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The regress of democratic and liberal human rights standards – Helsinki Committee’s in Poland statement

“The two years that passed since November 2015 have brought the highest number of challenges and threats to human rights and freedoms in the entire post-1989 period”, reads today’s statement of the Helsinki Committee in Poland.

In the statement, the Committee members indicate that the end of 2015 was the starting point for an array of events which call for stepping up efforts in the area of human rights monitoring. These events include, above all, the growing constitutional crisis, legislative changes leading to the abolishment of an effective constitutional review system and the undermining of the role of courts as guarantors of a true division of powers.

Statement of Helsinki Committee in Poland

Since 1983, the Helsinki Committee in Poland has been monitoring violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and reviews the compliance of Poland’s legislation with the country’s international obligations. In 1990, the Committee entered into a strategic alliance with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Over the course of last two years, the Foundation and Committee dozens of times voiced their joint opinions on the protection of the rule of law and human rights in Poland.

“We have spoken against the primacy of force over law and the abandoning of the perception of the Constitution as a legal act enacted not only for the citizens but everybody remaining under the authority of the Polish state, an act whose effective implementation requires a bona fide collaboration between all three branches”, the statement reads.

The Helsinki Committee in Poland has also criticised amendments to the Constitutional Tribunal Act, changes to the Assemblies Act, an amendment to the Courts Act, or amendments to the Supreme Court Act and the National Judiciary Council Act.

Decline of democratic and freedom human rights standards

In a statement issued today, the members of the Helsinki Committee in Poland note that the recently introduced legislative changes constituted “a well-thought development of a ‘multiple-step technical process’ to implement far-reaching changes of legislation that restrict the liberty of individuals and simultaneously laying the groundwork for the expansion of arbitrary, non-transparent and judicially unsupervised powers of the executive”.

This negative trend has manifested, for example, in legislative changes that abolished the effective judicial review system previously operated by the Constitutional Tribunal; the practical departure from the principle of a society open for all, which led to a shift in policies towards social minorities; a change of the position of the judiciary as one of the branches of government and the ensuing decrease in the impact of courts as guarantors of a stable and balanced constitutional system, the liquidation of the public media or the Civil Service Corps, and the subordination of the Parliament and Government to a non-accountable centre of political power.

“We will monitor, assess and publicise the upcoming changes and destructive processes, being fully aware that we act in conditions of a decline of democratic and freedom human rights standards and departure from constitutional principles of a state ruled by law”, members of the Helsinki Committee in Poland wrote.


Helsinki Committee in Poland has expressed its concerns regarding among others changes in the Act on the Constitutional Tribunal, amendments to the Act on Assemblies, amendments to the Act on the common courts and amendments to Acts on the Supreme Court and the National Council of the Judiciary in Poland.


The statement is available here.

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