Amnesty International releases this statement to draw the attention of the Legislative Committee, the Human Rights, Rule of Law and Petitions Committee and the Local Government and State Administration Commission (who the aforementioned project was directed to for discussion), to the international commitments of Poland and the universally accepted standards regarding the right to citizens’ participation in governance of the country.
Amnesty International is an almost 60-year-old world-wide movement safeguarding human rights. The association aims to guarantee the rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to every human. Amnesty International is researching, documenting, publishing reports about cases of violation of human rights and undertakes campaigns to stop the violations of human rights and to help the victims of such violations.
Amnesty International is promoting all the laws included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements, while highlighting the interdependence and indivisibility of human rights as well as the consequences of their breaches.
Amnesty International is independent of any governing authorities, political ideologies, religions or groups directed at economic profit.
The aim of the Amnesty International’s statement is to express alarm regarding the safeguarding human rights, the implementation of international commitments and the practices of state authorities concerning the mentioned case.
We would like to highlight the threats facing human rights in Poland in the period preceding the election and the actual election period, the commitments of the state to build an environment that allows for unrestricted and actual participation in public life and governance of one’s country.
Human rights in the context of the planned May 2020 Presidential Election
According to international human rights regulation, every state is obliged to ensure that all persons involved in the electoral process are able to fully exploit their rights and freedoms without any hindrances. Below, we would like draw the attention to selected human rights and freedoms that are threatened by the plan to carry out the presidential election in May 2020 in regard to the Coronavirus pandemic.
- The right to assembly
The right to peaceful assembly- public demonstrations and political rallies is an integral part of the electoral process and ensures an effective means to spreading information and political campaigning.
The Special Rapporteur on Freedoms of peaceful assembly and association has highlighted that the electoral period is an important time for strengthening the responsible institutions and that the states should introduce concrete and precise measurements that would counteract any intervention into civil freedoms, especially the right to peaceful assembly and association. Furthermore, during the election, the state should make additional efforts to safeguard and simplify the possibility of exercising these fundamental rights. The provision of freedom of assembly and association is viewed as a key matter at this time.
- The right to free movement
It is of uttermost importance that all persons that want to exercise their right to participation in political life, are able to move freely, without unfounded restrictions and fear, as well as have the access to any events or places related to the election.
- The right to freedom of fear
Human rights must be respected while carrying out the electoral processes. Any persons taking part in the election, including the candidates, the voters and the electoral personnel must be free of fear for their health and lives. This rule is tied to the exercising of one’s right to health, the right to life, as well as the right to freedom and personal safety.
- Elections during declared or factual state of emergency
Any state that is preparing for an election, should carefully review the regulations effective during the state of emergency that restrict basic human rights in the context of their repeal or suspension in the electoral campaign period. Every regulation that restricts one’s ability to exercise their right to freedom of speech, right to information, right to peaceful assembly and association etc. can be viewed as undermining the right to participate in public life.
- The principle of specificity and stability of law
Appropriate regulations should be introduced in advance of the beginning of the electoral process. Like every other law, those regulations should be clear and concise in order to prevent any possible abuse or interventions into one’s ability to fully exercise their political rights, including the right to fully participate in the election. These regulations should also be widely trusted, easily understandable and accessible for all members of the society.
In the last few days, the issues mentioned above have been discussed by members of various organisations that safeguard human rights and international standards regarding the rule of law, such as the European Commission or the OSCE.
In the resolution of the 17th of April 2020, regarding the EU coordinated action to combat the COVID 19 pandemic and its consequences (2020/2616(RSP)) point 46, the European Parliament
“Underlines that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and compliance with the rule of law must continue to apply, and that in the context of emergency measures, the authorities must ensure that everyone enjoys the same rights and protection; emphasises that all measures taken at national and/or EU level must be in line with the rule of law, strictly proportionate to the exigencies of the situation, clearly related to the ongoing health crisis, limited in time and subjected to regular scrutiny.”
Mindful of the points discussed above, I would like to express hope that the mentioned standards will be respected in the works of the Senat and will contribute to the Polish state fulfilling its international obligations regarding the protection of human rights in the period preceding the election and during the election as well as regarding the obligation to provide an environment that allows for unrestricted and actual participation in public life and governance of one’s country.
The Director of Amnesty International Poland