issues concerning the draft of the new law on the use of physical violence and firearms by public authorities, according to Amnesty International (AI) and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

A joint statement by AI Poland and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has been prepared in response to a request of the Ministry of Interior and Administration asking for an opinion on the draft of the law in question.

‘The issue of the use of physical violence and firearms by authorities is of key importance in democratic society because of the necessity to protect such values as life, health or personal dignity. From this perspective, the Ministry’s initiative to create a comprehensive statutory regulation of this area must be considered appropriate. At the same time we must note that further works need to be accompanied by a serious debate on the form of concrete solutions, taking into account the accepted international standards. In this respect we hope that our position will become a part of this debate,’ reads the joint statement.

The draft proposes to abolish the requirement of firing a warning shot. AI and the HFHR point out that the reasons for the proposed amendment fail to reference any studies or consider the relevant experiences and good practices of other countries. ‘This means that we can’t accept the proposal to abolish the warning shot,’ say the organisations.

The most important modification of the rules governing the use of physical violence is an amendment that would authorise individual law enforcement agencies to use new types of coercive measures. The draft provides for more common use of electric stunning devices such as stun guns. The organisations note that the possession and use of this type of device has to be analysed not only from the angle of legal regulation of the use of physical violence but also in light of the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

In addition, the range of coercive measures available to each law enforcement agency should be discussed in detail on the basis of the actual needs and capacity of the individual agency rather than being presented in general terms.

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