Commissioner for Human Rights issues report on Poland

June 27th, 2016 § 0 comments

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During a press conference in Warsaw which took place on 15 June 2016, Nils Muižnieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe, presented his report on recent changes to Poland’s legal and institutional framework, which in his view threaten human rights and undermine the rule of law.

Among others, the report analyses the impact of the new law on surveillance activities. The report raises serious concerns of its incompatibility with international human rights law because it expands the powers of law enforcement agencies, police forces and security services without establishing the necessary safeguards to avoid abuse. It notes, in particular, that there is no mechanism of judicial control ensuring a prior authorisation to retrieve or obtain telecommunication or internet metadata, including data regarding contacts with those working under professional secrecy, for instance, lawyers. The Commissioner recognises that for the use of information obtained through operational activities as evidence in criminal proceedings, it is required that it should be in the interest of justice and that the use has been authorised by a court. However, such authorising decision is not subject to an appeal by defendant.

The CCBE has also been following legislative developments in Poland, particularly the proposed changes to the regulation on data surveillance and data retention earlier this year. On 12 January 2016, the CCBE sent a letter to the speaker of the lower house of the Polish parliament in which it pointed out that the secrecy of client’s communications with his lawyer should be inviolable. This is a fundamental element of the rule of law and, in particular, of the right to a fair trial.

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