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US Department of State on human rights in Poland

In its annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the US Department of State gave a positive assessment of human rights protection in Poland. Yet the report lists a number of shortcomings in the areas of the prison policy, efficiency of the justice system and prevention of discrimination.

The report reads: “Prison and detention centre conditions generally meet international standards; however […] limited access to specialized medical treatment continued to be a problem”. The report invokes the findings of the Central Prison Authority listing the cases of prison overcrowding, mistreatment of prisoners by prison officers and the absence of a developed system of legal aid.

The report describes the court system as inefficient and poorly administered. It also points out that the implementation of the ECtHR judgments by the Polish government “remained slow, cumbersome, and ineffective”.

There still remains the pressing problem of counteracting domestic violence and violence against women. The report refers to extensive statistical data on the reported cases of violence against women. “It is a good thing that the problem of violence against women was given such thorough treatment in the report by the US Department of State”, says Dr. Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President. “In the context of the pending discussion on the ratification of the Convention of the Council of Europe on Combating Violence against Women these data are indicative of the extent of the problem we have to deal with”, adds Dr. Bodnar.

The report also mentions cases of racially motivated and xenophobic offences. The publication shows that in the last year unknown perpetrators committed symbolic acts of vandalism on places associated with the Lithuanian and German minorities. “According to local NGOs, including Never Again, Open Republic, and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the incidents were more high profile and symbolic than in past years, but not necessarily more numerous”, reads the report.

The document also comments on the issue of discrimination against women in the labour market, sexual exploitation of children and violations of workers’ rights to organise and join unions.

“As in previous years, also in 2011 the Report of the US Department of State was very thoroughly prepared. It contains the key information on the state of human rights protection in Poland and a number of apt remarks”, says Dr. Bodnar.  He continues: “I regret, though, that the report remains silent on the issue of a probe into alleged CIA prisons in Poland. It remains to hope, somewhat illusively perhaps, that in a few years also this issue will be discussed in a report”.

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