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UN Universal Periodic Review of Poland slated for May

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Human Rights in Poland will take place on the 9 May session of the Human Rights Council. The UPR is a standard and cyclical procedure designed to assess the human rights record of UN member states.

Preparation of government’s report

As part of the process, the Polish Government prepared in January a report on human rights protection in Poland. In the report, the Government points to the positive developments in the areas of justice, media pluralism or addressing racism and xenophobia.

“There are solid foundations for the legal and institutional framework of the protection and advancement of human rights in Poland”, reads the report.

The Government also notes that the report was consulted with representatives of non-governmental organisations. While working on the report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised one meeting with representatives of non-governmental organisations.

However, a full version of the report was not disclosed to NGOs and their comments submitted during the meeting was not included in the report’s final version.

Reports of NGOs

According to many non-governmental organisations, including the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Campaign Against Homophobia and Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law, the governmental report is silent on a number of significant changes that have been introduced recently and substantially lowered the national standards of human rights protection.

In the beginning of April, the organisations presented their reports during a special session in Geneva.

“In our report, we have focused on what is missing in the government’s document: the ongoing constitutional crisis, planned changes to the judiciary that disturb the balance of the tripartite system, subjugation of the public media by the ruling majority and violations of foreigners’ rights”, says Małgorzata Szuleka, HFHR’s lawyer.

Freedom of speech, foreigners’ rights and non-discrimination

The HFHR also notes that many pieces of information presented in the report is imprecise or taken out of context. “The report reads that further works to improve the pluralism of the media are being considered. However, the document fails to mention the changes that put the public media outlets in control of the ruling majority, resulting in mass dismissals of journalists”, says lawyer Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, a Board Member of the HFHR.

The report also discusses the Government’s plans in the policy areas of assistance for foreigners and integration. The Government indicates that plans have been made to continue the aid initiatives and programmes of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. However, none of the competitions for aid services for refugees and migrants notified in 2016 has been resolved so far, which deprives many non-governmental organisations of an opportunity to finance actions for migrants and asylum-seekers.

In its report, the Government further observes that Polish criminal law includes guarantees that ensure remedies against violations of the prohibition of discrimination. Yet it has not been said that Polish criminal law does not protect LGBTs, persons with a disability, women or old-age persons against discriminatory offences.

After the session of the Human Rights Council scheduled for May, the UN will present a report with recommendations on how to improve human rights situation in Poland.

The Government’s report is available for reading here.

The HFHR’s report may be read here.

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