Three leading women’s rights defenders are facing eight years in prison in Poland for exercising their right to peaceful protest.
Prosecutors in Warsaw filed the indictment against Marta Lempart, Klementyna Suchanow and Agnieszka Czerederecka-Fabin of the Polish Women’s Strike (Ogólnopolski Strajk Kobiet, OSK), a partner of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network, for allegedly organizing protests during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Massive protests were prompted back in October 2020 by the decision of the illegally appointed Constitutional Tribunal to impose a near-total ban on abortion care. Peaceful protesters were met with excessive force, with authorities using tear gas, pepper spray and physical assault.
Now, two years on, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are still being attacked by Polish authorities, with defenders facing violence from law enforcement and far-right groups, including bomb threats, as well as smear campaigns in state-controlled media, detention and excessive criminal charges orchestrated and encouraged by the government. In the case of the Polish Women’s Strike’s members, these charges include “causing an epidemiological threat”, endangering public health and publicly praising crimes.
The new indictment against the women’s rights defenders came just days before the second anniversary of the near-total ban on abortion, which has killed six women so far. It also comes in the same month that a court hearing was held in the trial of Justyna Wydrzyńska.
Justyna, a member of Abortion Without Borders and the Abortion Dream Team, is facing up to three years in prison for facilitating an abortion that didn’t happen. Her case marks the first in Europe where a WHRD is being prosecuted for helping ensure abortion care by providing abortion pills. Justyna’s trial is ongoing.