Polish government must refrain from repressing peaceful protesters (statement)

28th October 2020
Poland abortion protest

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: media@civicus.org

IPPF EN: Irene Donadio - idonadio@ippf.org, +32 491 71 93 90

Photo credit: Spacerowiczka.