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Title:  Poland Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                              POLAND 
 
 
Poland is a parliamentary democracy based on a multiparty political 
system and free and fair elections.  President Aleksander Kwasniewski, 
who defeated Lech Walesa in Poland's second postwar free Presidential 
election in November, shares power with the Prime Minister, the Council 
of Ministers, and the bicameral Parliament (Senate and Sejm).  The 
coalition Government, composed of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), a 
successor to the former Communist party, and the Polish Peasant Party, a 
successor to the Peasant Party of the Communist era, continues to enjoy 
a nearly two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament.  In addition 
to the 1990 and 1995 Presidential elections, Poland has held two 
parliamentary elections in the 6 years since the end of communism. 
 
The armed forces and the internal security apparatus are subject to 
governmental authority and are under civilian control.  The precise 
division of authority over the military between the President and Prime 
Minister continues to be the subject of debate.  In this election year, 
both the military and the police were accused of engaging in incidents 
of partisan campaign activity in violation of existing law requiring 
that these institutions be apolitical.  One Interior Ministry general 
was fired as a result.  The Ministry of Defense was conducting an 
inquiry into the incidents in the army in early autumn. 
 
Poland's economy registered strong growth (5 percent), and its level of 
exports continued to reflect an expanding economy.  The pace of 
implementation of free market reforms including privatization slowed in 
1994 and early 1995 but picked up under the Oleksy Government.  The 
official registered unemployment rate has declined compared to previous 
years, standing at 15.1 percent.  However, specific sectors of the 
population, such as women and younger and semiskilled workers, continue 
to remain particularly vulnerable and more acutely feel the effects of 
the restructuring or closing of large state enterprises.  Discontent 
continues among a significant minority who believe that the transition 
to a market economy has left them worse off than before. 
 
While the Government generally respected most of its citizens' human 
rights, there were some abuses.  Freedom of speech and the press are 
subject to some limitations.  There have been several incidents of 
intolerance toward minorities.  Persons of color and Asian or Arab 
descent have been subject to attack by radical elements of society.  
Lack of public confidence as well as an inadequate budget plague the 
court system.  Court decisions are frequently not implemented, 
particularly in the administrative courts, and simple civil cases can 
take as long as 2 or 3 years before they are resolved.  Low salaries for 
prosecutors and judges resulted in many leaving public service for more 
lucrative employment.  Prison conditions are poor.   
 
The threat of organized crime has provoked legislative responses that 
could threaten the right to privacy.  Although the rights to organize 
and bargain collectively were largely observed, there were employer 
violations of other worker rights provided by law, particularly in the 
growing private sector.  Women continue to experience serious 
discrimination in the labor market, are not full participants in 
political life, and are subject to various legal inequities as a 
consequence of paternalistic laws.  Spousal abuse is a serious problem.  
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings. 
 
Grzegorz Piotrowski, a former Polish security police captain who was 
jailed for the murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko and released on parole 
in October 1994, was sent back to jail for a period of 5 years after a 
Supreme Court review.  The trial of two militiamen accused of beating to 
death Grzegorz Przemyk, a student, in 1983, continues.  The police are 
accused of covering up the death and blaming it on the ambulance drivers 
who took Przemyk to the hospital.  The prosecution has been unable to 
establish the names of all militiamen involved in the incident.   
 
Police closed the investigation into the case of two homeless persons 
who were allegedly beaten to death by police in 1993.  The prosecutor 
determined that someone murdered one of the homeless persons but found 
he did not have enough evidence to indict the accused officers.  The 
prosecutor further determined that it was unclear whether the second 
homeless person was murdered.  Human rights monitors believe that one of 
the homeless was, in fact, murdered by a police officer and that the 
prosecutor closed the case prematurely.   
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.  
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Criminal Code prohibits torture, and there were no reported 
incidents of it.  
 
In a March letter to the Prime Minister, the Commissioner for for Civil 
Rights Protection (Ombudsman) charged that the condition of many 
detention facilities and prisons is poor and that several dozen should 
be closed in whole or in part for renovation.  The Ombudsman recommended 
that actions be taken to lower the prison population, including the 
decriminalization of certain offenses, such as failure to pay alimony.  
The Government permits visits to civilian prisons by human rights 
monitors. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention.  There were 
no reports of such acts.  The 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.  Detainees may be held under 
"temporary" arrest for up to 3 months and may challenge the legality of 
an arrest through appeal to the district court.  A court may extend this 
pretrial confinement period every 3 months until the trial date.  Bail 
is available, and human rights organizations report that most detainees 
were released on bail pending trial.   
 
The Government does not employ forced exile.   
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The judicial branch is independent from the President and the 
Government.  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.  Judges 
are nominated by the National Judicial Council and appointed by the 
President.  Judges are appointed to the bench for life and can be 
reassigned but not dismissed, except by a decision of the National 
Judicial Council.  The Constitutional Tribunal rules on the 
constitutionality of legislation, but its decisions may be overruled by 
an absolute majority in the Sejm. 
 
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.  A law allowing for the use of incognito 
witnesses, designed to assist in combating organized crime, threatens a 
defendant's ability to confront witnesses. 
 
Trials 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. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners.   
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to privacy of correspondence.  
There is no legislation that guarantees the general right to privacy, 
although Poland has signed the European human rights convention, which 
provides for that right.  In response to the growing threat of organized 
crime and money laundering, the Parliament passed a law in July 
permitting the police and secret services to monitor private 
correspondence and to use wire taps and electronic monitoring devices in 
cases involving a serious crime, narcotics, money laundering, or illegal 
arms sales.  The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Interior, both 
political appointees, must authorize these investigative methods.  In 
emergency cases, the police may initiate an investigation using wiretaps 
or opening private correspondence at the same time that they file an 
application for permission with the ministries to engage in these 
activities.  There is no independent judicial review of these decisions 
nor is there a control mechanism over how the information derived from 
these investigations will be used. 
 
The 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.  There were no 
reports that police abused search warrant procedures. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
Although these freedoms are generally guaranteed in the Constitution, 
they are subject to some restrictions in law and practice. 
 
Citizens may generally express their opinions publicly and privately.  
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 Code imposes a prison term of 
up to 10 years for a person who commits any of the prohibited acts in 
print or through the mass media.  In October Presidential candidate 
Leszek Bubel was charged with violating this law. Bubel claimed on a 
radio program that, when he served as deputy prosecutor general, a 
former head of the Presidential chancellery protected a group of 
criminals.   
 
The Penal Code also stipulates that offending religious sentiment 
through public speech is punishable by a fine or a 2-year prison term.  
Father Stanislaw Jankowski is currently being investigated for violation 
of this law for an allegedly anti-Semitic sermon he gave in Gdansk in 
June.  Catholic organizations have challenged the legality of certain 
films and images published in the press on the basis of this provision.  
In October a provincial court charged presidential candidate Leszek 
Bubel with violating this article by publishing a pamphlet containing 
anti-Semitic humor.  An investigation continues into the August 1994 
case involving the weekly magazine Wprost which printed an image of the 
Black Madonna and Child in gas masks as a means of dramatizing the 
seriousness of environmental pollution.  The print media in Poland are 
uncensored and independent, although they may be subject to prosecution 
under the Penal Code provisions described above. 
 
In January, in a review of a 1994 case against newspaper editor Waclaw 
Bialy, the Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor or a judge, in the 
context of a criminal trial, may request that a journalist divulge the 
name of a source.  The penalty for noncompliance is a fine of 
approximately $2,000 (5,000 new zloty) and 1 month in jail.   
 
In July the Government sold 2 percent of its shares in the only 
remaining government controlled company publishing a major newspaper, 
thereby ceasing to have a controlling interest.  However, the national 
wire service, PAP, is still government-owned.  There is no restriction 
on the establishment of private newspapers or distribution of journals.  
Books expressing a wide range of political and social viewpoints are 
widely available, as are foreign periodicals.  Foreign publications and 
foreign radio broadcasts are also widely available.  
 
The National Broadcasting Council (NBC) has broad interpretive powers in 
supervising programming on public television, allocating broadcasting 
frequencies and licenses and apportioning subscription revenues.  In 
order to encourage the NBC's apolitical character, the nine NBC members 
are obliged under the law to suspend any membership in political parties 
or public associations.  They were, however, chosen for their political 
allegiances and nominated by the Sejm, the Senate, and the President 
following political bargaining, raising serious questions about the 
independence of broadcasting from political influence.  Polsat 
Corporation continues to hold an exclusive nationwide concession for 
private television.  The broadcasting 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."  The law does not 
fully define the term "Christian values."  The Constitutional Tribunal 
has confirmed the constitutionality of this provision.  Since the NBC 
has the 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 
renewal when it expires. 
 
Academic freedom is generally respected. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to assembly and association.  
Permits are not necessary for public meetings but are required for 
public demonstrations; demonstration organizers must obtain these 
permits from local 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 chairman who is required to 
open the demonstration, preside over it, and close it. 
 
Private associations need governmental approval to organize and must 
register with their district court.  The procedure essentially 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 discretion of the judge in charge. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution, as amended, provides for freedom of conscience and 
belief, and the Government respects this right in practice.  Citizens 
enjoy the freedom to practice any religion they choose.  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. 
 
More than 95 percent of Poles are Roman Catholic, but Eastern Orthodox, 
Ukrainian Catholic, and much smaller Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim 
congregations meet freely.  Although the Constitution provides for the 
separation of church and state, state-run radio broadcasts Catholic mass 
on Sundays.  The Catholic Church is authorized to relicense radio and 
television stations to operate on frequencies assigned to the Church, 
the only body outside the NBC allowed to do so. 
 
In January a "soldier's prayer book", authored by General Kazimierz 
Tomaszewski, Chief of the Warsaw Military District, was published for 
the military.  The book states that members of a special honor guard who 
do not take part in military mass are considered to be disobeying 
orders.  While this publication does not constitute law, it bears the 
same weight.  Ombudsman Zielinski met this year with Field Bishop Leszek 
Slawoj Glodz about deleting this requirement from the book, but no 
change had been made by year's end. 
 
While the Sejm ratified the human rights protocol guaranteeing parents 
the right to bring up their children in compliance with their own 
religious and philosophical beliefs, religious education classes 
continue to be taught in the public schools, at public expense.  While 
children are supposed to have the choice between religious instruction 
and ethics, a spokesperson from the Office of the Ombudsman stated that 
in many schools, there is no such choice.  Although Catholic Church 
representatives teach the vast majority of religious classes in the 
schools, parents can request religious classes in any of the religions 
legally registered in Poland, including Protestant, Orthodox, and Jewish 
religious instruction.  Such non-Catholic religious instruction exists 
in practice, and the instructors are paid by the Ministry of Education.  
The spokesperson for the Ombudsman's office also stated that scouting 
organizations, which receive government funding, include in their 
pledges mention of Catholic religious symbols.  In August the Ombudsman 
wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior protesting the language in 
these pledges:  at year's end he had not received a response.  In 
September the Minister of Education agreed with the episcopate to allow 
church representatives to be included on a commission charged with 
qualifying books for school use. 
 
A government-proposed resolution on ratification of the Concordat, a 
treaty regulating relations between the Government and the Vatican 
signed in 1993, remains under consideration in the Sejm.  Critics of the 
Concordat have called for legislation requiring the Church to register 
all church marriages with civil authorities and forbidding the Church 
from denying burial to non-Catholics in cemeteries it controls. 
 
The Council of Polish-Jewish relations, established by former President 
Lech Walesa, ceased to exist when Walesa's term expired on December 23.  
Kwasniewski has not stated whether he would create a similar body.  
Several of the Council's members had resigned to protest the dormancy of 
the Council, especially during events of crucial importance to the 
Jewish community in Poland.  
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
Although the Constitution does not address freedom of movement, the 
Government does not restrict internal or foreign travel.  Citizens who 
have left Poland have no trouble returning.  There are no restrictions 
on emigration. 
 
The Government generally cooperates with the United Nations High 
Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in 
assisting refugees. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens have the right and ability peacefully to change their 
government.  This right is provided for 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.  A 1990 law prohibits Poles living abroad who still retain 
their Polish citizenship from voting in the second round of Presidential 
elections.  The Ombudsman is currently studying this law and may 
recommend revision.  
 
Executive power is divided between the President and a government chosen 
by 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 following a vote of no confidence 
or when Parliament fails to pass a budget within 3 months after the 
Government submits it.  Parliament may impeach the President.  The 
electoral law exempts ethnic minority parties from the requirement to 
win 5 percent of the vote nationwide in order to qualify for seats in 
individual districts. 
 
In February the President threatened to dissolve Parliament claiming 
that it failed to pass a budget within the constitutional time limit.  
The President then acknowledged that the constitutional conditions were 
not met, but harshly attacked then Prime Minister Pawlak and demanded 
his resignation.  The ruling coalition subsequently agreed that Pawlak 
should resign and approved a new cabinet shortly thereafter under Jozef 
Oleksy. 
 
The current interim Constitution consists of the "Small Constitution" of 
1992, governing the structure of government, and several sections of the 
1952 Communist-era Constitution, including a bill of rights.  The latter 
includes so-called economic rights.  The interim Constitution provides 
for an independent judiciary.  The National Assembly's (joint Sejm and 
Senate) Constitutional Commission continued its work on drafting a new 
constitution, begun in 1994.  Seven versions of a constitution, 
submitted by various parties, including the President and the Senate, 
are before the Commission.  The Commission will submit a single 
composite version for consideration by the National Assembly with 
bracketed minority language on controversial points.  There is no legal 
deadline for completion of work on the new constitution, although the 
current chairman has targeted early 1996 for submission to the National 
Assembly and the summer of 1996 for a national referendum. 
 
Women are underrepresented in government and politics.  They comprise 13 
percent of parliamentarians.  Of a total of 17 ministries, only 1 is 
headed by a women.  With the exception of the Prime Minister's 
spokesperson, there are no women in senior positions in the Cabinet 
Office.  None of the leaders of the parties represented in Parliament is 
a women.  One of the three Vice Marshals of the Sejm is a woman.   
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Helsinki Committee, a major nongovernmental organization (NGO), 
conducted human rights investigations without government interference in 
1995.  Members of the Committee reported that the Government displays a 
generally positive and helpful attitude towards human rights 
investigations.  Some local NGO's, however, sense that there is a 
hostile regulatory climate developing within the government bureaucracy.   
 
Two government organizations monitor human rights in Poland.  The office 
of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (The Ombudsman), 
established in 1987, is an independent body with broad authority to 
investigate alleged violations of civil rights and liberties.  The 
Ombudsman registers each reported case and files grievances, where 
appropriate, with the relevant government office.  He has no legislative 
authority and is sworn to act apolitically.  In late 1995, the current 
Ombudsman, Tadeusz Zielinski, however, declared his candidacy for 
President without resigning from the Ombudsman position, prompting 
criticism that his actions may not be free from political motivation. 
 
A 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 no 
Senator wishes 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 organizations. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution calls for equal rights "irrespective of sex, birth, 
education, profession, nationality, race, religion, social status, and 
origin."  Other clauses provide equal rights to women and religious 
minorities.  Representatives of gay rights groups allege that there is 
discrimination in housing and the workplace.  Former President Lech 
Walesa openly opposed their call for a constitutional provision 
prohibiting discrimination based on sexual preference. 
 
   Women 
 
Violence against women continued to be a problem, with occasional 
reports in the press of wife beating and spousal rape.  According to a 
government report, 41 percent of women questioned said that they know 
someone personally who has been beaten by their husband.  The report 
also stated that the Government does not have a program addressing 
violence towards women, nor has it provided an adequate research tool to 
determine the extent of the problem.  Government statistics do not 
differentiate between male and female victims of violence.  In addition, 
the Government has not supplied public information on the problem.  
Police do intervene in cases of domestic violence, and husbands can be 
convicted for beating their wives.  A first offender is put on 
probation, and the penalty for a second offense is 8 to 12 months in 
prison.  
 
Trafficking in women is illegal.  Two specific provisions in the 
Criminal Code address this problem.  However, according to the 
government report, there is an increase in the incidence of such 
trafficking; most often, Polish women are induced to work as prostitutes 
in Western Europe, often under false pretenses. 
 
No statistical data are available about the extent of sexual harassment 
or discrimination in the workplace, although anecdotal evidence 
indicates that workplace discrimination is a serious problem.  According 
to some activists, few complaints about harassment or discrimination are 
registered because of the lack of specific provisions in the Labor Code 
that provide for redress. 
 
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.  
However, while the Constitution calls for equal treatment, it contains 
provisions which aim at protecting women rather than offering them true 
equality.  In practice, women are frequently paid less for equivalent 
work, mainly hold lower level positions, are discharged more quickly, 
and are less likely to be promoted than men.  A report issued by a 
committee of nongovernmental organizations in preparation for the fourth 
UN World Conference on Women in Beijing (NGO Report) states that women 
earn on average 30 percent less than men for similar work.   
 
Although women are employed in a broad variety of professions and 
occupations, and a few women occupy high positions in government and in 
the private sector, legal barriers, such as clauses in social insurance 
law limiting child sick care benefits to women only and early retirement 
for women, encourage discrimination in hiring. 
 
The law does not address equality in hiring practices (there are no 
legal penalties for discriminatory hiring practices), and advertisements 
for jobs frequently indicate a gender preference.  Women remain banned 
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.  The rise in unemployment 
and other social changes accompanying economic reforms and restructuring 
have hit women harder than men.  Women accounted for 55.2 percent of all 
those unemployed as of July. 
 
The NGO Report as well as a recent feature series in the press provide 
information on the ill-treatment of women in maternity clinics, where 
most give birth.  The reports state that women are subject to 
humiliation, deprivation of their identity, and undergo unnecessary 
discomfort during labor. 
 
The 1962 Law on Citizenship discriminates against women by not granting 
them the same right as men to transmit citizenship to their foreign-born 
spouses.  
 
   Children 
 
The interim Constitution extends some state protection to the family and 
children.  Specifically, it states that children born in and out of 
wedlock shall be treated equally.  It also charges the State with 
ensuring that alimony rights and obligations are implemented and tasks 
the government with "devoting special attention to the education of 
youth...." 
However, the realities of economic and social life make it difficult for 
the Government to implement these mandates.  There is an increasing 
incidence of prostitution among 12- and 13-year-olds, and unemployment, 
alcoholism, and housing shortages have affected the quality of life of 
children.  Moreover, there are no laws explicitly addressing violence 
toward children or corporal punishment.  Abuse is rarely reported, and 
convictions for child abuse are even rarer.  Parents have the right to 
make all decisions concerning their children's medical treatment and 
education. 
 
There is unequal treatment of young men and women in terms of the age of 
majority.  Men and women reach majority at the age of 18 under the Civil 
Code.  However, a young woman can reach majority at the age of 16 if she 
has entered into marriage with the consent of her parents and the 
guardianship court.  In addition, men are not permitted to marry without 
parental consent until the age of 21, whereas women may do so at the age 
of 18.  (The lawmakers' rationale for this difference in treatment is 
the assumption that it is better that men entering compulsory military 
service not be encumbered with families.) 
 
Education is compulsory until the age of 16, although the Government has 
proposed raising the age to 18.  There are no procedures in schools to 
protect children from abuse by teachers; in fact, the teachers' work 
code guarantees legal immunity from prosecution for the use of corporal 
punishment in classrooms. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
There are approximately 4.5 million disabled persons in the population, 
and it is predicted that the number will reach 6 million by the year 
2010.  The Central Bureau of Statistics reports that 17 percent of those 
disabled who can work are unemployed.  Disabled persons groups claim 
that the percentage is much higher. 
 
In 1991 the Government passed a number of laws protecting the rights of 
people with disabilities.  Implementation, however, falls short of 
rights set forth in the legislation.  Public buildings and 
transportation are generally not accessible to people with disabilities; 
the law provides only that such buildings "should be accesible."  The 
law created a state fund for the rehabilitation of the disabled which 
derives its assets from a tax on employers of over 50 persons, unless 6 
percent of the employer's work force are disabled persons.  While the 
fund has adequate resources, it has been fraught with difficulties, 
including frequent changes in leadership.  Over the last 4 years, the 
fund has gone through six chairpersons, each of whom had only worked for 
6 months.  Recent newspaper reports state that the fund has 4,000 
applications for financial assistance pending.  In addition, pursuant to 
the 1991 law, the fund cannot be used to assist disabled children, that 
is, persons under 16 years of age.   
 
   Religious Minorities 
 
Current law places the Protestant churches on the same legal footing as 
Catholic and Orthodox churches.  Protestants now have the same ability 
to claim restitution of property lost during the Communist era and have 
the same tax reduction as that granted to the Orthodox and Catholic 
Churches.  This law covers only church property seized by the People's 
Republic of Poland and consequently does not address either the issue of 
private property or Jewish religious property seized during World War 
II.   
 
The Government's resolve to denounce anti-Semitism came into question 
when a well-known church figure and then President Walesa's personal 
priest, Father Henryk Jankowski, made overtly anti-Semitic remarks in a 
public sermon at which Walesa was present.  Walesa did not condemn nor 
distance himself from those remarks until 10 days after the speech, 
following international pressure.  His lateness in responding plus his 
neglect of the Council on Polish-Jewish Relations raised questions about 
the Government's seriousness in combating anti-Semitism.  In Krakow 
local authorities refused to permit construction of a park to honor the 
memory of Poland's preWar Jewish community. 
 
There were also some anti-Semitic attacks in connection with the 
electoral campaign.  One fringe presidential candidate, Stanislaw 
Tyminski, used the campaign slogan "Poland for Poles."  While stating 
that he did not want to discriminate, he claimed that a large portion of 
a major political party had many Jews within its membership, thereby 
insinuating that the party was dominated by "outside influences."  
Presidential candidate Leszek Bubel, who received only 0.4 percent of 
the vote, published two anti-Semitic pamphlets during the campaign (see 
Section 2.a.) and broadcast an anti-Semitic television campaign ad. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
The law provides for the educational rights of ethnic minorities, 
including the right to be taught in their own language. 
 
The Romani community, numbering around 30,000, faced disproportionately 
high unemployment and was more negatively affected by the current 
economic changes and restructuring than were ethnic Poles, according to 
its leaders.  While the national Government does not overtly 
discriminate against Roma, some local officials sometimes do 
discriminate by not providing services in a timely manner or at all.  
According to the national Roma community chairman, the Government did 
not adequately take into account his organization's proposals in plans 
to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  In 
a recent poll, over 60 percent of Poles viewed the Roma negatively. 
 
In June around 30 skinheads attempted to disrupt the Ukrainian cultural 
festival in Przemysl by starting brawls but were prevented from doing so 
by the local police.  On July 2, police arrested 4 persons suspected of 
throwing Molotov cocktails into a building where 120 participants of the 
Ukrainian cultural festival were staying.  These incidents and other 
hate attacks against Ukrainians were spurred by an agreement to allow 
the building of a Ukrainian monument in Przemysl. 
 
There were several racially motivated incidents including death threats 
and attacks on African-American basketball players working on contract 
in Poland.  In January two black Americans were assaulted in a 
discotheque in what they described as a racially motivated attack.  On 
February 13, approximately 8 skinheads in the city of Stargard 
Szczecinski assaulted Martin Eggleston, an African-American player, and 
his 13 year old daughter.  He was threatened with a knife and then 
sprayed with Mace.  His daughter was not injured.  Approximately 50 
bystanders took no action.  Four men accused of taking part in the 
attack have been convicted:  one man received a 9-month prison sentence, 
and three others received 6-month prison sentences suspended for 3 
years, and a fine equivalent to $208. 
 
Also in February, two other African-American basketball players 
complained of anonymous death threats made to them in their homes.  The 
press and the Polish team manager initially treated the players' 
complaints as lacking in credibility but later investigated the incident 
to the satisfaction of the complainants.  
 
In April a group of skinheads attacked an African-American woman working 
in Gdansk.  Police arrested several suspects in this case but were 
unable to prosecute since the victim would not file a complaint and left 
the country the following day.  One month earlier, an African-American 
man was harassed in Gdansk and also decided not to file a complaint.   
 
According to a study conducted by the Warsaw University Sociology 
Institute, 25 percent of visitors to Poland of African, Asian, or Arab 
descent experienced some type of aggression during their stay, and 60 
percent experienced verbal abuse based on their skin color. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The law provides that all civilian workers, including military 
employees, police, and frontier guards, have the right to establish and 
join trade unions of their own choosing, the right to join labor 
federations and confederations, and the right to affiliate with 
international labor organizations.  Independent labor leaders reported 
that these rights were largely observed in practice. 
 
The law sets minimum size requirements for establishing a trade union:  
10 persons may form a local union, and 30 may establish a national 
union.  Unions, including interbranch national unions and national 
interbranch federations, must be registered with the courts.  A court 
decision refusing registration may be appealed to an appeals court.  As 
of September, 288 national unions were registered.  No precise data 
exist on work force unionization, but some estimates put membership at 
some 40 percent of state sector employees, with the figure at about 5 
percent in the private sector. 
 
The Independent Self-Governing Trade Union (NSZZ) Solidarity is 
affiliated with the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions 
(ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labor.  Solidarity's verified, 
dues-paying membership fell further in 1995 to about 1.4 million.  
Spinoffs from mainstream Solidarity include the two rival factions, 
"Solidarity '80" and "August '80," and the Christian Trade Union 
Solidarity (Popieluszko).  There are no reliable estimates of their 
membership.  The other principal national unions are the All-Poland 
Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ), the Communist-inspired confederation 
established in 1984 as the sole legal alternative to the then-repressed 
NSZZ Solidarity, and its teachers' affiliate (ZNP).  The OPZZ claims a 
membership of 4.5 million, but numerous recent polls suggest that its 
regular, dues-paying membership may be less than Solidarity's.  The 1994 
collective bargaining law did not require union membership figures to be 
verified or union finances to be based on dues-paying members to be 
considered a "representative" negotiating partner.  As a result, 
Solidarity refused to participate in some multilateral negotiations with 
the Government and other social partners on the grounds that OPZZ and 
other union membership figures were unproven. 
 
There was no resolution in 1995 of the longstanding dispute over 
Solidarity assets seized during the martial law period and still 
administered by the OPZZ.  The ICFTU and the European  
 
Trade Union Confederation continued to decline to cooperate with the 
OPZZ, largely because of the outstanding assets issue. 
 
Most trade unions operate independently of the Government, and some are 
particularly active in politics.  According to OPZZ chair Ewa 
Spychalska, more than two-thirds of the 178 governing Democratic Left 
Alliance (SLD) Deputies are OPZZ members.  Of these, the OPZZ formally 
sponsored 63 as "trade union deputies" during the 1993 elections.  
Solidarity, other small Solidarity-origin unions, and some OPZZ regional 
leaders charge that the OPZZ national leadership is not independent 
because the SLD enforces party discipline on important votes in the 
Sejm.  Solidarity has an 11-member caucus in the Senate, while the trade 
union wing of the Confederation of Independent Poland, Kontra, has 1 
Deputy in the Sejm.  
 
Unions have the right to strike except in "essential services."  
According to the unions, the 1991 Act on Collective Dispute Resolution 
prescribes an overly lengthy process before a strike may be called.  
According to employers, the law is too lenient by allowing only one 
quarter of the work force to vote to call a strike.  Arbitration is not 
obligatory and depends on the will of disputing parties.  Employers and 
union leaders agree that as many as 60 to 90 percent of strikes may be 
technically "illegal" because the sides to a dispute do not complete 
each step required by law.  There are no apparent remedies to this 
phenomenon because labor courts act slowly on deciding the legality of 
strikes while sanctions against unions for calling illegal strikes, or 
against employers for provoking them, are minimal.  Laws prohibiting 
retribution against strikers are not consistently enforced, and fines 
imposed as punishment are so minimal that they are ineffective sanctions 
to illegal activity.  If a strike is organized in accordance with the 
law, workers retain their right to social insurance but not pay.  If a 
labor court finds a strike "contrary to provisions of the law," workers 
may lose social benefits, and organizers are liable for damages and may 
face civil charges and fines. 
 
The Government continued work on its "Strategy for Poland," to adapt 
existing but outdated laws governing labor activity to the market 
economy, to establish a comprehensive legal framework governing all 
aspects of work, and to bring labor law into line with European Union 
practices.  In December the Senate amended the lower house's bill on the 
new labor code, which is expected to become law in early 1996 after 
further consideration in the Sejm.  Legislative work continued on the 
bill on collective dispute resolution, one of the central elements of 
the Government's strategy to modernize labor relations.  Meanwhile, 
legal ambiguities remain.   
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The 1991 laws on trade unions and resolution of collective disputes 
generally create a favorable environment to conduct trade union 
activity. 
 
Labor leaders, however, reported numerous cases of employer 
discrimination against workers seeking to organize or join unions in the 
growing private sector.  Union leaders also say that the 1991 laws lack 
specific provisions to ensure that a union has continued rights of 
representation when a state firm undergoes privatization, 
commercialization, bankruptcy, or sale, which contributed to the very 
low unionization rate in the private sector.  The law provides for 
parties to take disputes over implementation of existing laws first to 
the Labor Court, then to the Prosecutor General, and finally to the 
Supreme Court, if unresolved at lower levels.  In recent years, 
Solidarity has taken several thousand such cases to the Labor Court, 
several hundred to the Prosecutor General, and in 1994 about 60 to the 
Supreme Court for resolution.  In many of these cases, the courts 
ordered employers to correct practices or reinstate dismissed workers.  
In others, the courts ordered unions to reimburse employers for strikes 
determined to be "illegal."  Penalties, however, are minimal and are not 
an effective deterrent. 
 
The Government sought to make enterprise-level collective bargaining 
over wages and working conditions a key element of the new labor 
relations system.  Negotiations between unions, management, and workers 
councils are becoming increasingly common in the state manufacturing 
sector, but a majority of enterprises are still unprepared to conclude 
agreements independently of central government involvement.  Solidarity 
reported that collective agreements governed as few as 10 percent of 
state sector firms, primarily in the heavy industrial sector.  Many 
enterprises operated on the basis of agreements renewed from previous 
years. 
 
Many disputes arose during collective bargaining negotiations because of 
the weakness of the employer side of the labor/management/government 
triangle.  State sector employers, still subordinate to Warsaw branch 
ministries, were unable to negotiate directly and independently with 
organized labor, while the Government repeatedly stated its intention 
not to be drawn into labor disputes. 
 
Since its formation in early 1994, the Tripartite Commission (labor, 
management, and government) has increasingly determined wage and benefit 
levels in the so-called budget sector (public employees).  A Solidarity-
organized protest campaign in early 1995 was resolved at the Tripartite 
Commission, which became the principal consultative/negotiating body for 
the public budget sector. 
 
There are no export processing zones.   
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Poland has ratified ILO Conventions 29 and 105 on forced labor.  
Compulsory labor does not exist, except for prisoners convicted of 
criminal offenses, and is otherwise prohibited by law.  There were no 
reports of coerced or bonded labor. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The law contains strict legal prescriptions about the conditions in 
which children may work.  The Labor Code forbids the employment of 
persons under the age of 15.  Those between ages 15 and 18 may be 
employed only if they have completed primary school and if the proposed 
employment constitutes vocational training and is not harmful to their 
health.  The age floor rises to 18 if a particular job might pose a 
health danger.  Children are required to attend school until age 15. 
 
Despite these prescriptions, the State Labor Inspectorate reported in 
1994 that increasing numbers of children now work and that many 
employers violated labor rules in employing them (underpayment, late 
payment, etc.).  Inspectors found violations on stud horse farms, in 
restaurants, and, in isolated instances, in factories in the private 
sector. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
A national minimum wage is negotiated every 3 months by the Ministry of 
Labor and Social Policy, the trade unions, and employers.  The minimum 
monthly wage for employees in state-owned enterprises rose to roughly 
$120 (295 new zloty).  This was insufficient to provide a worker or 
family with a decent standard of living.  A large percentage of 
construction workers and seasonal agricultural laborers from the former 
Soviet Union earn less than the minimum.  The large size of the gray 
economy, along with insufficient numbers of state labor inspectors, make 
enforcement of the minimum wage very difficult. 
 
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 law requires 
overtime payment for hours in excess of the standard workweek.  The 
Labor Code defines minimum conditions for the protection of workers' 
health and safety.  Prescriptions are strict and extensive, and trade 
unions have the right to stop production or extract a worker from 
dangerous working conditions without jeopardy to continued employment.  
Enforcement, however, is a major problem because the State Labor 
Inspectorate is unable to monitor the state sector sufficiently, or the 
private sector, where a growing percentage of accidents take place.  In 
addition, there is a lack of clarity concerning which government or 
legislative body has responsibility for enforcing the law. 
 
Of the 102,309 work-related accidents reported in 1994, 636 involved 
deaths, slightly fewer than in 1993.  This represents 9 accidents per 
1000 workers, proportionally similar to 1993.  The Government in 
September noted that working conditions were poor and sanctions minimal.  
Some Sejm Deputies considered them "highly unsatisfactory."  Standards 
for exposure to chemicals, dust, and noise are routinely exceeded, which 
more than doubled the incidence of work-related sicknesses in 1993 
compared to 1971. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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