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Council of Europe: Poland reforms threaten human rights

Council of Europe

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Mui┼żnieks reported Wednesday that Poland’s legal and institutional framework threatens human rights. The Commissioner is particularly concerned with the “paralysis” of the constitutional court.

The report also states that the new media laws are unprecedented and urges the government to implement reform. A governmental spokesperson declined to meet with the Commissioner, and the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has stated [press release] that it has adhered to legislative procedures when implementing the current policies.

The PiS has made numerous controversial reforms since taking power last fall. Earlier this month the European Commission adopted a rule of law opinion on Poland, warning that changes to the country’s constitutional court pose a risk to the rule of law. The EU began examining Poland’s decision regarding the Constitutional Court [JURIST reports] in January. In February the Polish government passed a controversial surveillance law that grants the government greater access to digital data and broader use of surveillance for law enforcement.

The PiS, a conservative party elected in October, holds an overwhelming majority [BBC report] of positions in the Polish government including the lead in both parliamentary houses and the presidency. In December the leader of the European Parliament compared PiS’ rise to power in Poland to a coup [BBC report], leading to Parliament calling for an apology. PiS has rejected [DW report] criticisms that its policies are undermining democracy in Poland. However, there is a larger concern in the EU that new Polish law will erode checks and balances on government powers.

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