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WATCHDOG POLAND

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Citizens Observatory of Democracy

Citizens Observatory of Democracy is a source of information about the current legal changes in Poland that affect rule of law, civil rights and liberties and fundaments of democratic system. 

The Observatory website presents reviews, legal analyses, opinions, statements and position papers of the representatives of civil society to the legislative activity of the Polish authorities.

The Observatory is a joint initiative of civil society organisations that promote respect for and protection of human rights, transparency and accountability of public administration and advocate for a better quality of legislation. Read more >

1. Constitutional crisis around the Constitutional Tribunal

On July 7 the Parliament passed a bill on the Constitutional Tribunal prepared by the ruling party. The bill has been severely criticized by the Supreme Court, the National Council of the Judiciary, bar associations and NGOs. According to the Helsinki Committee and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the bill effectively paralyses Constitutional Tribunal and makes it “dependent on interim, manipulative decisions of the President, General Prosecutor and the Prime Minister”.

On the Citizens Observatory website we present:
– a statement of the Board of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Helsinki Committee in Poland
– an opinion on the draft bill by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
– a statement by the Legal Experts Group at the Stefan Batory Foundation
– an article “Constitutional Tribunal wrecked by PiS” by Ewa Siedlecka, published in Gazeta Wyborcza on July 1, 2016. Read more >

We also recommend a reader-friendly overviews presenting a full picture of the constitutional crises, in particular:
– summary of legal changes in Poland by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, June 2016 [PDF]
– a piece by the Stefan Batory Foundation from May 2016 [PDF]

2. Anti-terrorism Law

On 22 June, Polish President signed a new anti-terrorism law. The law contains measures that are inconsistent with the Polish Constitution and with the European Convention on Human Rights. The list of controversies is long: foreigners’ phone calls might be wire-tapped without a court order, and police might collect their fingerprints, biometric photos and DNA if their identity is “doubtful”. Online content might be blocked, citizens’ freedom of assembly limited, and secret services are given free access to all public databases.

On the website of the Observatory we present legal opinions on the draft written by Polish NGOs specializing in monitoring and protecting the civil rights and personal data protection: the Amnesty International [PDF], the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights [PDF] and the Panoptykon Foundation [PDF].

3. Police Law

European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) issued an opinion on the Act of 15 January 2016 Amending the Police Act and Certain Other Acts. The Commission stated that procedural safeguards set in the Police Act for implementing secret surveillance are insufficient to prevent its excessive use and unjustified interference with the privacy of individuals. The opinion contains recommendations of important amendments that should be adopted. It is also consistent with the opinions of the Amnesty International and the Panoptykon Foundation indicating that the amendments pose a serious threat to human rights protection, including the right to privacy. The measures envisaged in this law expand access to telecommunication and other digital data and allow for greater surveillance by police and other agencies. Read more >

More documents in English are available on the Observatory website.

We also invite Polish speakers to visit Polish version of the website.

Initiators of the Citizens Observatory of Democracy in Poland are:

Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt: Polska
ePanstwo Foundation
Panoptykon Foundation
Stefan Batory Foundation
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
INPRIS – Institute for Law and Society
Institute of Public Affairs
Citizens Network Watchdog Poland
Amnesty International Poland
Association for Legal Intervention (SIP)

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