#Poland: Authorities must refrain from using excessive force against protesters who are demonstrating against a near-total ban on #abortion. Military deployment at this time is also a concern. We call on EU leaders to act urgently https://t.co/I3Exr6icfr pic.twitter.com/4CRzWD7dyL— CIVICUS (@CIVICUSalliance) October 29, 2020
Polish law enforcement and military, deployed today across the country, must refrain from using excessive force against protesters who have taken to the streets to express their discontent with the Polish government under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) party.
Protests were prompted by the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal to impose a near-total ban on abortion on 22 October. The protests are currently in their seventh day and have drawn support from a wide variety of people, including miners, taxi drivers, farmers and trade unionists.
CIVICUS and IPPF EN, the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Network are concerned that these protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups. Social media footage taken by activists and journalists shows police using teargas and pepper spray on protesters, and in some cases resorting to physical assault. This is contrary to standards set out in international human rights law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.
In addition, the Prime Minister’s announcement that the military will be sent to the streets on 28 October 2020 officially for COVID-19 reasons, is worrying given that UN standards indicate the military should not be used to police assemblies. It is unacceptable that the Polish government is using COVID-19 as a pretence to repress protests. The Polish government has already been strongly criticised for using the pandemic to consolidate power and gag opposition, and it has previously failed to punish far-right groups for using violence against peaceful protesters .
“Tens of thousands of people are currently taking to the streets of Poland to demand fundamental human rights amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of protecting protesters, the authorities have used tear gas, pepper spray and physical assault. The deployment of the military adds to the concern that violence against protesters may escalate as protests continue to grow,” said Aarti Narsee, Civic Space Researcher at CIVICUS.
“We are gravely concerned about the safety of women in Poland. The ruling of this tribunal has trampled upon their rights and freedoms and now their protests are being stifled by the police and army. Citizens cannot be bullied. We ask the European Union to stand firm against the erosion of civil liberties and show solidarity with defenders of fundamental rights in Poland,” said Irene Donadio, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network.
We urge the Polish government to end restrictions on protesters. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by the authorities and non-state actors.
Notes to Editors:
Civic space in Poland is rated Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor
Latest country update by the CIVICUS Monitor.
Joint CIVICUS/IPPF EN letter sent to EU institutions