An official investigation into the involvement of Poland in the secret detention programme led by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began after more detailed allegations emerged. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people continued to experience discrimination. Despite the re-establishment of a senior government post for gender equality and the introduction of new measures facilitating legal abortion, women’s and girls’ access to abortion services was restricted.
Counter-terror and security
The European Commission said in February that it was still awaiting response from Poland to charges that it hosted CIA prisons where al-Qa’ida suspects were questioned and guards used methods akin to torture.
In April, as a result of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, Poland was urged to make public the findings of its investigations into the existence of CIA-operated secret detention centres in Poland, and to reply to the two communications sent by the European Commission requesting clarification of these allegations.
An investigation into the possible existence of CIA-run secret detention centres was opened in March by the District Prosecutor of Warsaw and was transferred to the Organized Crime Unit of the National Prosecutor’s Office in June.
"The media reported that the Deputy Mayor opposed the participation of gay men and lesbians..."
A letter on “CIA prisons in Poland”, said to have been handed by former Deputy Prime Minister Roman Giertych to the incumbent Prime Minister about a secret memorandum issued by the Polish Intelligence Service in 2005, allegedly provided circumstantial evidence of a secret CIA detention centre on Polish soil between 2002 and 2005. The Prime Minister delivered the letter to the National Prosecutor on 1 September, which triggered a new official inquiry into the case by the National Prosecutor’s Office. The inquiry remained confidential and the list of witnesses was kept secret. However, reports suggested that a number of officials had been questioned by the end of the year.
In October, the Prime Minister promised to relieve various individuals from their obligation to keep state secrets, as previously requested by the National Prosecutor. The Chair of the parliament also gave his permission for members of parliament to testify.
During the Universal Periodic Review in April, members of the Human Rights Council urged the Polish authorities to introduce comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. The government declared that a new Act on Equal Treatment was expected to be adopted by the parliament in November. The draft Act, as consulted with NGOs, addresses discrimination based on gender, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, political views, disability, age, sexual orientation, and marital and family status. Nevertheless, it only prohibits discrimination based on gender, race and ethnic origin when it comes to access to services, social welfare, health care and education. It does not ensure protection from multiple discrimination or discrimination through association.
- In November, the Living Library, a project promoting diversity and rights of minorities initially planned to be held by human rights activists in Opole at the city-owned Cultural Centre, was banned by the Deputy Mayor without explanation. The project included the participation of representatives of the German and Romani minorities, refugees and migrants, people with physical and mental disabilities, and individual lesbians and gay men. The media reported that the Deputy Mayor opposed the participation of gay men and lesbians as “not acceptable” as they would “promote deviation”. The Mayor publicly supported the decision of his Deputy. The University of Opole, independent from the local government, eventually hosted the project.
Violence against women and girls
In March, the Prime Minister appointed a senior government official for gender equality. The post, abolished by the previous government in 2005, was reintroduced as a result of lobbying by human rights bodies and NGOs. However, the role and powers of the post had not been made clear by the end of the year.
Refusal to provide abortion services
Denial of access to abortion for eligible women was raised during Poland’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in May. This remained a concern despite a ruling in 2007 by the European Court of Human Rights that the government has the duty to establish effective mechanisms for ensuring that women have access to abortion where it is legal.
- A 14-year-old girl from Lublin, identified in the media under the pseudonym Agata and as being pregnant as a result of rape, was subjected to delays in accessing a legal abortion. Hospitals in Lublin and Warsaw refused to perform the abortion, despite its lawfulness, and failed to refer her. According to media reports, there was a serious breach of Agata’s right to medical confidentiality and she and her mother were not protected from direct and personal harassment by abortion opponents. Following the intervention of the Health Minister, Agata obtained an abortion four weeks after her initial request for the procedure and only one week before the end of the 12-week gestational limit on legal access to abortion.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The law regarding refugees and asylum-seekers was amended in May, incorporating EU legislation. Subsidiary protection was introduced to protect individuals who do not qualify for refugee status but still face serious risk in their country of origin. The amendments also introduced detailed definitions of “a refugee”, “persecution” and “persecutors”.
In May, an integration programme was made available for people receiving subsidiary protection as well as for recognized refugees. However, asylum-seekers and recognized refugees continued to face difficulties accessing the labour market and health care, partly due to poor integration programme conditions.
Amnesty International visitsAmnesty International delegates visited Poland in September and October.
Amnesty International reportsOral statement on the outcome on Poland under the Universal Periodic Review (10 June 2008)
Eastern Europe: Eighth session of the UN Human Rights Council, 2-20 June 2008: Review of the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania under the Universal Periodic Review – Amnesty International’s reflections on the outcome (1 June 2008)