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News

Latest news from IPPF EN

Spotlight

A selection of news from across the Federation

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Ukraine

News item

Call To Action On Ukraine

Organizations urge the EU, European governments, the UN and other donor governments to protect SRHR and provide needed health care.
Poland protests
news item

| 24 November 2020

Polish authorities must stop persecuting and intimidating protesters (statement)

Press statement 24 November, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Civil society organisations express serious concerns over civic space restrictions in Poland Detention and intimidation of protesters by authorities a huge concern Protests sparked by decision to impose a near-total ban on abortion Polish authorities must immediately stop using excessive force and detaining and intimidating protesters, including minors. Spontaneous protests against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) have been held throughout the country since 22 October, prompted by the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal to impose a near-total ban on abortion. CIVICUS and IPPF EN, the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Network, are concerned about the use of violence by authorities and non-state actors against protesters. Lawyers assisting protesters have documented how authorities have used kettling, pepper spray and physical violence against protesters. These methods all involve close contact and may lead to an increase in the risk of COVID-19 infection. Just last night, a police car hit a protester and police detained a photojournalist, even after she presented her press card. In another incident, a member of the Internal Security Agency deliberately drove into protesters, injuring two people, with one ending up in hospital with sustained injuries. Anti-terrorist groups are also being deployed to deal with peaceful assemblies, hitting protesters with batons. We are also concerned about the further potential escalation of violence against protesters  by far-right groups in Poland. A recent undercover investigation reveals how members of the National Guard received training on how to shoot to kill. The guard was set up by far-right leaders to defend Catholic institutions and is supported by Jarosław Kaczyński, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the PiS party. Kaczyński, who is responsible for security issues, called for groups to “defend the church at all costs”. Violence by far-right groups against protesters has already been documented during protests. The systematic persecution of protesters also needs to stop. Protesters in Warsaw are being detained and taken to police stations up to 30 kilometres outside of Warsaw, under the guise of ensuring COVID-19 safe spaces, with limited or no access to legal representation. We condemn the Polish government for using COVID-19 as a pretext to restrict the rights of protesters. At least 67 people have been detained for protesting thus far: “I have  witnessed growing police violence and irrational harassment of protesters. We have to be prepared to drive out of Warsaw to nearby cities where protesters are being taken even if they get arrested in the centre of the city. Citizens of all genders and ages end up at police precincts having to explain and justify why they wish to exercise their constitutional rights. Naturally, complaints will be filed to declare these detainments as illegal, disproportionate and unjustified. Poland is a democratic country, and as human rights defenders we will fight for it to remain so,” said Eliza Rutynowska, lawyer assisting detained protesters. Authorities are targeting young people who have attended, or freely expressed support, for protests. A 17-year-old was knocked to the ground by police during a protest and detained overnight; a 14-year-old who shared a Facebook post about a planned walk-in protest in his neighbourhood was threatened with criminal prosecution. Another 14-year-old who attended a protest with her grandmother was openly confronted by police and accused of organising demonstrations. Some teachers and professors have threatened students with disciplinary action for showing support for the Women's Strike (StajkKobiet) and for participating in protests: “The right to protest is a fundamental civic freedom which is currently under threat in Poland. We are concerned that as spontaneous protests continue, the use of excessive force and the persecution of protesters will escalate. This is already being demonstrated by the attacks on young protesters, whose right to free expression is under attack,” said Aarti Narsee, civic  space researcher, CIVICUS. The EU must step up and condemn attacks on Polish protesters. We call on the EU to make use of, and continue to further strengthen, all its legal and political tools, including recommendations under the EU Rule of Law Framework; we also call on the EU to ensure that access to funds is dependent on states respecting human rights. “Poland is a country that wants to veto the next seven-year EU budget, the bloc's COVID-19 recovery plan, and an EU plan to make transfers of EU funds to member states conditional on states respecting the rule of law. The vast majority of Polish citizens are in favour of the EU clause on conditionality of funding and in favour of protests. The EU must intervene,” Irene Donadio, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network. We call on authorities to refrain from the use of excessive force and detention of protesters, who are exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Police officials who have used excessive force towards protesters must be immediately investigated and held accountable.   Notes to Editors: Civic space in Poland is rated Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor Latest country update by the CIVICUS Monitor

Poland protests
news_item

| 24 November 2020

Polish authorities must stop persecuting and intimidating protesters (statement)

Press statement 24 November, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Civil society organisations express serious concerns over civic space restrictions in Poland Detention and intimidation of protesters by authorities a huge concern Protests sparked by decision to impose a near-total ban on abortion Polish authorities must immediately stop using excessive force and detaining and intimidating protesters, including minors. Spontaneous protests against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) have been held throughout the country since 22 October, prompted by the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal to impose a near-total ban on abortion. CIVICUS and IPPF EN, the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Network, are concerned about the use of violence by authorities and non-state actors against protesters. Lawyers assisting protesters have documented how authorities have used kettling, pepper spray and physical violence against protesters. These methods all involve close contact and may lead to an increase in the risk of COVID-19 infection. Just last night, a police car hit a protester and police detained a photojournalist, even after she presented her press card. In another incident, a member of the Internal Security Agency deliberately drove into protesters, injuring two people, with one ending up in hospital with sustained injuries. Anti-terrorist groups are also being deployed to deal with peaceful assemblies, hitting protesters with batons. We are also concerned about the further potential escalation of violence against protesters  by far-right groups in Poland. A recent undercover investigation reveals how members of the National Guard received training on how to shoot to kill. The guard was set up by far-right leaders to defend Catholic institutions and is supported by Jarosław Kaczyński, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the PiS party. Kaczyński, who is responsible for security issues, called for groups to “defend the church at all costs”. Violence by far-right groups against protesters has already been documented during protests. The systematic persecution of protesters also needs to stop. Protesters in Warsaw are being detained and taken to police stations up to 30 kilometres outside of Warsaw, under the guise of ensuring COVID-19 safe spaces, with limited or no access to legal representation. We condemn the Polish government for using COVID-19 as a pretext to restrict the rights of protesters. At least 67 people have been detained for protesting thus far: “I have  witnessed growing police violence and irrational harassment of protesters. We have to be prepared to drive out of Warsaw to nearby cities where protesters are being taken even if they get arrested in the centre of the city. Citizens of all genders and ages end up at police precincts having to explain and justify why they wish to exercise their constitutional rights. Naturally, complaints will be filed to declare these detainments as illegal, disproportionate and unjustified. Poland is a democratic country, and as human rights defenders we will fight for it to remain so,” said Eliza Rutynowska, lawyer assisting detained protesters. Authorities are targeting young people who have attended, or freely expressed support, for protests. A 17-year-old was knocked to the ground by police during a protest and detained overnight; a 14-year-old who shared a Facebook post about a planned walk-in protest in his neighbourhood was threatened with criminal prosecution. Another 14-year-old who attended a protest with her grandmother was openly confronted by police and accused of organising demonstrations. Some teachers and professors have threatened students with disciplinary action for showing support for the Women's Strike (StajkKobiet) and for participating in protests: “The right to protest is a fundamental civic freedom which is currently under threat in Poland. We are concerned that as spontaneous protests continue, the use of excessive force and the persecution of protesters will escalate. This is already being demonstrated by the attacks on young protesters, whose right to free expression is under attack,” said Aarti Narsee, civic  space researcher, CIVICUS. The EU must step up and condemn attacks on Polish protesters. We call on the EU to make use of, and continue to further strengthen, all its legal and political tools, including recommendations under the EU Rule of Law Framework; we also call on the EU to ensure that access to funds is dependent on states respecting human rights. “Poland is a country that wants to veto the next seven-year EU budget, the bloc's COVID-19 recovery plan, and an EU plan to make transfers of EU funds to member states conditional on states respecting the rule of law. The vast majority of Polish citizens are in favour of the EU clause on conditionality of funding and in favour of protests. The EU must intervene,” Irene Donadio, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network. We call on authorities to refrain from the use of excessive force and detention of protesters, who are exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Police officials who have used excessive force towards protesters must be immediately investigated and held accountable.   Notes to Editors: Civic space in Poland is rated Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor Latest country update by the CIVICUS Monitor

trans rights
news item

| 18 November 2020

IPPF honours the Trans Day of Remembrance

On the Trans Day of Remembrance, IPPF remembers the transgender people whose lives have been lost globally to transphobic violence, and stands in solidarity in the fight for trans rights. This year the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project added 350 trans and gender-diverse people to the list of people to be remembered worldwide. This project systematically monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide. The world needs to wake up and understand that transphobia and its violence is a destructive aggression of social prejudice that denies people their human rights. IPPF works to change laws in countries to support gender and sexual diversity. We spotlight the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA/PKBI) who are fighting for to halt the Penal Code revisions that criminalises and stigmatises gender and sexually diverse persons, including trans people. IPPA produced a short film "Emak Menolak", highlighting the challenges of trans people in Indonesia. Check it out! IPPF will continue to fight and stand in solidarity with the trans community until their rights are realized and respected, because trans rights are human rights. Will you join us?   Photo: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

trans rights
news_item

| 20 November 2020

IPPF honours the Trans Day of Remembrance

On the Trans Day of Remembrance, IPPF remembers the transgender people whose lives have been lost globally to transphobic violence, and stands in solidarity in the fight for trans rights. This year the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project added 350 trans and gender-diverse people to the list of people to be remembered worldwide. This project systematically monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide. The world needs to wake up and understand that transphobia and its violence is a destructive aggression of social prejudice that denies people their human rights. IPPF works to change laws in countries to support gender and sexual diversity. We spotlight the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA/PKBI) who are fighting for to halt the Penal Code revisions that criminalises and stigmatises gender and sexually diverse persons, including trans people. IPPA produced a short film "Emak Menolak", highlighting the challenges of trans people in Indonesia. Check it out! IPPF will continue to fight and stand in solidarity with the trans community until their rights are realized and respected, because trans rights are human rights. Will you join us?   Photo: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Poland protests
news item

| 28 October 2020

Poland - Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters (letter to EU institutions)

Letter sent to the President of the European Commission, Commissioners, the German Presidency and the President of the European Parliament by IPPF EN and CIVICUS. Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.   Subject: Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters in Poland, following decision of illegitimate Constitutional Tribunal which violates human rights   Dear Presidents, We write to bring to your attention our deep concerns regarding developments unfolding in Poland, due to the use of excessive force during peaceful protests against the deteriorating situation of the rule of law and human rights in the country. On 22 October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that access to abortion care on the grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life” is unconstitutional. This decision imposes even more severe restrictions on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and amounts to a near ban on all legal access to abortion care in the country. This ruling will have a devastating impact on women’s health and put their lives at risk, and is in violation of Poland’s international human rights obligations. As noted in our previous letter[1], the government has been implementing measures that undermine judicial independence and the rule of law in Poland, thus raising concerns about the legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal. These concerns have been denounced by the EU and other institutions. Following this decision, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to express their discontent with the Polish government under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) party. The protests have spread across Poland and are currently in their seventh day.  The protests, which were originally led by women’s rights groups such as Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike), are now widely supported by a variety of groups of Polish people, including miners, taxi drivers, farmers and trade unions[2]. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, protesters had to be inventive, including by using their cars to block traffic. On 28th October, the protest organisers are planning on holding a women’s strike, similar to those that took place in 2016 in response to a previous effort to restrict the abortion law. We are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups close to the ruling party. Footage documented by activists and journalists show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters[3]. Videos document how in one instance a police officer drags a protester by the feet and hits him with a gas cylinder, while a woman trying to stop this is elbowed in the face by an officer.[4] Activists on the ground have documented 17 arrests thus far, but these could be underreported. In one case reported on social media, a protester was detained in the middle of the night after returning home from a peaceful protest in Poznan[5]. In Warsaw, one parish priest gave far-right activists permission to defend his church from protesters, and they began physically removing women from the premises as a result[6].The actions of far-right groups are particularly worrying given how they are often able to act with impunity, in stark contrast with the repressive measures taken by the authorities against human rights defenders. The use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, and their failure to protect peaceful protesters from violence by other civilians, are contrary to standards set out in international human rights law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights[7], which guarantee the right to peaceful assembly. We urge you to prevent history from repeating itself as we recall the inaction of the Polish police, when Pride protesters were violently attacked by far-right groups during the first Bialystok LGBTIQ equality march on 20 July 2019. The Prime Minister announced that the military will be deployed to the streets on 28th October, officially for COVID-19 reasons[8]. Guidelines from the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly make it clear that as a general rule, the military should not be used to police assemblies. Even in exceptional circumstances where this becomes necessary, the military must be subordinate to civilian authorities.[9] It is unacceptable that the Polish government is using COVID-19 as a pretence to repress peaceful protests. These attacks take place within the context of rapidly declining civic space in Poland, which includes the erosion of media freedom and judicial independence,[10] and a crackdown on LGBTI and human rights activists and associations[11]. Soon, women's right to be protected from domestic violence could also be threatened by an upcoming decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, which could declare the Istanbul Convention unconstitutional[12]. We call on you as EU leaders to denounce the use of excessive force and violence against peaceful protesters and to protect the rights and lives of European citizens against their authoritarian governments. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by non-state actors including far-rights groups and ensure that those who attack protesters are held accountable.   [1] https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-decision-constitutional-tribunal-may-lead-human-rights-violations [2] https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/10/26/farmers-taxi-drivers-and-miners-show-support-for-abortion-protests-in-poland/?fbclid=IwAR2ObBYgSbSLeJorN1D-PIPe-yLGiB6pCfKi8t22FamTcNhmWvKlNdz8oSs [3] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ [4] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1319928228480380928 [5] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1320667783668109312 [6] https://twitter.com/notesfrompoland/status/1320382902820048896 [7] https://ec.europa.eu/info/aid-development-cooperation-fundamental-rights/your-rights-eu/know-your-rights/freedoms/freedom-assembly-and-association_en [8] https://www.polishnews.co.uk/military-gendarmerie-directed-to-help-the-police-ministry-of-defense-this-is-standard-activities/ [9] A/HRC/31/66, para. 66: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CCPR/GC37/SR_FreedomPeacefulAssembyandassociation.docx [10] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/03/16/new-law-set-erode-judicial-independence-and-municipalities-declared-lgbti-free-zones/ [11] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/05/crackdown-lgbti-rights-continues-feminists-protest-over-withdrawal-domestic-violence-treaty/ [12] https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-court-violence-against-women-istanbul-convention/

Poland protests
news_item

| 28 October 2020

Poland - Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters (letter to EU institutions)

Letter sent to the President of the European Commission, Commissioners, the German Presidency and the President of the European Parliament by IPPF EN and CIVICUS. Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.   Subject: Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters in Poland, following decision of illegitimate Constitutional Tribunal which violates human rights   Dear Presidents, We write to bring to your attention our deep concerns regarding developments unfolding in Poland, due to the use of excessive force during peaceful protests against the deteriorating situation of the rule of law and human rights in the country. On 22 October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that access to abortion care on the grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life” is unconstitutional. This decision imposes even more severe restrictions on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and amounts to a near ban on all legal access to abortion care in the country. This ruling will have a devastating impact on women’s health and put their lives at risk, and is in violation of Poland’s international human rights obligations. As noted in our previous letter[1], the government has been implementing measures that undermine judicial independence and the rule of law in Poland, thus raising concerns about the legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal. These concerns have been denounced by the EU and other institutions. Following this decision, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to express their discontent with the Polish government under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) party. The protests have spread across Poland and are currently in their seventh day.  The protests, which were originally led by women’s rights groups such as Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike), are now widely supported by a variety of groups of Polish people, including miners, taxi drivers, farmers and trade unions[2]. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, protesters had to be inventive, including by using their cars to block traffic. On 28th October, the protest organisers are planning on holding a women’s strike, similar to those that took place in 2016 in response to a previous effort to restrict the abortion law. We are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups close to the ruling party. Footage documented by activists and journalists show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters[3]. Videos document how in one instance a police officer drags a protester by the feet and hits him with a gas cylinder, while a woman trying to stop this is elbowed in the face by an officer.[4] Activists on the ground have documented 17 arrests thus far, but these could be underreported. In one case reported on social media, a protester was detained in the middle of the night after returning home from a peaceful protest in Poznan[5]. In Warsaw, one parish priest gave far-right activists permission to defend his church from protesters, and they began physically removing women from the premises as a result[6].The actions of far-right groups are particularly worrying given how they are often able to act with impunity, in stark contrast with the repressive measures taken by the authorities against human rights defenders. The use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, and their failure to protect peaceful protesters from violence by other civilians, are contrary to standards set out in international human rights law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights[7], which guarantee the right to peaceful assembly. We urge you to prevent history from repeating itself as we recall the inaction of the Polish police, when Pride protesters were violently attacked by far-right groups during the first Bialystok LGBTIQ equality march on 20 July 2019. The Prime Minister announced that the military will be deployed to the streets on 28th October, officially for COVID-19 reasons[8]. Guidelines from the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly make it clear that as a general rule, the military should not be used to police assemblies. Even in exceptional circumstances where this becomes necessary, the military must be subordinate to civilian authorities.[9] It is unacceptable that the Polish government is using COVID-19 as a pretence to repress peaceful protests. These attacks take place within the context of rapidly declining civic space in Poland, which includes the erosion of media freedom and judicial independence,[10] and a crackdown on LGBTI and human rights activists and associations[11]. Soon, women's right to be protected from domestic violence could also be threatened by an upcoming decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, which could declare the Istanbul Convention unconstitutional[12]. We call on you as EU leaders to denounce the use of excessive force and violence against peaceful protesters and to protect the rights and lives of European citizens against their authoritarian governments. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by non-state actors including far-rights groups and ensure that those who attack protesters are held accountable.   [1] https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-decision-constitutional-tribunal-may-lead-human-rights-violations [2] https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/10/26/farmers-taxi-drivers-and-miners-show-support-for-abortion-protests-in-poland/?fbclid=IwAR2ObBYgSbSLeJorN1D-PIPe-yLGiB6pCfKi8t22FamTcNhmWvKlNdz8oSs [3] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ [4] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1319928228480380928 [5] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1320667783668109312 [6] https://twitter.com/notesfrompoland/status/1320382902820048896 [7] https://ec.europa.eu/info/aid-development-cooperation-fundamental-rights/your-rights-eu/know-your-rights/freedoms/freedom-assembly-and-association_en [8] https://www.polishnews.co.uk/military-gendarmerie-directed-to-help-the-police-ministry-of-defense-this-is-standard-activities/ [9] A/HRC/31/66, para. 66: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CCPR/GC37/SR_FreedomPeacefulAssembyandassociation.docx [10] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/03/16/new-law-set-erode-judicial-independence-and-municipalities-declared-lgbti-free-zones/ [11] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/05/crackdown-lgbti-rights-continues-feminists-protest-over-withdrawal-domestic-violence-treaty/ [12] https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-court-violence-against-women-istanbul-convention/

Poland abortion protest
news item

| 28 October 2020

Polish government must refrain from repressing peaceful protesters (statement)

Press statement 28 October, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Polish law enforcement and military which is being deployed today, must refrain from using excessive force against peaceful protesters who have taken to the streets around the country 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 ban on abortion on 22nd 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 unions. CIVICUS and IPPF EN are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups. Footage documented by activists and journalists on social media show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters. 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 28th October (today), officially for COVID-19 reasons, is worrying given that UN standards indicate that 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 peaceful protests. The Polish government has already been strongly criticised for using the pandemic to consolidate power and gag opposition, and it has previously done nothing to punish violence against peaceful demonstrations by far-right groups. “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, Senior Lead for Strategy and Partnerships at IPPF EN.  We urge the Polish government to end restrictions on peaceful protesters. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by the authorities and non-state actors.   Notes to Editors: CIVICUS report: https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ Joint CIVICUS/IPPF EN letter sent to EU institutions : https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-concerns-over-use-excessive-force-against-peaceful-protesters   Press contacts: CIVICUS: [email protected] IPPF EN: Irene Donadio - [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90 Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.

Poland abortion protest
news_item

| 28 October 2020

Polish government must refrain from repressing peaceful protesters (statement)

Press statement 28 October, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Polish law enforcement and military which is being deployed today, must refrain from using excessive force against peaceful protesters who have taken to the streets around the country 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 ban on abortion on 22nd 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 unions. CIVICUS and IPPF EN are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups. Footage documented by activists and journalists on social media show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters. 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 28th October (today), officially for COVID-19 reasons, is worrying given that UN standards indicate that 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 peaceful protests. The Polish government has already been strongly criticised for using the pandemic to consolidate power and gag opposition, and it has previously done nothing to punish violence against peaceful demonstrations by far-right groups. “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, Senior Lead for Strategy and Partnerships at IPPF EN.  We urge the Polish government to end restrictions on peaceful protesters. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by the authorities and non-state actors.   Notes to Editors: CIVICUS report: https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ Joint CIVICUS/IPPF EN letter sent to EU institutions : https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-concerns-over-use-excessive-force-against-peaceful-protesters   Press contacts: CIVICUS: [email protected] IPPF EN: Irene Donadio - [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90 Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.

Poland abortion ban
news item

| 22 October 2020

Polish abortion ban will devastate women’s lives, in first major attack on human rights resulting from erosion of Rule of Law (statement)

On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the country’s abortion law is unconstitutional, specifically striking down the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. This cruel, regressive move has been made possible by the ruling PiS party’s deliberate erosion of the rule of law and democratic values in the country, and its placement of politically appointed judges into a body that, when carrying out its legitimate duty, is responsible precisely for upholding the rule of law. The ruling is just the first concrete manifestation of how the current situation in Poland enables PiS to violate human rights. Today’s decision automatically removes the only ground on which Polish women have still been able to access abortion care in practice, when they needed it for therapeutic reasons. The result will be agonising for women and their families, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, including in cases of fatal or severe foetal impairment, while others will have no choice but to travel abroad to seek care if they have the financial means to do so, or to seek underground abortions. This decision will needlessly increase the suffering of women already facing very difficult situations. Such inhumane and degrading treatment has been described by the European Court of Human Rights as tantamount to torturing women. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the agenda of Poland’s ruling PiS party, which continues zealously to mount attacks against women’s reproductive rights and freedom. Public opinion in Poland does not support a ban on women’s access to abortion care. The European Commission has already expressed serious concerns regarding breaches of the rule of law in Poland, and has proposed to make EU funding to Member States conditional on respect for this EU value. “On this sad day, as we mourn the extinguishing of Polish women’s remaining sliver of access to abortion care, we call on EU Member States to back this measure aimed at protecting EU values, and to strongly condemn such blatant violations of human rights in Europe. Today’s decision in Poland is a stark illustration of what ordinary people stand to lose,” said IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio. In addition to marking a devastating day for women’s safety in Poland, 22 October may also see reproductive bullies mark their hatred for women and LGBTI people at the international level. Regressive governments from around the world, including Poland and Hungary, will sign a farcical Trump-led document with no legal basis, with which they attempt to defy international consensus in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Today may also be the day that the United States confirm Amy Coney Barrett, known for her anti-abortion views, to the Supreme Court.   Photo credit: Katarzyna Pierzchała - Obywatel KP Fotograf

Poland abortion ban
news_item

| 22 October 2020

Polish abortion ban will devastate women’s lives, in first major attack on human rights resulting from erosion of Rule of Law (statement)

On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the country’s abortion law is unconstitutional, specifically striking down the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. This cruel, regressive move has been made possible by the ruling PiS party’s deliberate erosion of the rule of law and democratic values in the country, and its placement of politically appointed judges into a body that, when carrying out its legitimate duty, is responsible precisely for upholding the rule of law. The ruling is just the first concrete manifestation of how the current situation in Poland enables PiS to violate human rights. Today’s decision automatically removes the only ground on which Polish women have still been able to access abortion care in practice, when they needed it for therapeutic reasons. The result will be agonising for women and their families, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, including in cases of fatal or severe foetal impairment, while others will have no choice but to travel abroad to seek care if they have the financial means to do so, or to seek underground abortions. This decision will needlessly increase the suffering of women already facing very difficult situations. Such inhumane and degrading treatment has been described by the European Court of Human Rights as tantamount to torturing women. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the agenda of Poland’s ruling PiS party, which continues zealously to mount attacks against women’s reproductive rights and freedom. Public opinion in Poland does not support a ban on women’s access to abortion care. The European Commission has already expressed serious concerns regarding breaches of the rule of law in Poland, and has proposed to make EU funding to Member States conditional on respect for this EU value. “On this sad day, as we mourn the extinguishing of Polish women’s remaining sliver of access to abortion care, we call on EU Member States to back this measure aimed at protecting EU values, and to strongly condemn such blatant violations of human rights in Europe. Today’s decision in Poland is a stark illustration of what ordinary people stand to lose,” said IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio. In addition to marking a devastating day for women’s safety in Poland, 22 October may also see reproductive bullies mark their hatred for women and LGBTI people at the international level. Regressive governments from around the world, including Poland and Hungary, will sign a farcical Trump-led document with no legal basis, with which they attempt to defy international consensus in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Today may also be the day that the United States confirm Amy Coney Barrett, known for her anti-abortion views, to the Supreme Court.   Photo credit: Katarzyna Pierzchała - Obywatel KP Fotograf

Poland protest during COVID-19
news item

| 16 October 2020

Serious breaches of rule of law in Poland pave way for extensive abuse of human rights (statement)

21 October update (original press release from 16 October below) Ahead of the decision of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on the constitutionality of the abortion law, due on 22 October, ruling party PiS has continued its assault on the Rule of Law. On 20 October, it was announced that Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a long-standing champion of human rights, was to be dismissed with use of the Constitutional Tribunal. The trial was finally cancelled just before it was due to take place. Two Supreme Court judges - Irena Majcher and Igor Tuleya - have also come under attack this week and will possibly be stripped of judicial immunity and charged. These latest moves illustrate the aggressive anti-democratic agenda of PiS, as it prepares during a global pandemic to increase its stranglehold on women’s human rights. Polish Women’s Strike activists have demonstrated their opposition to the anticipated outcome of Thursday’s decision, taking to the streets yet again in cars to protest against this latest attempt to devastate the lives of women and their families.  Meanwhile, a new survey published this week by the European Parliament demonstrates that European citizens believe EU funding to Member States should be conditional on national governments upholding the rule of law. This sends a strong signal to EU leaders that there is public support for a robust approach to ensuring no government can get away with flouting the rule of law and democratic values. Press contact: Irene Donadio - +32 (0)491 719 390 __________________________________________   Press release 16 October 2020 - On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal will rule on the constitutionality of the country’s abortion law1. IPPF European Network is deeply concerned that this ruling will be the first concrete manifestation of the serious threat to Polish citizens’ lives that is posed by the collapse of the rule of law in their country2. Specifically, the forthcoming ruling concerns the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. The Tribunal is expected to rule in line with the ruling party PiS, and declare the provision unconstitutional. IPPF EN fears that due to the deliberate politicisation of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the ruling on 22 October may be just the first in a series of possible extensive human rights violations. On this occasion, the Tribunal will target women’s health and safety3. Shortly afterwards, it will decide over the fate of survivors of domestic violence when it assesses the constitutionality of the Istanbul Convention. After that, the systemic erosion of the rule of law means that there is nothing to stop it attacking the human rights of other vulnerable groups, including LGBTI people and migrants4. The European Commission has bravely tried to put a stop to the Polish government’s attacks against the basic democratic principle of separation of executive and judicial powers. Unfortunately, it has not so far been successful in halting this erosion. Fundamental EU values of human rights, human dignity, equality and non-discrimination are at stake. Developments in Poland set a terrible precedent that may encourage other illiberal governments to take similar steps. IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio said: “We cannot allow this to happen on our watch. The ruling on 22 October poses a great danger, not only for desperate women in Poland in need of protection and care when facing a tragic private health crisis, but for society as a whole. This ruling is the first step in a long dark march towards the oppression of ordinary people. We call on EU leaders and citizens to protest and support the European Commission’s efforts to defend the rule of law in Poland.” 1. Act on Family Planning, the Protection of the Human Fetus, and the Conditions of Admissibility of Abortion of 1993 (1993 Family Planning Act), Article 4a § 1 pt. 2. The Constitutional Tribunal will assess compliance of the relevant provisions with Art. 30 of the Constitution (right to dignity of a person); then with Art. 38 (protection of life), Art. 31§3 (grounds for limiting freedom), Art. 32 (prohibition of discrimination), Art. 2 (social justice) and Art. 42 (criminal liability) .  2. The Polish government’s reforms to the judiciary since 2015 have raised serious concerns regarding respect for the rule of law, and led the Commission to launch the procedure under Article 7(1) TEU in 2017, and several infringement procedures in the past years. As rightly noted by the European Commission in its first Annual Report on the matter, “concerns over the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, raised by the Commission under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure, have so far not been resolved.” The Venice Commission has noted that changes to procedures for judicial appointments and the operations of the Constitutional Tribunal have undermined its independence and rendered its work ineffective, including due to excessive executive and legislative control of the Tribunal’s operations. Almost all judges sitting on the Constitutional Tribunal now have strong links with the ruling party PiS and were nominated purely for political purposes, while legitimate Constitutional judges that would not conform have been removed. The assessment requested for the ruling on October 22 was submitted by a group of Members of Parliament in December 2019, including from PiS, the ruling party and was only placed on the agenda of the Tribunal after it was approved by the government. Such a takeover of a Constitutional Tribunal is unprecedented in Europe. 3. Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the EU. Abortion is only permitted on very limited grounds, including in cases of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’s life”. The removal of this ground would virtually ban all access to abortion care, violating Polish women’s human rights to life, health, and dignity, and causing immense suffering to women and their families. In practice, if the Constitutional Tribunal rules that this ground is unconstitutional, women will either be forced to give birth against their will, in a country that offers very little care and support to family and people with disabilities, or to undergo unsafe or illegal abortion procedures, especially for those who cannot afford to travel abroad. By removing this ground, Poland would further breach numerous commitments it has made to uphold and protect human rights. 4. The forthcoming ruling takes place in a broader context of repeated, retrogressive attempts by Poland’s ruling party to roll back on reproductive rights, women’s human rights and LGBTI rights. In July 2020, Poland announced its intention to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on its constitutionality. Poland has also repeatedly infringed on LGBTI rights, which has been denounced by the European Commission and led to the withholding of EU funds from certain Polish cities (Annual Rule of Law Report; European Commission President von der Leyen State of the Union Address).  

Poland protest during COVID-19
news_item

| 21 October 2020

Serious breaches of rule of law in Poland pave way for extensive abuse of human rights (statement)

21 October update (original press release from 16 October below) Ahead of the decision of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on the constitutionality of the abortion law, due on 22 October, ruling party PiS has continued its assault on the Rule of Law. On 20 October, it was announced that Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a long-standing champion of human rights, was to be dismissed with use of the Constitutional Tribunal. The trial was finally cancelled just before it was due to take place. Two Supreme Court judges - Irena Majcher and Igor Tuleya - have also come under attack this week and will possibly be stripped of judicial immunity and charged. These latest moves illustrate the aggressive anti-democratic agenda of PiS, as it prepares during a global pandemic to increase its stranglehold on women’s human rights. Polish Women’s Strike activists have demonstrated their opposition to the anticipated outcome of Thursday’s decision, taking to the streets yet again in cars to protest against this latest attempt to devastate the lives of women and their families.  Meanwhile, a new survey published this week by the European Parliament demonstrates that European citizens believe EU funding to Member States should be conditional on national governments upholding the rule of law. This sends a strong signal to EU leaders that there is public support for a robust approach to ensuring no government can get away with flouting the rule of law and democratic values. Press contact: Irene Donadio - +32 (0)491 719 390 __________________________________________   Press release 16 October 2020 - On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal will rule on the constitutionality of the country’s abortion law1. IPPF European Network is deeply concerned that this ruling will be the first concrete manifestation of the serious threat to Polish citizens’ lives that is posed by the collapse of the rule of law in their country2. Specifically, the forthcoming ruling concerns the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. The Tribunal is expected to rule in line with the ruling party PiS, and declare the provision unconstitutional. IPPF EN fears that due to the deliberate politicisation of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the ruling on 22 October may be just the first in a series of possible extensive human rights violations. On this occasion, the Tribunal will target women’s health and safety3. Shortly afterwards, it will decide over the fate of survivors of domestic violence when it assesses the constitutionality of the Istanbul Convention. After that, the systemic erosion of the rule of law means that there is nothing to stop it attacking the human rights of other vulnerable groups, including LGBTI people and migrants4. The European Commission has bravely tried to put a stop to the Polish government’s attacks against the basic democratic principle of separation of executive and judicial powers. Unfortunately, it has not so far been successful in halting this erosion. Fundamental EU values of human rights, human dignity, equality and non-discrimination are at stake. Developments in Poland set a terrible precedent that may encourage other illiberal governments to take similar steps. IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio said: “We cannot allow this to happen on our watch. The ruling on 22 October poses a great danger, not only for desperate women in Poland in need of protection and care when facing a tragic private health crisis, but for society as a whole. This ruling is the first step in a long dark march towards the oppression of ordinary people. We call on EU leaders and citizens to protest and support the European Commission’s efforts to defend the rule of law in Poland.” 1. Act on Family Planning, the Protection of the Human Fetus, and the Conditions of Admissibility of Abortion of 1993 (1993 Family Planning Act), Article 4a § 1 pt. 2. The Constitutional Tribunal will assess compliance of the relevant provisions with Art. 30 of the Constitution (right to dignity of a person); then with Art. 38 (protection of life), Art. 31§3 (grounds for limiting freedom), Art. 32 (prohibition of discrimination), Art. 2 (social justice) and Art. 42 (criminal liability) .  2. The Polish government’s reforms to the judiciary since 2015 have raised serious concerns regarding respect for the rule of law, and led the Commission to launch the procedure under Article 7(1) TEU in 2017, and several infringement procedures in the past years. As rightly noted by the European Commission in its first Annual Report on the matter, “concerns over the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, raised by the Commission under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure, have so far not been resolved.” The Venice Commission has noted that changes to procedures for judicial appointments and the operations of the Constitutional Tribunal have undermined its independence and rendered its work ineffective, including due to excessive executive and legislative control of the Tribunal’s operations. Almost all judges sitting on the Constitutional Tribunal now have strong links with the ruling party PiS and were nominated purely for political purposes, while legitimate Constitutional judges that would not conform have been removed. The assessment requested for the ruling on October 22 was submitted by a group of Members of Parliament in December 2019, including from PiS, the ruling party and was only placed on the agenda of the Tribunal after it was approved by the government. Such a takeover of a Constitutional Tribunal is unprecedented in Europe. 3. Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the EU. Abortion is only permitted on very limited grounds, including in cases of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’s life”. The removal of this ground would virtually ban all access to abortion care, violating Polish women’s human rights to life, health, and dignity, and causing immense suffering to women and their families. In practice, if the Constitutional Tribunal rules that this ground is unconstitutional, women will either be forced to give birth against their will, in a country that offers very little care and support to family and people with disabilities, or to undergo unsafe or illegal abortion procedures, especially for those who cannot afford to travel abroad. By removing this ground, Poland would further breach numerous commitments it has made to uphold and protect human rights. 4. The forthcoming ruling takes place in a broader context of repeated, retrogressive attempts by Poland’s ruling party to roll back on reproductive rights, women’s human rights and LGBTI rights. In July 2020, Poland announced its intention to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on its constitutionality. Poland has also repeatedly infringed on LGBTI rights, which has been denounced by the European Commission and led to the withholding of EU funds from certain Polish cities (Annual Rule of Law Report; European Commission President von der Leyen State of the Union Address).  

Poland protests
news item

| 24 November 2020

Polish authorities must stop persecuting and intimidating protesters (statement)

Press statement 24 November, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Civil society organisations express serious concerns over civic space restrictions in Poland Detention and intimidation of protesters by authorities a huge concern Protests sparked by decision to impose a near-total ban on abortion Polish authorities must immediately stop using excessive force and detaining and intimidating protesters, including minors. Spontaneous protests against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) have been held throughout the country since 22 October, prompted by the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal to impose a near-total ban on abortion. CIVICUS and IPPF EN, the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Network, are concerned about the use of violence by authorities and non-state actors against protesters. Lawyers assisting protesters have documented how authorities have used kettling, pepper spray and physical violence against protesters. These methods all involve close contact and may lead to an increase in the risk of COVID-19 infection. Just last night, a police car hit a protester and police detained a photojournalist, even after she presented her press card. In another incident, a member of the Internal Security Agency deliberately drove into protesters, injuring two people, with one ending up in hospital with sustained injuries. Anti-terrorist groups are also being deployed to deal with peaceful assemblies, hitting protesters with batons. We are also concerned about the further potential escalation of violence against protesters  by far-right groups in Poland. A recent undercover investigation reveals how members of the National Guard received training on how to shoot to kill. The guard was set up by far-right leaders to defend Catholic institutions and is supported by Jarosław Kaczyński, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the PiS party. Kaczyński, who is responsible for security issues, called for groups to “defend the church at all costs”. Violence by far-right groups against protesters has already been documented during protests. The systematic persecution of protesters also needs to stop. Protesters in Warsaw are being detained and taken to police stations up to 30 kilometres outside of Warsaw, under the guise of ensuring COVID-19 safe spaces, with limited or no access to legal representation. We condemn the Polish government for using COVID-19 as a pretext to restrict the rights of protesters. At least 67 people have been detained for protesting thus far: “I have  witnessed growing police violence and irrational harassment of protesters. We have to be prepared to drive out of Warsaw to nearby cities where protesters are being taken even if they get arrested in the centre of the city. Citizens of all genders and ages end up at police precincts having to explain and justify why they wish to exercise their constitutional rights. Naturally, complaints will be filed to declare these detainments as illegal, disproportionate and unjustified. Poland is a democratic country, and as human rights defenders we will fight for it to remain so,” said Eliza Rutynowska, lawyer assisting detained protesters. Authorities are targeting young people who have attended, or freely expressed support, for protests. A 17-year-old was knocked to the ground by police during a protest and detained overnight; a 14-year-old who shared a Facebook post about a planned walk-in protest in his neighbourhood was threatened with criminal prosecution. Another 14-year-old who attended a protest with her grandmother was openly confronted by police and accused of organising demonstrations. Some teachers and professors have threatened students with disciplinary action for showing support for the Women's Strike (StajkKobiet) and for participating in protests: “The right to protest is a fundamental civic freedom which is currently under threat in Poland. We are concerned that as spontaneous protests continue, the use of excessive force and the persecution of protesters will escalate. This is already being demonstrated by the attacks on young protesters, whose right to free expression is under attack,” said Aarti Narsee, civic  space researcher, CIVICUS. The EU must step up and condemn attacks on Polish protesters. We call on the EU to make use of, and continue to further strengthen, all its legal and political tools, including recommendations under the EU Rule of Law Framework; we also call on the EU to ensure that access to funds is dependent on states respecting human rights. “Poland is a country that wants to veto the next seven-year EU budget, the bloc's COVID-19 recovery plan, and an EU plan to make transfers of EU funds to member states conditional on states respecting the rule of law. The vast majority of Polish citizens are in favour of the EU clause on conditionality of funding and in favour of protests. The EU must intervene,” Irene Donadio, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network. We call on authorities to refrain from the use of excessive force and detention of protesters, who are exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Police officials who have used excessive force towards protesters must be immediately investigated and held accountable.   Notes to Editors: Civic space in Poland is rated Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor Latest country update by the CIVICUS Monitor

Poland protests
news_item

| 24 November 2020

Polish authorities must stop persecuting and intimidating protesters (statement)

Press statement 24 November, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Civil society organisations express serious concerns over civic space restrictions in Poland Detention and intimidation of protesters by authorities a huge concern Protests sparked by decision to impose a near-total ban on abortion Polish authorities must immediately stop using excessive force and detaining and intimidating protesters, including minors. Spontaneous protests against the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) have been held throughout the country since 22 October, prompted by the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal to impose a near-total ban on abortion. CIVICUS and IPPF EN, the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Network, are concerned about the use of violence by authorities and non-state actors against protesters. Lawyers assisting protesters have documented how authorities have used kettling, pepper spray and physical violence against protesters. These methods all involve close contact and may lead to an increase in the risk of COVID-19 infection. Just last night, a police car hit a protester and police detained a photojournalist, even after she presented her press card. In another incident, a member of the Internal Security Agency deliberately drove into protesters, injuring two people, with one ending up in hospital with sustained injuries. Anti-terrorist groups are also being deployed to deal with peaceful assemblies, hitting protesters with batons. We are also concerned about the further potential escalation of violence against protesters  by far-right groups in Poland. A recent undercover investigation reveals how members of the National Guard received training on how to shoot to kill. The guard was set up by far-right leaders to defend Catholic institutions and is supported by Jarosław Kaczyński, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the PiS party. Kaczyński, who is responsible for security issues, called for groups to “defend the church at all costs”. Violence by far-right groups against protesters has already been documented during protests. The systematic persecution of protesters also needs to stop. Protesters in Warsaw are being detained and taken to police stations up to 30 kilometres outside of Warsaw, under the guise of ensuring COVID-19 safe spaces, with limited or no access to legal representation. We condemn the Polish government for using COVID-19 as a pretext to restrict the rights of protesters. At least 67 people have been detained for protesting thus far: “I have  witnessed growing police violence and irrational harassment of protesters. We have to be prepared to drive out of Warsaw to nearby cities where protesters are being taken even if they get arrested in the centre of the city. Citizens of all genders and ages end up at police precincts having to explain and justify why they wish to exercise their constitutional rights. Naturally, complaints will be filed to declare these detainments as illegal, disproportionate and unjustified. Poland is a democratic country, and as human rights defenders we will fight for it to remain so,” said Eliza Rutynowska, lawyer assisting detained protesters. Authorities are targeting young people who have attended, or freely expressed support, for protests. A 17-year-old was knocked to the ground by police during a protest and detained overnight; a 14-year-old who shared a Facebook post about a planned walk-in protest in his neighbourhood was threatened with criminal prosecution. Another 14-year-old who attended a protest with her grandmother was openly confronted by police and accused of organising demonstrations. Some teachers and professors have threatened students with disciplinary action for showing support for the Women's Strike (StajkKobiet) and for participating in protests: “The right to protest is a fundamental civic freedom which is currently under threat in Poland. We are concerned that as spontaneous protests continue, the use of excessive force and the persecution of protesters will escalate. This is already being demonstrated by the attacks on young protesters, whose right to free expression is under attack,” said Aarti Narsee, civic  space researcher, CIVICUS. The EU must step up and condemn attacks on Polish protesters. We call on the EU to make use of, and continue to further strengthen, all its legal and political tools, including recommendations under the EU Rule of Law Framework; we also call on the EU to ensure that access to funds is dependent on states respecting human rights. “Poland is a country that wants to veto the next seven-year EU budget, the bloc's COVID-19 recovery plan, and an EU plan to make transfers of EU funds to member states conditional on states respecting the rule of law. The vast majority of Polish citizens are in favour of the EU clause on conditionality of funding and in favour of protests. The EU must intervene,” Irene Donadio, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network. We call on authorities to refrain from the use of excessive force and detention of protesters, who are exercising their right to peaceful assembly. Police officials who have used excessive force towards protesters must be immediately investigated and held accountable.   Notes to Editors: Civic space in Poland is rated Narrowed by the CIVICUS Monitor Latest country update by the CIVICUS Monitor

trans rights
news item

| 18 November 2020

IPPF honours the Trans Day of Remembrance

On the Trans Day of Remembrance, IPPF remembers the transgender people whose lives have been lost globally to transphobic violence, and stands in solidarity in the fight for trans rights. This year the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project added 350 trans and gender-diverse people to the list of people to be remembered worldwide. This project systematically monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide. The world needs to wake up and understand that transphobia and its violence is a destructive aggression of social prejudice that denies people their human rights. IPPF works to change laws in countries to support gender and sexual diversity. We spotlight the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA/PKBI) who are fighting for to halt the Penal Code revisions that criminalises and stigmatises gender and sexually diverse persons, including trans people. IPPA produced a short film "Emak Menolak", highlighting the challenges of trans people in Indonesia. Check it out! IPPF will continue to fight and stand in solidarity with the trans community until their rights are realized and respected, because trans rights are human rights. Will you join us?   Photo: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

trans rights
news_item

| 20 November 2020

IPPF honours the Trans Day of Remembrance

On the Trans Day of Remembrance, IPPF remembers the transgender people whose lives have been lost globally to transphobic violence, and stands in solidarity in the fight for trans rights. This year the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project added 350 trans and gender-diverse people to the list of people to be remembered worldwide. This project systematically monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide. The world needs to wake up and understand that transphobia and its violence is a destructive aggression of social prejudice that denies people their human rights. IPPF works to change laws in countries to support gender and sexual diversity. We spotlight the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA/PKBI) who are fighting for to halt the Penal Code revisions that criminalises and stigmatises gender and sexually diverse persons, including trans people. IPPA produced a short film "Emak Menolak", highlighting the challenges of trans people in Indonesia. Check it out! IPPF will continue to fight and stand in solidarity with the trans community until their rights are realized and respected, because trans rights are human rights. Will you join us?   Photo: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Poland protests
news item

| 28 October 2020

Poland - Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters (letter to EU institutions)

Letter sent to the President of the European Commission, Commissioners, the German Presidency and the President of the European Parliament by IPPF EN and CIVICUS. Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.   Subject: Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters in Poland, following decision of illegitimate Constitutional Tribunal which violates human rights   Dear Presidents, We write to bring to your attention our deep concerns regarding developments unfolding in Poland, due to the use of excessive force during peaceful protests against the deteriorating situation of the rule of law and human rights in the country. On 22 October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that access to abortion care on the grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life” is unconstitutional. This decision imposes even more severe restrictions on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and amounts to a near ban on all legal access to abortion care in the country. This ruling will have a devastating impact on women’s health and put their lives at risk, and is in violation of Poland’s international human rights obligations. As noted in our previous letter[1], the government has been implementing measures that undermine judicial independence and the rule of law in Poland, thus raising concerns about the legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal. These concerns have been denounced by the EU and other institutions. Following this decision, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to express their discontent with the Polish government under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) party. The protests have spread across Poland and are currently in their seventh day.  The protests, which were originally led by women’s rights groups such as Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike), are now widely supported by a variety of groups of Polish people, including miners, taxi drivers, farmers and trade unions[2]. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, protesters had to be inventive, including by using their cars to block traffic. On 28th October, the protest organisers are planning on holding a women’s strike, similar to those that took place in 2016 in response to a previous effort to restrict the abortion law. We are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups close to the ruling party. Footage documented by activists and journalists show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters[3]. Videos document how in one instance a police officer drags a protester by the feet and hits him with a gas cylinder, while a woman trying to stop this is elbowed in the face by an officer.[4] Activists on the ground have documented 17 arrests thus far, but these could be underreported. In one case reported on social media, a protester was detained in the middle of the night after returning home from a peaceful protest in Poznan[5]. In Warsaw, one parish priest gave far-right activists permission to defend his church from protesters, and they began physically removing women from the premises as a result[6].The actions of far-right groups are particularly worrying given how they are often able to act with impunity, in stark contrast with the repressive measures taken by the authorities against human rights defenders. The use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, and their failure to protect peaceful protesters from violence by other civilians, are contrary to standards set out in international human rights law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights[7], which guarantee the right to peaceful assembly. We urge you to prevent history from repeating itself as we recall the inaction of the Polish police, when Pride protesters were violently attacked by far-right groups during the first Bialystok LGBTIQ equality march on 20 July 2019. The Prime Minister announced that the military will be deployed to the streets on 28th October, officially for COVID-19 reasons[8]. Guidelines from the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly make it clear that as a general rule, the military should not be used to police assemblies. Even in exceptional circumstances where this becomes necessary, the military must be subordinate to civilian authorities.[9] It is unacceptable that the Polish government is using COVID-19 as a pretence to repress peaceful protests. These attacks take place within the context of rapidly declining civic space in Poland, which includes the erosion of media freedom and judicial independence,[10] and a crackdown on LGBTI and human rights activists and associations[11]. Soon, women's right to be protected from domestic violence could also be threatened by an upcoming decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, which could declare the Istanbul Convention unconstitutional[12]. We call on you as EU leaders to denounce the use of excessive force and violence against peaceful protesters and to protect the rights and lives of European citizens against their authoritarian governments. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by non-state actors including far-rights groups and ensure that those who attack protesters are held accountable.   [1] https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-decision-constitutional-tribunal-may-lead-human-rights-violations [2] https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/10/26/farmers-taxi-drivers-and-miners-show-support-for-abortion-protests-in-poland/?fbclid=IwAR2ObBYgSbSLeJorN1D-PIPe-yLGiB6pCfKi8t22FamTcNhmWvKlNdz8oSs [3] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ [4] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1319928228480380928 [5] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1320667783668109312 [6] https://twitter.com/notesfrompoland/status/1320382902820048896 [7] https://ec.europa.eu/info/aid-development-cooperation-fundamental-rights/your-rights-eu/know-your-rights/freedoms/freedom-assembly-and-association_en [8] https://www.polishnews.co.uk/military-gendarmerie-directed-to-help-the-police-ministry-of-defense-this-is-standard-activities/ [9] A/HRC/31/66, para. 66: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CCPR/GC37/SR_FreedomPeacefulAssembyandassociation.docx [10] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/03/16/new-law-set-erode-judicial-independence-and-municipalities-declared-lgbti-free-zones/ [11] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/05/crackdown-lgbti-rights-continues-feminists-protest-over-withdrawal-domestic-violence-treaty/ [12] https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-court-violence-against-women-istanbul-convention/

Poland protests
news_item

| 28 October 2020

Poland - Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters (letter to EU institutions)

Letter sent to the President of the European Commission, Commissioners, the German Presidency and the President of the European Parliament by IPPF EN and CIVICUS. Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.   Subject: Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters in Poland, following decision of illegitimate Constitutional Tribunal which violates human rights   Dear Presidents, We write to bring to your attention our deep concerns regarding developments unfolding in Poland, due to the use of excessive force during peaceful protests against the deteriorating situation of the rule of law and human rights in the country. On 22 October 2020, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that access to abortion care on the grounds of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’ life” is unconstitutional. This decision imposes even more severe restrictions on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and amounts to a near ban on all legal access to abortion care in the country. This ruling will have a devastating impact on women’s health and put their lives at risk, and is in violation of Poland’s international human rights obligations. As noted in our previous letter[1], the government has been implementing measures that undermine judicial independence and the rule of law in Poland, thus raising concerns about the legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal. These concerns have been denounced by the EU and other institutions. Following this decision, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to express their discontent with the Polish government under the ruling PiS (Law and Justice) party. The protests have spread across Poland and are currently in their seventh day.  The protests, which were originally led by women’s rights groups such as Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike), are now widely supported by a variety of groups of Polish people, including miners, taxi drivers, farmers and trade unions[2]. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, protesters had to be inventive, including by using their cars to block traffic. On 28th October, the protest organisers are planning on holding a women’s strike, similar to those that took place in 2016 in response to a previous effort to restrict the abortion law. We are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups close to the ruling party. Footage documented by activists and journalists show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters[3]. Videos document how in one instance a police officer drags a protester by the feet and hits him with a gas cylinder, while a woman trying to stop this is elbowed in the face by an officer.[4] Activists on the ground have documented 17 arrests thus far, but these could be underreported. In one case reported on social media, a protester was detained in the middle of the night after returning home from a peaceful protest in Poznan[5]. In Warsaw, one parish priest gave far-right activists permission to defend his church from protesters, and they began physically removing women from the premises as a result[6].The actions of far-right groups are particularly worrying given how they are often able to act with impunity, in stark contrast with the repressive measures taken by the authorities against human rights defenders. The use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, and their failure to protect peaceful protesters from violence by other civilians, are contrary to standards set out in international human rights law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights[7], which guarantee the right to peaceful assembly. We urge you to prevent history from repeating itself as we recall the inaction of the Polish police, when Pride protesters were violently attacked by far-right groups during the first Bialystok LGBTIQ equality march on 20 July 2019. The Prime Minister announced that the military will be deployed to the streets on 28th October, officially for COVID-19 reasons[8]. Guidelines from the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly make it clear that as a general rule, the military should not be used to police assemblies. Even in exceptional circumstances where this becomes necessary, the military must be subordinate to civilian authorities.[9] It is unacceptable that the Polish government is using COVID-19 as a pretence to repress peaceful protests. These attacks take place within the context of rapidly declining civic space in Poland, which includes the erosion of media freedom and judicial independence,[10] and a crackdown on LGBTI and human rights activists and associations[11]. Soon, women's right to be protected from domestic violence could also be threatened by an upcoming decision of the Constitutional Tribunal, which could declare the Istanbul Convention unconstitutional[12]. We call on you as EU leaders to denounce the use of excessive force and violence against peaceful protesters and to protect the rights and lives of European citizens against their authoritarian governments. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by non-state actors including far-rights groups and ensure that those who attack protesters are held accountable.   [1] https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-decision-constitutional-tribunal-may-lead-human-rights-violations [2] https://notesfrompoland.com/2020/10/26/farmers-taxi-drivers-and-miners-show-support-for-abortion-protests-in-poland/?fbclid=IwAR2ObBYgSbSLeJorN1D-PIPe-yLGiB6pCfKi8t22FamTcNhmWvKlNdz8oSs [3] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ [4] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1319928228480380928 [5] https://twitter.com/RemyBonny/status/1320667783668109312 [6] https://twitter.com/notesfrompoland/status/1320382902820048896 [7] https://ec.europa.eu/info/aid-development-cooperation-fundamental-rights/your-rights-eu/know-your-rights/freedoms/freedom-assembly-and-association_en [8] https://www.polishnews.co.uk/military-gendarmerie-directed-to-help-the-police-ministry-of-defense-this-is-standard-activities/ [9] A/HRC/31/66, para. 66: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CCPR/GC37/SR_FreedomPeacefulAssembyandassociation.docx [10] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/03/16/new-law-set-erode-judicial-independence-and-municipalities-declared-lgbti-free-zones/ [11] https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/05/crackdown-lgbti-rights-continues-feminists-protest-over-withdrawal-domestic-violence-treaty/ [12] https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-court-violence-against-women-istanbul-convention/

Poland abortion protest
news item

| 28 October 2020

Polish government must refrain from repressing peaceful protesters (statement)

Press statement 28 October, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Polish law enforcement and military which is being deployed today, must refrain from using excessive force against peaceful protesters who have taken to the streets around the country 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 ban on abortion on 22nd 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 unions. CIVICUS and IPPF EN are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups. Footage documented by activists and journalists on social media show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters. 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 28th October (today), officially for COVID-19 reasons, is worrying given that UN standards indicate that 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 peaceful protests. The Polish government has already been strongly criticised for using the pandemic to consolidate power and gag opposition, and it has previously done nothing to punish violence against peaceful demonstrations by far-right groups. “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, Senior Lead for Strategy and Partnerships at IPPF EN.  We urge the Polish government to end restrictions on peaceful protesters. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by the authorities and non-state actors.   Notes to Editors: CIVICUS report: https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ Joint CIVICUS/IPPF EN letter sent to EU institutions : https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-concerns-over-use-excessive-force-against-peaceful-protesters   Press contacts: CIVICUS: [email protected] IPPF EN: Irene Donadio - [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90 Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.

Poland abortion protest
news_item

| 28 October 2020

Polish government must refrain from repressing peaceful protesters (statement)

Press statement 28 October, IPPF EN and CIVICUS Polish law enforcement and military which is being deployed today, must refrain from using excessive force against peaceful protesters who have taken to the streets around the country 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 ban on abortion on 22nd 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 unions. CIVICUS and IPPF EN are concerned that these peaceful protests are being met with excessive force and violence from law enforcement officials and far-right groups. Footage documented by activists and journalists on social media show police using teargas, pepper spray and physically assaulting protesters. 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 28th October (today), officially for COVID-19 reasons, is worrying given that UN standards indicate that 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 peaceful protests. The Polish government has already been strongly criticised for using the pandemic to consolidate power and gag opposition, and it has previously done nothing to punish violence against peaceful demonstrations by far-right groups. “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, Senior Lead for Strategy and Partnerships at IPPF EN.  We urge the Polish government to end restrictions on peaceful protesters. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by the authorities and non-state actors.   Notes to Editors: CIVICUS report: https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2020/10/28/thousands-protest-constitutional-tribunal-imposes-near-ban-abortion/ Joint CIVICUS/IPPF EN letter sent to EU institutions : https://www.ippfen.org/news/poland-concerns-over-use-excessive-force-against-peaceful-protesters   Press contacts: CIVICUS: [email protected] IPPF EN: Irene Donadio - [email protected], +32 491 71 93 90 Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.

Poland abortion ban
news item

| 22 October 2020

Polish abortion ban will devastate women’s lives, in first major attack on human rights resulting from erosion of Rule of Law (statement)

On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the country’s abortion law is unconstitutional, specifically striking down the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. This cruel, regressive move has been made possible by the ruling PiS party’s deliberate erosion of the rule of law and democratic values in the country, and its placement of politically appointed judges into a body that, when carrying out its legitimate duty, is responsible precisely for upholding the rule of law. The ruling is just the first concrete manifestation of how the current situation in Poland enables PiS to violate human rights. Today’s decision automatically removes the only ground on which Polish women have still been able to access abortion care in practice, when they needed it for therapeutic reasons. The result will be agonising for women and their families, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, including in cases of fatal or severe foetal impairment, while others will have no choice but to travel abroad to seek care if they have the financial means to do so, or to seek underground abortions. This decision will needlessly increase the suffering of women already facing very difficult situations. Such inhumane and degrading treatment has been described by the European Court of Human Rights as tantamount to torturing women. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the agenda of Poland’s ruling PiS party, which continues zealously to mount attacks against women’s reproductive rights and freedom. Public opinion in Poland does not support a ban on women’s access to abortion care. The European Commission has already expressed serious concerns regarding breaches of the rule of law in Poland, and has proposed to make EU funding to Member States conditional on respect for this EU value. “On this sad day, as we mourn the extinguishing of Polish women’s remaining sliver of access to abortion care, we call on EU Member States to back this measure aimed at protecting EU values, and to strongly condemn such blatant violations of human rights in Europe. Today’s decision in Poland is a stark illustration of what ordinary people stand to lose,” said IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio. In addition to marking a devastating day for women’s safety in Poland, 22 October may also see reproductive bullies mark their hatred for women and LGBTI people at the international level. Regressive governments from around the world, including Poland and Hungary, will sign a farcical Trump-led document with no legal basis, with which they attempt to defy international consensus in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Today may also be the day that the United States confirm Amy Coney Barrett, known for her anti-abortion views, to the Supreme Court.   Photo credit: Katarzyna Pierzchała - Obywatel KP Fotograf

Poland abortion ban
news_item

| 22 October 2020

Polish abortion ban will devastate women’s lives, in first major attack on human rights resulting from erosion of Rule of Law (statement)

On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the country’s abortion law is unconstitutional, specifically striking down the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. This cruel, regressive move has been made possible by the ruling PiS party’s deliberate erosion of the rule of law and democratic values in the country, and its placement of politically appointed judges into a body that, when carrying out its legitimate duty, is responsible precisely for upholding the rule of law. The ruling is just the first concrete manifestation of how the current situation in Poland enables PiS to violate human rights. Today’s decision automatically removes the only ground on which Polish women have still been able to access abortion care in practice, when they needed it for therapeutic reasons. The result will be agonising for women and their families, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, including in cases of fatal or severe foetal impairment, while others will have no choice but to travel abroad to seek care if they have the financial means to do so, or to seek underground abortions. This decision will needlessly increase the suffering of women already facing very difficult situations. Such inhumane and degrading treatment has been described by the European Court of Human Rights as tantamount to torturing women. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the agenda of Poland’s ruling PiS party, which continues zealously to mount attacks against women’s reproductive rights and freedom. Public opinion in Poland does not support a ban on women’s access to abortion care. The European Commission has already expressed serious concerns regarding breaches of the rule of law in Poland, and has proposed to make EU funding to Member States conditional on respect for this EU value. “On this sad day, as we mourn the extinguishing of Polish women’s remaining sliver of access to abortion care, we call on EU Member States to back this measure aimed at protecting EU values, and to strongly condemn such blatant violations of human rights in Europe. Today’s decision in Poland is a stark illustration of what ordinary people stand to lose,” said IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio. In addition to marking a devastating day for women’s safety in Poland, 22 October may also see reproductive bullies mark their hatred for women and LGBTI people at the international level. Regressive governments from around the world, including Poland and Hungary, will sign a farcical Trump-led document with no legal basis, with which they attempt to defy international consensus in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Today may also be the day that the United States confirm Amy Coney Barrett, known for her anti-abortion views, to the Supreme Court.   Photo credit: Katarzyna Pierzchała - Obywatel KP Fotograf

Poland protest during COVID-19
news item

| 16 October 2020

Serious breaches of rule of law in Poland pave way for extensive abuse of human rights (statement)

21 October update (original press release from 16 October below) Ahead of the decision of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on the constitutionality of the abortion law, due on 22 October, ruling party PiS has continued its assault on the Rule of Law. On 20 October, it was announced that Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a long-standing champion of human rights, was to be dismissed with use of the Constitutional Tribunal. The trial was finally cancelled just before it was due to take place. Two Supreme Court judges - Irena Majcher and Igor Tuleya - have also come under attack this week and will possibly be stripped of judicial immunity and charged. These latest moves illustrate the aggressive anti-democratic agenda of PiS, as it prepares during a global pandemic to increase its stranglehold on women’s human rights. Polish Women’s Strike activists have demonstrated their opposition to the anticipated outcome of Thursday’s decision, taking to the streets yet again in cars to protest against this latest attempt to devastate the lives of women and their families.  Meanwhile, a new survey published this week by the European Parliament demonstrates that European citizens believe EU funding to Member States should be conditional on national governments upholding the rule of law. This sends a strong signal to EU leaders that there is public support for a robust approach to ensuring no government can get away with flouting the rule of law and democratic values. Press contact: Irene Donadio - +32 (0)491 719 390 __________________________________________   Press release 16 October 2020 - On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal will rule on the constitutionality of the country’s abortion law1. IPPF European Network is deeply concerned that this ruling will be the first concrete manifestation of the serious threat to Polish citizens’ lives that is posed by the collapse of the rule of law in their country2. Specifically, the forthcoming ruling concerns the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. The Tribunal is expected to rule in line with the ruling party PiS, and declare the provision unconstitutional. IPPF EN fears that due to the deliberate politicisation of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the ruling on 22 October may be just the first in a series of possible extensive human rights violations. On this occasion, the Tribunal will target women’s health and safety3. Shortly afterwards, it will decide over the fate of survivors of domestic violence when it assesses the constitutionality of the Istanbul Convention. After that, the systemic erosion of the rule of law means that there is nothing to stop it attacking the human rights of other vulnerable groups, including LGBTI people and migrants4. The European Commission has bravely tried to put a stop to the Polish government’s attacks against the basic democratic principle of separation of executive and judicial powers. Unfortunately, it has not so far been successful in halting this erosion. Fundamental EU values of human rights, human dignity, equality and non-discrimination are at stake. Developments in Poland set a terrible precedent that may encourage other illiberal governments to take similar steps. IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio said: “We cannot allow this to happen on our watch. The ruling on 22 October poses a great danger, not only for desperate women in Poland in need of protection and care when facing a tragic private health crisis, but for society as a whole. This ruling is the first step in a long dark march towards the oppression of ordinary people. We call on EU leaders and citizens to protest and support the European Commission’s efforts to defend the rule of law in Poland.” 1. Act on Family Planning, the Protection of the Human Fetus, and the Conditions of Admissibility of Abortion of 1993 (1993 Family Planning Act), Article 4a § 1 pt. 2. The Constitutional Tribunal will assess compliance of the relevant provisions with Art. 30 of the Constitution (right to dignity of a person); then with Art. 38 (protection of life), Art. 31§3 (grounds for limiting freedom), Art. 32 (prohibition of discrimination), Art. 2 (social justice) and Art. 42 (criminal liability) .  2. The Polish government’s reforms to the judiciary since 2015 have raised serious concerns regarding respect for the rule of law, and led the Commission to launch the procedure under Article 7(1) TEU in 2017, and several infringement procedures in the past years. As rightly noted by the European Commission in its first Annual Report on the matter, “concerns over the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, raised by the Commission under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure, have so far not been resolved.” The Venice Commission has noted that changes to procedures for judicial appointments and the operations of the Constitutional Tribunal have undermined its independence and rendered its work ineffective, including due to excessive executive and legislative control of the Tribunal’s operations. Almost all judges sitting on the Constitutional Tribunal now have strong links with the ruling party PiS and were nominated purely for political purposes, while legitimate Constitutional judges that would not conform have been removed. The assessment requested for the ruling on October 22 was submitted by a group of Members of Parliament in December 2019, including from PiS, the ruling party and was only placed on the agenda of the Tribunal after it was approved by the government. Such a takeover of a Constitutional Tribunal is unprecedented in Europe. 3. Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the EU. Abortion is only permitted on very limited grounds, including in cases of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’s life”. The removal of this ground would virtually ban all access to abortion care, violating Polish women’s human rights to life, health, and dignity, and causing immense suffering to women and their families. In practice, if the Constitutional Tribunal rules that this ground is unconstitutional, women will either be forced to give birth against their will, in a country that offers very little care and support to family and people with disabilities, or to undergo unsafe or illegal abortion procedures, especially for those who cannot afford to travel abroad. By removing this ground, Poland would further breach numerous commitments it has made to uphold and protect human rights. 4. The forthcoming ruling takes place in a broader context of repeated, retrogressive attempts by Poland’s ruling party to roll back on reproductive rights, women’s human rights and LGBTI rights. In July 2020, Poland announced its intention to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on its constitutionality. Poland has also repeatedly infringed on LGBTI rights, which has been denounced by the European Commission and led to the withholding of EU funds from certain Polish cities (Annual Rule of Law Report; European Commission President von der Leyen State of the Union Address).  

Poland protest during COVID-19
news_item

| 21 October 2020

Serious breaches of rule of law in Poland pave way for extensive abuse of human rights (statement)

21 October update (original press release from 16 October below) Ahead of the decision of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on the constitutionality of the abortion law, due on 22 October, ruling party PiS has continued its assault on the Rule of Law. On 20 October, it was announced that Ombudsman Adam Bodnar, a long-standing champion of human rights, was to be dismissed with use of the Constitutional Tribunal. The trial was finally cancelled just before it was due to take place. Two Supreme Court judges - Irena Majcher and Igor Tuleya - have also come under attack this week and will possibly be stripped of judicial immunity and charged. These latest moves illustrate the aggressive anti-democratic agenda of PiS, as it prepares during a global pandemic to increase its stranglehold on women’s human rights. Polish Women’s Strike activists have demonstrated their opposition to the anticipated outcome of Thursday’s decision, taking to the streets yet again in cars to protest against this latest attempt to devastate the lives of women and their families.  Meanwhile, a new survey published this week by the European Parliament demonstrates that European citizens believe EU funding to Member States should be conditional on national governments upholding the rule of law. This sends a strong signal to EU leaders that there is public support for a robust approach to ensuring no government can get away with flouting the rule of law and democratic values. Press contact: Irene Donadio - +32 (0)491 719 390 __________________________________________   Press release 16 October 2020 - On 22 October, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal will rule on the constitutionality of the country’s abortion law1. IPPF European Network is deeply concerned that this ruling will be the first concrete manifestation of the serious threat to Polish citizens’ lives that is posed by the collapse of the rule of law in their country2. Specifically, the forthcoming ruling concerns the possibility for women to access abortion care on the ground of severe foetal impairment. The Tribunal is expected to rule in line with the ruling party PiS, and declare the provision unconstitutional. IPPF EN fears that due to the deliberate politicisation of Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, the ruling on 22 October may be just the first in a series of possible extensive human rights violations. On this occasion, the Tribunal will target women’s health and safety3. Shortly afterwards, it will decide over the fate of survivors of domestic violence when it assesses the constitutionality of the Istanbul Convention. After that, the systemic erosion of the rule of law means that there is nothing to stop it attacking the human rights of other vulnerable groups, including LGBTI people and migrants4. The European Commission has bravely tried to put a stop to the Polish government’s attacks against the basic democratic principle of separation of executive and judicial powers. Unfortunately, it has not so far been successful in halting this erosion. Fundamental EU values of human rights, human dignity, equality and non-discrimination are at stake. Developments in Poland set a terrible precedent that may encourage other illiberal governments to take similar steps. IPPF EN’s Irene Donadio said: “We cannot allow this to happen on our watch. The ruling on 22 October poses a great danger, not only for desperate women in Poland in need of protection and care when facing a tragic private health crisis, but for society as a whole. This ruling is the first step in a long dark march towards the oppression of ordinary people. We call on EU leaders and citizens to protest and support the European Commission’s efforts to defend the rule of law in Poland.” 1. Act on Family Planning, the Protection of the Human Fetus, and the Conditions of Admissibility of Abortion of 1993 (1993 Family Planning Act), Article 4a § 1 pt. 2. The Constitutional Tribunal will assess compliance of the relevant provisions with Art. 30 of the Constitution (right to dignity of a person); then with Art. 38 (protection of life), Art. 31§3 (grounds for limiting freedom), Art. 32 (prohibition of discrimination), Art. 2 (social justice) and Art. 42 (criminal liability) .  2. The Polish government’s reforms to the judiciary since 2015 have raised serious concerns regarding respect for the rule of law, and led the Commission to launch the procedure under Article 7(1) TEU in 2017, and several infringement procedures in the past years. As rightly noted by the European Commission in its first Annual Report on the matter, “concerns over the independence and legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, raised by the Commission under the Article 7(1) TEU procedure, have so far not been resolved.” The Venice Commission has noted that changes to procedures for judicial appointments and the operations of the Constitutional Tribunal have undermined its independence and rendered its work ineffective, including due to excessive executive and legislative control of the Tribunal’s operations. Almost all judges sitting on the Constitutional Tribunal now have strong links with the ruling party PiS and were nominated purely for political purposes, while legitimate Constitutional judges that would not conform have been removed. The assessment requested for the ruling on October 22 was submitted by a group of Members of Parliament in December 2019, including from PiS, the ruling party and was only placed on the agenda of the Tribunal after it was approved by the government. Such a takeover of a Constitutional Tribunal is unprecedented in Europe. 3. Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the EU. Abortion is only permitted on very limited grounds, including in cases of “severe and irreversible foetal defect or incurable illness that threatens the foetus’s life”. The removal of this ground would virtually ban all access to abortion care, violating Polish women’s human rights to life, health, and dignity, and causing immense suffering to women and their families. In practice, if the Constitutional Tribunal rules that this ground is unconstitutional, women will either be forced to give birth against their will, in a country that offers very little care and support to family and people with disabilities, or to undergo unsafe or illegal abortion procedures, especially for those who cannot afford to travel abroad. By removing this ground, Poland would further breach numerous commitments it has made to uphold and protect human rights. 4. The forthcoming ruling takes place in a broader context of repeated, retrogressive attempts by Poland’s ruling party to roll back on reproductive rights, women’s human rights and LGBTI rights. In July 2020, Poland announced its intention to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on its constitutionality. Poland has also repeatedly infringed on LGBTI rights, which has been denounced by the European Commission and led to the withholding of EU funds from certain Polish cities (Annual Rule of Law Report; European Commission President von der Leyen State of the Union Address).