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TITLE:  POLAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Four years after the fall of communism, Poland is a 
parliamentary democracy based on a multiparty system and free 
and fair elections.  A popularly elected President shares power 
with a Prime Minister and bicameral Parliament.

The coalition government led by Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka 
and the Democratic Union party fell in May on a vote of no 
confidence which passed by one vote, and President Lech Walesa 
dissolved Parliament.  In parliamentary elections held in 
September, the Democratic Left Alliance, a successor to the 
former Communist party, won a plurality of the votes and formed 
a coalition Government with the Polish Peasant Party.  The 
Government, headed by Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak of the 
Peasant Party, has a comfortable majority both in the Sejm (the 
lower house) and the Senate (the upper house).

The Polish armed forces and the internal security apparatus are 
subject to governmental authority and under civilian control.  
There is some ambiguity over how the President and the Prime 
Minister share power over the military.  This issue is to be 
addressed with new legislation which President Walesa and the 
Pawlak Government are considering and ultimately with a new 
constitution.  Regular police were accused of using excessive 
force to disperse demonstrations in Warsaw on three occasions 
and of brutality in dealing with homeless people and foreigners.

Poland's fledgling market economy provided opportunity to 
associate with others, pursue private interests, and own 
private property.  However, the struggle to continue the rapid 
pace of transition from a centrally planned economy to a 
market-oriented system caused a steady rise in unemployment, 
with women and younger workers suffering disproportionately.  
Discontent among Poles who believed that the reform process 
left them worse off than before contributed to an increase in 
voter support for leftist parties which promised to cushion the 
pain of economic reform while preserving democratic 

Some infringements of the rights of free speech and assembly 
occurred in 1993.  Polish courts handed down convictions based 
on a section of law that imposes fines and prison sentences on 
persons who criticize a state body.  A new broadcast law went 
into effect in March, and some of its provisions were 
criticized for potentially impinging on the freedom of the 
electronic media.  On occasion police used excessive force to 
disperse demonstrators who, they claimed, violated the rules 
governing public demonstrations.  Women continued to be 
hampered in their struggle for equality in the workplace by the 
lack of legal redress.  Regulations on religious education in 
schools, supported by the rightist Christian National Union 
(ZChN), a member of Prime Minister Suchocka's coalition, fueled 
much controversy, and the Ombudsman raised the question of 
their legality to the Constitutional Tribunal which ruled, in 
part, in his favor.  An attempt in the Sejm to recall the 
Ombudsman was frustrated by the dissolution of Parliament.  


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings, but in 
July police allegedly beat to death two homeless people living 
in Warsaw's central train station.  The Warsaw district 
prosecutor opened a special investigation into the incident.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of abductions, secret arrests, or 
clandestine detention by police or official security forces.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

No allegations of torture were reported.  Some incidents of 
police brutality received wide publicity in the Polish press in 
1993.  Members of a Carmelite monastery that provides medical 
aid to the homeless living around the train station reported 
that the people in their care often claim to have been beaten 
by police.  The district police commandant acknowledged to the 
press that it is standard police procedure to use force with 
homeless people under certain circumstances, including when 
trying to compel them to vacate public areas.  

Police also used force to disperse public demonstrations.  In 
June police broke up a demonstration of center-right parties in 
Warsaw's Castle Square by beating demonstrators with 
nightsticks.  The Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (or 
Ombudsman) asked the prosecutor's office to begin an 
investigation into the incident.  In September police dispersed 
a demonstration organized by a pacifist group protesting 
obligatory military service by beating protesters with 
nightsticks and shoving them into police and unmarked 
vehicles.  There were no arrests.  

On the night of the September parliamentary elections, members 
of a center-right party held an impromptu demonstration in the 
streets of Warsaw; police also used force to disperse them.  
According to the official account of the incident, 
demonstrators resisted police when they were asked to move to 
the sidewalk; however, a journalist reported that demonstrators 
in fact obeyed the police and moved to the sidewalk; 
nevertheless, police dragged them into squad cars, beating them 
with nightsticks.  No charges were brought by the victims.  

The Ombudsman's office reported that it examined over 40 
complaints of police brutality against foreigners in 1993.  

Overall, prison conditions continued to improve in 1993.  The 
Ombudsman presented proposals for more lenient sentencing to 
the Ministry of Justice and the Central Board of Penal 
Institutions to reduce overcrowding in prisons.  The Ministry 
of Justice had not taken action by year's end.  However, 
conditions in juvenile detention centers remained poor.  The 
Helsinki Committee reported that financial difficulties 
resulted in a lack of food for detainees in some institutions, 
and personnel were generally more abusive toward detainees than 
prison guards were toward prison inmates.  Human rights 
organizations reported that they have permanent passes to visit 
prisons and juvenile detention centers and that they can 
monitor their operations freely.  

No laws currently exist regarding the rights of psychiatric 
patients admitted to mental hospitals.  A press report in 
September stated that, of some 142,000 Poles admitted yearly to 
mental health facilities, over 20,000 were placed there against 
their will.  Under current procedures, a doctor's order alone 
suffices to have a patient confined to a mental institution.  

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

No arbitrary arrests were reported in 1993.  Polish law allows 
a 48-hour detention period before authorities are required to 
bring formal charges, during which detainees are normally 
denied access to a lawyer.  Once a prosecutor presents the 
legal basis for a formal investigation, the law provides the 
detainee access to a lawyer.  A detainee may be held under 
"temporary" arrest for up to 3 months and may challenge the 
legality of his arrest through appeal to the district court.  A 
court may extend this pretrial confinement period every 3 
months until the trial date.  Human rights organizations 
reported that most detainees were released on bail pending 
trial, although in a few instances detainees were held in jail 
for over a year awaiting trial.

The Ombudsman worked to improve detention facilities in 1993.  
His office submitted proposals to allow detainees access to 
telephones, which are still relatively difficult to obtain for 
average Poles.  A change in procedure required that an 
investigator be present at the time a detainee is charged with 
a crime.

In September the Ombudsman demanded publicly that policemen, 
public prosecutors, and judges provide prisoners of foreign 
nationalities with information on their legal rights in 
languages understandable to them.  He asked that prison 
authorities ensure that prisoners are not served meals banned 
by their respective religions; he said that they should also be 
guaranteed access to their native press and literature.  The 
Government took no action by year's end.

There is no exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Poland has a three-tier court system, consisting of regional 
and provincial courts and a Supreme Court which is divided into 
five divisions--military, civil, criminal, labor, and family.  
A Constitutional Tribunal may offer opinions on legislation but 
has no real authority.  It is elected by the Sejm, which can 
overrule the Tribunal's findings.  Judges are nominated by the 
National Judicial Council and appointed by the President.  They 
serve until the age of 65 and may apply for an extension until 
age 70, after which they are retired.  

All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  At 
the end of a trial, the court renders its decision orally and 
then has 7 days to prepare a written decision.  A defendant has 
the right to appeal a decision within 14 days of the written 
decision.  Appeals may be made on, among other grounds, the 
basis of new evidence or procedural irregularities.

Criminal cases are tried in regional and provincial courts by a 
panel consisting of a professional judge and two lay 
assessors.  The seriousness of the offense determines which of 
these is the court of first instance.  Once formal charges are 
filed, the defendant is allowed to study the charges and 
consult with an attorney, who is provided at public expense if 
necessary.  Once the defendant is prepared, a trial date is 
set.  Defendants are required to be present during trial and 
may present evidence and confront witnesses in their own 
defense.  The right to testify is universal.

Trials in Poland are normally public.  The court, however, 
reserves the right to close a trial to the public in some 
circumstances, such as divorce cases, trials in which state 
secrets may be disclosed, or cases whose content might offend 
"public morality."  The court rarely invokes this prerogative.

The Senate Office of Intervention reported that it received 
some complaints in 1993 that Polish judges released or 
convicted defendants at their whim.  According to the Office of 
Intervention, the majority of Polish judges are holdovers from 
the Communist era when their verdicts were influenced by the 
Communist party, and therefore they do not have the proper 
training to implement the law.  

An amendment to the law on the court system, which went into 
effect in September, made it possible for the Ministry of 
Justice to recall a judge if a disciplinary commission 
demonstrates that the judge violated the principle of "court 
independence."  In effect this amendment gives the executive 
branch the power of recall over the judiciary.  From the day 
the appeal is filed, the judge in question is suspended from 
duty.  The motion is then considered by five judges from the 
disciplinary commission, who are selected by the Polish General 
Assembly of Judges.  The president of the Warsaw district court 
resigned in protest over the amendment, and both the 
Association of Polish Lawyers and the Ombudsman protested its 
implementation.  In August the Ombudsman challenged the 
amendments before the Constitutional Tribunal, which had 
already opened proceedings on the constituionality of the 

On July 1 a law went into effect introducing appellate courts 
into the Polish judicial system for the first time since before 
World War II.  These courts deal with appeals based on 
procedural issues only, not on the substance of a particular 

The controversy about former Communists and secret 
collaborators continued after the fall of the Olszewski 
government in 1992.  A special committee was formed in the Sejm 
to consider the various draft bills that would have instituted 
systems of political screening for public officials.  It did 
not complete its work prior to the dissolution of the Sejm.  A 
screening provision, however, was written into the electoral 
law of 1993, requiring that all parliamentary candidates sign a 
statement that they had never collaborated with the secret 
police.  Some individuals have been tried or are being 
investigated for state crimes under communism.  Adam Humer, a 
former employee of the state security bureau, was tried for 
torturing and killing prisoners; the trial was unfinished at 
year's end.  Thirteen more former state security agents are 
currently awaiting trial on similar charges.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Government does not arbitrarily monitor private mail or 
telephones.  There is no Polish legislation that guarantees the 
right to privacy, although Poland has signed the European 
Convention on Human Rights, in which Article 8 guarantees that 
right.  Poles do have the legal right to privacy of 
correspondence, and police are not legally able to enter a 
private residence without a search warrant, but nothing 
prohibits the Government from creating a bank of information on 
its citizens.  Because of the lack of an overall revision of 
the Penal Code, some laws concerning interference with 
correspondence remain in effect which do not conform to 
international human rights standards; however, they are no 
longer enforced.  Under Articles 30 and 31 of the Polish Penal 
Code, a prison inmate must seek the permission of a prison 
warden to contact a human rights organization.  The Ombudsman 
lodged a protest in 1993 with the Minister of Justice to have 
these articles rescinded.

Polish law forbids arbitrary forced entry into homes.  Search 
warrants issued by a prosecutor are required in order to enter 
private residences.  In emergency cases when a prosecutor is 
not immediately available, police may enter a residence with 
the approval of the local police commander.  In the most urgent 
cases, in which there is not time to consult with the police 
commander, police may enter a private residence after showing 
their official identification.  No allegations that Polish 
police abused search warrant procedures in 1993 were reported.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although these freedoms are generally provided for in the 
Constitution, they are subject to some restriction in law and 
in practice.

Polish citizens may generally express their opinions publicly 
and privately.  Article 270 of the Penal Code, however, states 
that anyone who "publicly insults, ridicules, and derides the 
Polish Nation, Polish People's Republic, its political system, 
or its principal organs is punishable by between 6 months and 8 
years of imprisonment."  The Government continues to use this 
law against its critics.  Article 273 imposes a prison term of 
up to 10 years for a person who commits any of the acts 
prohibited by Article 270 in print or through the mass media.  
In March two students in the town of Brzeg who admitted to 
shouting "Down with Walesa--Communist agent" at a demonstration 
were fined the equivalent of an average Polish monthly salary 
for "abusing and discrediting" the President.  This decision 
was overturned on appeal in July.  In June, 12 people were 
arrested for putting up posters announcing a demonstration; the 
posters claimed that members of the Government had collaborated 
with the secret police under communism.  Helsinki Watch and the 
Free World Fund, both New York-based human rights monitoring 
groups, have called on the Polish Government to rescind Article 
270 but have received no response from the Government.

The Penal Code stipulates that offending religious sentiment is 
punishable by a fine or a 2-year prison term.  Under this 
provision of the law, in late 1992 the Christian National Union 
(ZChN), a political party, brought charges against the rock 
group Piersi for a song called "The ZChN is Coming."  The song, 
which is sung to the tune of a religious hymn, describes a 
priest who gets drunk and crashes his car, and his parishioners 
lament that they will have to finance the cost of a new one.  
Five persons complained to the Warsaw district prosecutor that 
the song had offended their religious feelings.  The 
prosecutor's office announced in April that it would not press 
charges, and the ZChN is appealing the decision.  A radio 
producer was fired for playing the song on Polish Radio 3, a 
government-owned station, but was reinstated after members of 
the Democratic Union Party intervened.

In March a ZChN deputy unsuccessfully sued the Poznan weekly 
Poznaniak over the publication of a satirical picture of the 
Madonna and Child with the deputy's face superimposed on the 
face of the baby Jesus.  In May ZChN deputies reportedly sought 
to sue a Poznan movie theater for showing the film "The Last 
Temptation of Christ"; the deputies admitted they had never 
seen the film, and none of the film's 600 Poznan viewers signed 
the deputies' complaint.  The Poznan district prosecutor 
declined to pursue the case.

The print media in Poland are uncensored and independent, 
although they may be subject to prosecution under the Penal 
Code provisions described above.  The majority of today's 
periodicals have a left-of-center slant; the spectrum of 
political opinion was reduced in 1993 because of the closure of 
several right-of-center publications for financial reasons.  
The Government owns a controlling interest (51 percent) in one 
major newspaper, Rzeczpospolita, which serves as the 
semiofficial newspaper of record.  No barriers exist to the 
establishment of private newspapers other than readership 
demand and capital.  Journals also appear regularly on 
newsstands.  Books expressing a broad range of political and 
social viewpoints are widely available, as are foreign 

Citizens have access to foreign publications and foreign radio 

Television is still mainly under the control of the 
Government.  However, regional television centers are more 
autonomous and active; some are cooperatively owned and control 
their own budgets and in some cases even their own 
frequencies.  An ever-increasing segment of radio media is 
independently owned and self-financing and exposes its 
listeners to a broad array of points of view.

In March a new broadcast law took effect to regulate the 
licensing of the numerous private radio and television stations 
which began broadcasting after the fall of communism without 
sanction, in the absence of any legal means to obtain a 
license.  The law stipulates the formation of a National 
Broadcasting Council (NBC) to implement the law.  The NBC has 
very broad prerogatives:  it is to supervise programming, 
allocate broadcasting frequencies and licenses, and apportion 
subscription revenues.  It may interpret these prerogatives at 
its discretion.  As of year's end, the NBC had granted two 
licenses.  Unlicensed stations are not being shut down. 

The NBC is nominally an apolitical body.  Although the nine 
people nominated to the NBC were obliged under the law to 
suspend any membership in political parties or public 
associations, they were in fact chosen for their political 
allegiances, nominated by the Sejm, the Senate, and the 
President following political bargaining.  This raised serious 
questions about the independence of broadcasting from 
government influence.  Private broadcasters were concerned that 
the awarding of licenses for the limited number of broadcast 
frequencies available could be politically motivated.

Private broadcasters whose applications for licenses are 
rejected may appeal to the Administrative Court, which is 
empowered to rule solely on whether the procedural process by 
which the NBC reached its decision was in keeping with the law, 
not to examine the reason for the application's rejection.

The law stipulates that programs should not promote activities 
that are illegal or against Polish state policy, morality, or 
the common good.  The law also requires that all broadcasts 
"respect the religious feelings of the audiences and in 
particular respect the Christian system of values."  This 
particular provision was the source of much controversy before 
the Sejm finally approved it.  Human rights organizations 
charged that the law does not fully define the term "Christian 
values," thus requiring media owners themselves to reconcile 
different interpretations of religion in order to determine 
what such values constitute.  Since the NBC has ultimate 
responsibility for supervising the content of programs, these 
restrictions could be used as a means of censorship.  The 
penalty for violating this provision of the law is up to 50 
percent of a broadcaster's annual fee for the transmission 
frequency, plus the prospect of having the license withdrawn or 
experiencing difficulty in renewing the license when it 

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Poles enjoy the freedom to join together formally and 
informally to promote nonviolent causes and protest government 
policies.  Permits are not required for public meetings but are 
required for public demonstrations; demonstration organizers 
must obtain these permits from local governing authorities if 
the demonstration might block a public road.  For large 
demonstrations, organizers are also required to inform the 
local police of the time and place of their activities and 
their planned route.  Every gathering must have a chairperson 
who is required to open the demonstration, preside over it, and 
close it.

In June police used force in Warsaw's Castle Square to disperse 
a demonstration of center-right parties who were questioning 
the Government's ties to the former Communist security 
apparatus.  The organizers had obtained permission for a 
demonstration and parade originating from a different 
location.  The Ombudsman asked the prosecutor's office to 
investigate whether the demonstrators' rights were violated.  

Just after the September parliamentary elections, members of 
the center-right Center Alliance party held an impromptu 
demonstration on one of Warsaw's main thoroughfares; police 
arrested 10 people in connection with the incident, including a 
journalist, allegedly for disturbing the peace.  The Ombudsman 
asked the Constitutional Tribunal to adjudicate the rules for 
demonstrations, complaining that the rules do not specify if 
district authorities may set a different route and different 
destination for demonstrators.  He also claimed the rules do 
not specify whether, in a situation in which the demonstration 
is not dissolved, police may intervene to disperse 
demonstrators who refuse to change the site of their protest 
(see also Section 1.c.).  There has been no government 

Private associations need governmental approval to organize and 
must register with their district court.  The procedure 
basically requires the organization to sign a declaration that 
it will abide by the laws of Poland.  In practice, however, the 
procedure itself is complicated and may be subject to the whim 
of the judge in charge.  The Helsinki Foundation noted three 
instances in 1993 in which organizations experienced problems 
in obtaining court approval.  The first was in Opole, where a 
German organization was denied the right to change its charter 
to include citizens of countries other than Poland.  The German 
organization filed a lawsuit to have the charter changed and 
won its suit in a higher court, but the Opole judge, who 
initially denied the change, filed for extraordinary powers to 
regulate the group, fearing a rise in the influence of the 
German minority in the region.  The second occurred in Kielce, 
where a society of Gypsies (Roma) ran into difficulty in 
gaining court approval because of a local judge's refusal to 
grant such approval to Roma; eventually, the group did gain 
approval.  The third instance involved a group of veterans of 
the German Wehrmacht army, forcibly conscripted Poles as well 
as Germans, who wanted to form a society and were denied 
permission; the case had not been resolved by year's end.

A German minority organization in Opole experienced difficulty 
when it applied to drop the word "minority" formally from its 
name.  The Government refused to allow the designation to be 
dropped, even though equivalent Belarusian and Lithuanian 
groups do not have the word "minority" in their names.  The 
Government also ruled that only Polish citizens could join 
German minority groups; this is not a requirement for other 
minority groups, which may induct members regardless of their 
citizenship status.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of conscience and belief, 
and citizens enjoy the freedom to practice any religion.  
Religious groups may organize, select, and train personnel, 
solicit and receive contributions, publish, and engage in 
consultations without government interference.  There are no 
government restrictions on establishing and maintaining places 
of worship.  

The vast majority of Poles are Roman Catholic, but Eastern 
Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, and much smaller Protestant, 
Jewish, and Muslim congregations meet freely.  The Catholic 
Church maintains over 16,000 churches, schools, and other 
institutions and continues to build new ones.  It also 
publishes significant numbers of books and periodicals, as does 
the independent Catholic press.  The Constitution provides for 
the separation of church and state.  State-run radio broadcasts 
Catholic mass on Sundays.

As a result of the 1989 roundtable negotiations, the Catholic 
Church is authorized to issue licenses to radio and television 
stations which are equivalent to licenses issued by the 
National Broadcasting Council; it is the only body outside the 
NBC allowed to do so.  The broadcast law incorporated this 
roundtable decision.  

A controversial ordinance regulating religious education in 
schools, which was signed by the Minister of Education and went 
into effect in April 1992, was also strongly supported by the 
Catholic Church.  In August 1992, the Ombudsman filed a list of 
eight objections to the directive with the Constitutional 
Tribunal on the grounds that the directive violated the 
principle of separation of church and state.  In April 1993, 
the Tribunal ruled that it was against the law to demand 
declarations from parents or older schoolchildren that the 
children were not going to take part in religion classes at 
school or that they attended religion classes elsewhere.  It 
also decreed that it was illegal to give a grade in religion or 
ethics on the official school certificate if the subject was 
taught outside the school.  The Tribunal further supported the 
Ombudsman's objection that if a bishop withdrew his 
recommendation for a religion teacher, this could mean that the 
teacher would lose his or her job.  On the other hand, the 
Tribunal ruled that hanging religious symbols in classrooms is 
legal, as is a prayer at the beginning of classes.  Debate in 
Parliament over the future of the directive was suspended after 
President Walesa dissolved the Sejm in May, leaving the rest of 
the directive in effect.  

In July the Government signed a Concordat with the Vatican 
which, while specifying that the Roman Catholic Church and the 
State are "autonomous and independent," nevertheless confirmed 
the Church's right to "maintain religious instruction in 
schools," permitted church marriages to be legally binding 
without a civil ceremony, and obligated the State to subsidize 
the Pontifical Theological Academy of Krakow and the Catholic 
University in Lublin, as well as to contribute to the 
maintenance of properties belonging to the Church.  The 
Concordat had not been ratified by year's end.  

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Within the country Poles move freely and easily and may freely 
change their place of residence.  Foreign travel is 
unrestricted, and Poles may obtain passports easily.  Citizens 
who have left Poland have no trouble returning.  There are no 
restrictions on emigration.  

During the first part of 1993, Poland continued to serve as a 
country of transit for illegal migrants headed to the West, 
particularly citizens of the former Soviet Union, Romania, and 
Bulgaria seeking to apply for asylum in Germany.  The flow of 
asylum seekers across the border in 1993 reached a high in 
April, when border guards caught 2,186 people attempting to 
cross the Polish-German border illegally.  In May Poland signed 
a migration agreement with Germany, as an amendment to the 1991 
Schengen accord, to readmit immigrants who crossed the Polish 
border illegally into Germany.  The agreement specified a 
6-month time period from the day of crossing into Germany 
during which the German authorities are allowed to return an 
immigrant.  The agreement went into effect on July 1 in 
conjunction with a new German law that severely tightens asylum 

Poland's position on East-West migration thus changed from a 
point of transit to a potential country of first asylum.  Since 
implementation of the new German asylum policy began, the 
number of people illegally crossing the German border from 
Poland has declined greatly, and the leading Polish official 
for refugee affairs reported that there had not been a 
corresponding rise in the number of refugee applicants in 
Poland.  According to the Warsaw representative of the United 
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), however, the 
Polish Government actively discouraged some refugees from 
applying for asylum, especially citizens of the former 
U.S.S.R., Bulgaria, and Romania.  Although Poland signed the 
1951 Geneva Convention on refugees in 1991, since March the 
Government has stopped issuing permanent residence documents to 
registered refugees (one of the provisions of the Convention), 
thus limiting a refugee's ability to seek gainful employment.  
The Government has further refused to allow undocumented 
refugees to apply for asylum, contrary to another provision of 
the Convention.

There was one known report indicating mistreatment of asylees.  
The UNHCR reported that the Government deprived two Bosnian 
Gypsy families of refugee status and privileges after they had 
already been accepted for asylum and were living in a 
government refugee facility.  According to the UNHCR, the 
decision to deprive the families of status stemmed from the 
refugees' social behavior and therefore was not reached in 
accordance with standard procedure:  the daughter of one family 
had attempted to commit suicide, while another Bosnian Gypsy 
refugee, who was not part of either family but shared the same 
nationality, was supposedly involved in a brawl, an allegation 
that was disputed by witnesses.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Poles have the right and ability to change their government.  
This right is guaranteed in the Constitution and exists in 
practice.  Poland is a multiparty democracy in which all 
citizens 18 years of age and older have the right to vote and 
to cast secret ballots.

Governmental power is divided between the President and 
Parliament, which is composed of an upper house (the Senate) 
and a lower house (the Sejm).  The Constitution provides for 
parliamentary elections at least every 4 years.  The President, 
elected for 5 years, has the right to dissolve Parliament when 
Parliament loses confidence in the Government or when 
Parliament fails to pass a budget, and Parliament may impeach 
the President.  

In November 1992, President Walesa signed into law the 
so-called Little Constitution, which is a transition document 
to be replaced when a "large," or permanent, constitution is 
eventually ratified by Parliament.  The Little Constitution 
specifies the division of powers among the President, Prime 
Minister, and Parliament and delineates ways in which a 
government may be formed or dissolved.  The constitutional 
balance of power among the presidency, government, and 
legislature remains amorphous, pending the adoption of a formal 

In May President Walesa dissolved the Sejm following a motion 
of no confidence in the Suchocka government, which passed by 
one vote.  The Suchocka government was the fourth to fall since 
Poland's first freely elected Sejm took office in 1991.  In the 
resulting elections, held in September, the Democratic Left 
Alliance, a successor to the former Communist party, won 171 
seats out of 460 in the Sejm (20.4 percent of the vote) and 
formed a coalition with the Polish Peasant Party (132 seats, or 
15.4 percent of the vote), with Waldemar Pawlak of the Peasant 
Party as Prime Minister.  The Democratic Union of former Prime 
Minister Suchocka, which obtained 74 seats, based on 10.6 
percent of the vote, is the major opposition party.  Only three 
other parties exceeded the threshold of 5 percent for 
representation in Parliament, a requirement of the 1992 
electoral law aimed at avoiding the fragmentation of political 
representation in Parliament.  This requirement eliminated most 
center and right-of-center parties that had failed to form 
electoral alliances.

The electoral law strictly limited the amount of broadcast time 
the parties could buy and provided that all parties registered 
on the ballot nationwide were entitled to the same amount of 
free television time.  State television provided 90 minutes 
daily of free time over a 14-day period prior to the election.  
President Walesa used his office to campaign on the broadcast 
media's regular programming for the Nonpartisan Bloc in Support 
of Reform (BBWR), which he created in the wake of the 
dissolution of the Suchocka government as an alternative to the 
existing parties.  The other parties complained about this 
discrepancy, and the electoral commission allotted them the 
equivalent amount of time at a later date.  According to the 
election law, no opinion polls were to be released publicly 
beginning 12 days before election day.  However, one major 
newspaper illegally ran a poll the day before the elections and 
was consequently fined.

Women comprised some 10 percent of the candidates for 
Parliament and approximately 15 percent of the candidates 
elected.  A special provision in the electoral law exempted 
national minority parties from the 5-percent threshold; four 
members of the German minority were elected under this 

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Helsinki Committee, a major nongovernmental organization, 
conducted human rights investigations without government 
interference in 1993.  Leading members of the Committee 
reported that the Government displays a generally positive and 
helpful attitude towards human rights investigations.

Two governmental organizations monitor human rights in Poland.  
The Office of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (the 
Ombudsman), established in 1987, is an independent internal 
body with broad authority to investigate alleged violations of 
civil rights and liberties.  The Ombudsman has no legislative 
authority and is sworn to act apolitically.  He registers each 
case that is reported to his office and files grievances, when 
appropriate, with the relevant government office.  

According to the Ombudsman's office, the Interior Ministry and 
the armed forces have the quickest rates of response to 
grievances.  There were 1,325 cases still pending in September, 
however, some dating back to 1988; most of these dealt with the 
issue of compensation for land that was taken over by the 
Communist government.

The Ombudsman conducted aggressive investigations of human 
rights infringements in 1993 in spite of an increasingly 
negative governmental attitude towards his role under the 
Suchocka government.  Under the law, the Sejm can vote to 
recall the Ombudsman if he proves himself "unfaithful to his 
oath" to keep faith with the Constitution of the Republic of 
Poland, safeguard the rights and liberties of citizens, and 
carry out his duties impartially.  As a result of the 
Ombudsman's eight complaints concerning the Minister of 
Education's 1992 ordinance regulating religious education in 
schools (see Section 2.c.), the ZChN led the more conservative 
parties in the Sejm in accusing the Ombudsman of being 
"unfaithful to his oath."  Nearly 80 deputies from 
right-of-center parties filed a motion for a vote of no 
confidence in him in April.  The Ombudsman fought back, saying 
his oath compelled him to promote the separation of church and 
state.  The motion died when President Walesa dissolved the 
Sejm in May.

The second governmental institution, the Senate Office for 
Intervention, investigates a wide range of grievances.  In 
addition to responding to grievances, it may also investigate 
judicial proceedings.  Created in 1989, the Office conducts 
investigations and refers legitimate cases to senators whom the 
investigator feels will be sympathetic to the grievance, 
regardless of their district or political affiliation.  If a 
senator does not wish to become involved in the case, the 
Office presents it to another senator or senators until it 
finds someone willing to pursue the matter.  The Office does 
not release public reports.  

There are no restrictions on visits by international 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


The Constitution provides for equal rights regardless of sex 
and grants women equal rights with men in all fields of public, 
political, economic, social, and cultural life, including equal 
pay for equal work.  In practice, however, women are sometimes 
paid less, hold lesser positions, are discharged more quickly, 
and are less likely to be promoted than men.  There are no laws 
providing explicit legal redress for women subjected to such 

Women are employed in a broad variety of professions and 
occupations, and a handful of women occupy high positions in 
many branches of government and in the private sector.  
However, certain Polish laws discriminate against women.

Under retirement laws, women may retire earlier than men, and 
human rights organizations reported that, as a result, 
employers were generally more hesitant to hire women.  Polish 
law does not adequately address equality in hiring practices.  
Women are banned by law from working in 90 occupations in 18 
fields of industry, health care, forestry, agriculture, and 
transportation, but unions support the desire of women to gain 
entry into these occupations.  

Unemployment disproportionately affects Polish women, who are 
more likely to lose their jobs than their male colleagues if an 
employer is forced to scale down, an ever-increasing phenomenon 
in the transition economy.  The Senate Office of Intervention 
reported that women often do not take advantage of sick leave 
from work so that they will appear healthier to their employers 
than their male counterparts.

Although women with infants are eligible to receive a 
maintenance allowance from the State, the amount of the 
allowance has not kept pace with inflation.  The Helsinki 
Committee reported that some progress had been made in 
improving working conditions for women in 1993, and the 
Government had taken some steps to improve labor laws for 
women.  A law providing that only women could take a leave of 
absence from work to care for a sick child was amended to 
include men as well.

The Helsinki Committee pointed out that men must be 21 years of 
age to marry, while women need only be 18.  According to the 
Helsinki Committee, it is impossible to estimate the likely 
extent of violence against women and spouse abuse, although it 
is certainly a problem in Poland, and the cases that are 
reported are probably but a fraction of the real number.  
Police do intervene in cases of domestic violence, and husbands 
can be convicted for beating their wives.  A first offender is 
put on probation; the penalty for a second offense is from 8 to 
12 months in prison.


No special laws exist to ensure the protection of children.  
Child abuse is very rarely reported, and convictions for child 
abuse rarer still.  Under the law there is no special 
distinction between children and adults.  Until the age of 18, 
parents have the right to make all decisions concerning their 
children's medical treatment; the Helsinki Committee reports 
cases of children being forced to have cosmetic surgery by 
their parents or of parents deciding whether or not their child 
will have an abortion.  However, education is compulsory until 
the age of 16.  In divorce cases, children have no say over 
which parent will be granted legal guardianship.  There are no 
procedures in schools to protect children from abuse by 
teachers; in fact, the teachers' work code guarantees a teacher 
legal immunity from prosecution for the use of corporal 
punishment in classrooms.  Infant mortality is higher in Poland 
than in developed countries.  According to Polish government 
sources, this is because of the inadequate availability of 
acute postnatal care and the conditions in maternity 
hospitals.  A center in Laski for children with the human 
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was closed following the burning 
down of one its buildings.  The children have been dispersed 
throughout Poland.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Poland's population is 97-percent ethnically homogeneous, 
although small Ukrainian, Belarusian, Slovakian, and Lithuanian 
minorities reside along the borders, and a German minority is 
concentrated near the southwest city of Opole.  There are no 
restrictions on Polish citizens from non-Polish ethnic groups 
holding office.  The new electoral law exempted ethnic minority 
parties from the requirement to win 5 percent of the vote 
nationwide in order to qualify for seats in individual 
districts.  Four members of the German minority party were 
elected to Parliament in September.

Ethnic tensions exist in the province of Opole, which is 
approximately 30-percent German.  Many of the minority Germans 
charge Polish citizens and the Government with discriminating 
against them.  Disputes centered over efforts to restore 
monuments built to honor World War II German soldiers and to 
put up bilingual street names, which the regional governor 
claimed were prohibited by law.  Controversy also centered on 
the number of qualified German-language teachers provided by 
the Government and the weekly number of hours of 
German-language training provided in schools.  

According to the Krakow prosecutor's office, seven "skinheads" 
were arrested in Krakow in connection with the murder of a 
German truckdriver in 1992.  They have been held in detention 
ever since.  No charges have been formally brought against them 
because the Krakow prosecutor's office and the court medical 
doctors are at odds as to the actual cause of the truckdriver's 

All minority groups were concerned about education in public 
schools of their native language and customs.  Approximately 
30,000 ethnic Slovaks live in Poland, mostly in the southeast.  
Their main concern is that not enough Polish schools in the 
region teach the Slovak language.  Only about 500 Slovak 
students are enrolled in Polish schools.  The Government 
operates two elementary schools and one high school in which 
classes are taught exclusively in Slovak.  The Slovak minority 
also wants the Government to allow trained Slovakian priests to 
come to Poland so there can be more masses said in Slovak.  

Several persons were tried for desecrating the Soviet soldiers' 
cemetery in Elblag during 1992.  In September 1993, two men 
were convicted of vandalizing it, and both were sentenced to 1 
year in prison, suspended for 4 years, the performance of 
public works, and a fine of about $50 to the city.  
Investigations into vandalism of Soviet soldiers' graves at two 
other cemeteries continued.  

Roma reported that they were often victims of random acts of 
violence in 1993.  Many of these were minor acts, such as rocks 
being thrown through house windows.  One example of serious 
crime, though, was a raid on a Gypsy camp outside Warsaw in 
September, in which one of the participants was dressed in a 
police uniform.  According to the Helsinki Committee, the 
police investigation is being conducted seriously and 
properly.  No outcome had been noted in the press by year's 
end, and it was unclear whether the person involved was 
actually a police officer.  In a public forum of national 
minority organizations, which was held with the Ombudsman in 
July at the behest of the Helsinki Committee, Roma leaders 
claimed that they continued to experience difficulty seeking 
compensation for damage suffered by Roma during the 1991 
anti-Roma riots in Mlawa.  

The Ombudsman received 122 complaints from foreigners, of which 
35 percent dealt with police brutality.  Foreigners also 
complained that they were detained without being informed of 
the charges against them and for excessive periods of time and 
that court interpreters were poor.

     Religious Minorities

Under communism many church properties were absorbed by the 
State.  It is generally more difficult for the Orthodox Church 
in eastern Poland than for the Catholic Church to obtain 
compensation for, or the return of, its properties, the 
Helsinki Committee reported.  (See Section 2.c. for discussion 
of government involvement in religious affairs.)  

Jewish groups have complained about a playground installed on 
Kalisz' former Jewish cemetery grounds.  There has been no 
resolution of this issue.

Violent anti-Semitic incidents are rare in Poland, and none was 
reported in 1993.  Despite occasional anti-Semitic rhetoric at 
political rallies and demonstrations, there are no significant 
anti-Semitic political parties.  The neo-Fascist Polish 
National Community is weak and has no seats in Parliament.  
Anti-Semitic graffiti sometimes appear in Polish cities, 
including on Holocaust monuments, and Jews are sometimes 
subjected to anti-Semitic remarks on the street.  The press 
reported in December that some Poles had complained about an 
anti-Semitic requirement in Poland's passport application 
procedure.  The requirement specified that people who emigrated 
from Poland in 1968 on a one-way passport had to sign a special 
declaration that they had not gone to Israel or that they had 
not accepted Israeli citizenship.  A subsequent investigation 
by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that this 
requirement had actually been overturned in 1984, but the 
change was never implemented.  In December the Ministry of 
Foreign Affairs announced that the requirement had been 
overturned permanentley.  A major tension in Catholic-Jewish 
relations was defused when the Pope intervened to instruct 
Carmelite nuns to leave their convent at Oswiecim (Auschwitz), 
which was located in the "Old Theater" immediately outside the 
former concentration camp.  

     People with Disabilities

Poland has no laws guaranteeing rights for the disabled.  
Neither buildings nor public transportation are generally 
accessible to the handicapped.  

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

All workers, including the police and frontier guards, have the 
legal right to establish and to join trade unions of their own 
choosing, the right to join labor federations and 
confederations, and the right to affiliate with international 
labor organizations.  Following negotiations with trade unions 
and employers in 1992-93, the Suchocka government sent new 
legislation to Parliament concerning trade union rights and 
collective bargaining under the terms of the so-called Pact on 
State Enterprises.  Parliament was dissolved on May 31 before 
the legislation could be approved.  

As few as 10 persons may form a trade union, and a founding 
committee of 3 persons must register the union in the court of 
the province where that union's headquarters is located.  A 
decision of the court refusing registration may be appealed to 
an appeals court.  Interbranch national unions and national 
interbranch federations must register with the provincial court 
in Warsaw.  As of September, 4 national interbranch industrial 
unions were registered, along with some 17 other major 
independent industrial branch unions and 3 agricultural unions.

The Independent Self-Governing Trade Union (NSZZ) Solidarity is 
affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions and the World Confederation of Labor.  Solidarity has a 
membership of 2.2 million (with roughly 81 percent paying 
dues).  Spin-offs from mainstream Solidarity include the 
Christian Trade Union Solidarity (16,200 members) and 
Solidarity '80 (156,000 members), a militant rival from which a 
group broke away to form "August 80."  

The National Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ), the Communist-
inspired trade union, was registered in 1983 as the sole legal 
alternative to the then repressed NSZZ Solidarity.  According 
to trade union legislation of 1991, OPZZ was obligated by law 
to relinquish "inherited" properties and return assets it 
acquired (or an approximation of their value at the time they 
were seized) following the imposition of martial law.  The OPZZ 
did not have sufficient funds to pay Solidarity's claim 
outright; consequently, negotiations throughout 1993 centered 
on property claims, some of which had already been improperly 
transferred either to private hands or to branch unions no 
longer affiliated with the OPZZ.  As a general rule, Solidarity 
has rejected the OPZZ's suggestion that Solidarity's claims be 
paid out of the state budget.  In a complaint to the 
International Labor Organization (ILO), the OPZZ alleged that 
the amount of zlotys (Polish currency) it had been assessed to 
pay back had been unduly indexed, but the ILO Governing Body 
found that indexation by the Government was not inconsistent 
with the requirements of freedom of association in principle.  

The OPZZ claims a membership of 4.7 million, a figure that 
independent observers reject as inflated.  Solidarity's 
continued support for the new collective bargaining legislation 
is contingent on provisions to verify union membership claims.  
Until then, Solidarity refuses to join negotiations with the 
OPZZ on the grounds that its inflated membership figures 
exaggerate its strength at the bargaining table.   Among 
several other independent industrial branch unions, the largest 
and most influential is the Free Miners' Trade Union, which 
claims more than 300,000 members.

All these trade union organizations operate independently of 
state control.  In alliance with the Social Democrats of the 
Republic of Poland, the OPZZ, the National Teachers' Union, and 
several others won 63 seats in the September parliamentary 
elections under the banner of the Democratic Left Alliance.  
The Solidarity trade union ran a full slate of candidates 
independent of any political parties but failed to meet the 
necessary threshold of 5 percent of the national vote.  It will 
only have nine representatives in the Senate, the upper house 
of the new Parliament.

The Trade Union Act of 1991 is less restrictive than the 1982 
version passed soon after the imposition of martial law, but it 
still prescribes a lengthy process before a strike may be 
launched.  During this period, the law, when strictly adhered 
to, provides several opportunities for employers to challenge a 
pending strike--including the threat of legal action.  An 
employer--the Act makes no distinction between state-owned and 
private firms--must start negotiations the moment a dispute 

Negotiations end with either an agreement or a protocol 
describing the differences between the parties.  If 
negotiations fail, a mandatory mediation process ensues; the 
mediator is appointed jointly by the disputing parties or, 
lacking agreement between them, by the Minister of Labor and 
Social Policy.  If mediation fails, the trade union may launch 
a warning strike for a period of up to 2 hours or seek 
arbitration of the dispute.  Both employers and employees have 
frequently questioned the impartiality of the mediators.

A full-fledged strike may not be launched until 14 days after 
the dispute is announced (strikes are prohibited entirely in 
the Office of State Protection, in units of the police, 
firemen, military forces, prison services, and frontier 
guards).  A strike may be proclaimed by the trade union after 
approval by the majority of voting workers and should be 
announced at least 5 days in advance.  If the strike is 
organized in accordance with the law, the worker retains his 
right to social insurance benefits but not pay.  If a strike is 
"organized contrary to the provisions of the law," the workers 
may lose social insurance benefits; organizers are liable for 
damages and may face civil charges and fines.  Laws prohibiting 
retribution against strikers are not consistently enforced; the 
fines imposed as punishment are so minimal that employers can 
easily afford to pay them.  

The Government anticipated that the Trade Union Act would 
discourage labor disputes, but in fact the absence of a stable 
process for resolving them contributed to a worsening of 
tensions on the shop floor in 1993.  The Suchocka government 
hoped that the collective bargaining aspects of the Pact on 
State Enterprises would help remedy that situation, but shop 
floor tensions turned into full-fledged strikes before the 
legislation could be passed.  The Government faced a major 
strike in the Silesian coal basin in January and only narrowly 
avoided a simultaneous stoppage by public service workers.  
Tensions in the latter sector led to another strike in April, 
culminating in a successful no confidence motion in the 
Government launched by Solidarity parliamentarians in May.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The May 1991 law on trade unions and collective disputes 
generally creates a favorable environment to conduct trade 
union activity through provisions for time off with pay, as 
well as facilities and technical equipment in the enterprise.  
Notable weaknesses in the law include minor penalties for 
antiunion discrimination and, given Poland's ongoing economic 
transition, the lack of specific provisions to ensure that a 
union has continued rights of representation when a state firm 
undergoes privatization, bankruptcy, or sale.

Unions, management, and workers' councils set wages in ad hoc 
negotiations at the enterprise level; collective bargaining as 
such does not exist.  When formal agreements have been reached, 
they are routinely ignored and overtaken by enterprise-level 
disputes.  In response to complaints from the Federation of 
Mining Unions and the Occupational Union of Employees in the 
Copper Industry regarding the refusal of the Government to 
negotiate with the strike committee of miners and copper works 
group unless Solidarity also participated, the ILO Governing 
Body urged the Government to begin negotiations with the 
complainants with a view to concluding agreements on the 
procedure for settling collective disputes and in order to 
dispel any possibility of discrimination against them.  

A common complaint voiced by organized labor is that the Polish 
laws concerning trade unions and collective disputes presume a 
fully developed market economy with private employers as 
negotiating partners.  Because the State still is the dominant 
employer in Polish industry, government ministers get drawn 
into routine labor disputes, thereby unduly politicizing the 
process of labor-management relations.  The Pact on State 
Enterprises, initialed by several of the major trade unions in 
1992, is designed to address these weaknesses by codifying 
labor's involvement in the process of enterprise restructuring 
and privatization.  As it stands, however, the law does not 
take into account the special circumstances created by Poland's 
transformation from a Socialist centrally planned economy to a 
market-oriented system in which many grievances arise from 
Poland's massive, structural economic adjustment.  Women, for 
example, are generally the first fired in a mass layoff because 
it is assumed that men are the principal wage earners in a 

Throughout 1993, the Government continued to impose a ceiling 
on wages in state enterprises through a penalty tax, the 
so-called popiwek, in an effort to link wages to increases in 
productivity and reduce inflationary pressures in the state 
industrial sector.  The penalty tax is charged on any state 
company (which does not produce for export) that increases its 
average wage in excess of a government-set "inflation 
coefficient."  The enforcement of the popiwek tax on excessive 
wage growth effectively discouraged enterprise or sectoral-
level collective bargaining on wages.

Current government policy aims to liberalize investment 
procedures for both domestic and foreign firms rather than to 
promote special incentive programs.  Special duty-free zones 
exist in or have been contemplated for some 15 to 20 locations 
throughout Poland but, with the exception of one zone in Poznan 
and one in Mielec (near Krakow), have not thus far attracted 
much attention.  Thus, traditional export processing zones that 
relax legal guarantees do not, at this time, constitute a 
threat to workers' rights to organize.  As in all other areas, 
however, collective bargaining does not exist.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor does not exist in Poland, although it is not 
prohibited by law.  The Polish Government has signed the ILO 
Convention, which prohibits compulsory labor.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Labor Code forbids the employment of persons under the age 
of 15.  The employment of persons aged 15 to 18 is permitted 
only if that person has completed basic schooling and if the 
proposed employment constitutes vocational training.  The age 
floor is raised to 18 if a particular job might pose a health 
danger.  The Government enforces legal protection of minors, 
but its inability to monitor the growing private sector leaves 
officials less certain that the problem does not exist.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

A national minimum wage is negotiated every 3 months by the 
Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and trade unions.  Minimum 
wages for state-owned enterprises are roughly $85 (Zl 
1,650,000) per month at the October 1 exchange rate, which is 
insufficient to provide a worker and family a decent standard 
of living.  The minimum wage has the force of law, but a 
significant number of foreign guest workers receive less than 
the minimum wage, especially in the construction industry.  The 
average monthly wage is roughly $197 (Zl 3,845,000).

There is a standard legal workweek of 42 hours which allows 6- 
or 7-hour days, including at least one 24-hour rest period.  

The Legal Code defines minimum conditions for the protection of 
workers' health and safety; a new draft of that code was 
approved by Parliament.  Enforcement is a growing problem 
because an ever-increasing portion of Polish economic activity 
is in private hands and outside the purview of the State Labor 
Inspectorate, which is unable to monitor both the state and 
private sectors of the economy.  In addition, there is a lack 
of clarity concerning which government or legislative body has 
the responsibility for enforcing the law.  About 102,944 
serious work-related accidents were reported in 1992, involving 
644 deaths and 3,380 cases of dismemberment.  This represents a 
downward trend in work-related accidents, but as the Government 
itself has noted, work conditions in Poland are poor.  
Standards for exposure to chemicals, dust, and noise are 
routinely exceeded. 

[end of document]


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