Alert for Poland

defend the defenders
defend the defenders


Updated March 2021

On 22 October 2020, Poland’s illegally appointed 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 judgment 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 is agonising for women and their families, forcing most 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 which are now even less available due to pressure from the government.

Our reaction

Polish Parliament votes on anti-rights bills (November 2021)

Poland debates prison terms for abortion in new blow to women's rights (November 2021)

Poland: A year on, abortion ruling harms women (October 2021)

Polish women’s lives at risk as illegal near-total abortion ban takes effect (January 2021)

Polish abortion ban will devastate women’s lives, in first major attack on human rights resulting from erosion of Rule of Law (October 2020)

The collapse of the Rule of Law

People protesting

The cruel, regressive move to ban abortion in almost all circumstances has been made possible by the Polish government coalition'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 for upholding the rule of law.

Almost all judges sitting on the Constitutional Tribunal now have strong links with the ruling coalition and were nominated purely for political purposes, while legitimate Constitutional judges were not sworn in.

We ask political decision makers to urgently make use of all the legal and political tools at their disposal to act, including: the new Rule of Law Cycle, the recommendations under the Rule of Law Framework; the Article 7 proceedings; consider launching an infringement procedure on the Constitutional Tribunal, as called for by the European Parliament; and implement and trigger the rule of law conditionality mechanism for the future EU budget as soon as possible.

Our reaction

The EU takes bolder action against Poland and Hungary over vast abuses (May 2021)

Serious breaches of rule of law in Poland pave way for extensive abuse of human rights
(October 2020)

Poland - Decision of Constitutional Tribunal may lead to human rights violations (letter to EU institutions)
(October 2020)

In the streets

Protester standing in front of police

Massive protests were prompted by the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal to impose a near ban on abortion. The protests have drawn support from a wide variety of people, including miners, taxi drivers, farmers and trade unions.

Peaceful protesters were met with excessive force with authorities using tear gas, pepper spray and physical assault.

We urge the Polish government to end the intimidation, prosecution and smearing campaigns against peaceful protesters. We also call on EU leaders to condemn attacks and violence perpetrated by the authorities and non-state actors.

Our reaction

Polish government must refrain from repressing peaceful protesters
(October 2020)

Poland - Concerns over use of excessive force against peaceful protesters (letter to EU institutions)
(October 2020)

Women’s rights defenders, you will never walk alone

Women’s rights defenders have faced violence from law enforcement and far-right groups, as well as smear campaigns in state-controlled media and excessive criminal charges, which were orchestrated and encouraged by the government.

We ask the EU to protect and support women’s human rights defenders and organisations, including financially, in Poland and in every EU Member State.

Woman in mask

Spotlight on interview with Marta Lempart leader in the Polish Women’s Strike (March 2021)
Join our campaign Defend the Defenders

Our reaction

Poland: Escalating threats to women activists (March 2021)

Efforts to legalise domestic violence

The Polish Minister for Social Policies, Labour and Family drafted an official government bill that legalises the first act of domestic violence, categorizing it as illegal if it happens more than once. This bill would dismantle the Polish ‘blue card’ system which ensures the obligation of any institution (police, social workers, teachers, NGOs etc) to flag cases of domestic violence. The bill would also lift the obligation of the state to provide a helpline for survivors of domestic violence.

The only thing that stands in the way of adopting this bill is the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women. The Polish government stated it wants to withdraw from the Convention. Currently, the withdrawal is up for debate in the Parliament, and the Istanbul Convention is under review by the illegitimate Constitutional Court.

On social media

From our partners

Poland added to the CIVICUS Monitor’s international human rights Watchlist.
Check out their civic space update on attacks on activists.

Human Rights Watch covers European Parliament hearing on Poland.

Amnesty International reports on protests in Poland.