Annual Report: Poland 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Poland 2010

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Parliament adopted the Patients' Rights and the Ombudsperson for Patients' Rights Act, which allows any patient to file an objection against a physician's opinion or ruling. Its enactment followed a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Tysi?c v Poland that Poland violated the right to respect for private life because it provided no timely or effective means for women to appeal against doctors' decisions to deny them access to abortion services. However, the new law required the Medical Board to rule on a complaint within 30 days, a delay that could be too long for certain medical procedures and thus constitute a violation of the right to health. In addition, the Medical Board was allowed to return a patient's complaint unanswered if they were unable to cite the legal basis of the rights or obligations being claimed. The need to hire a lawyer was a serious disincentive for patients in low or middle income groups.

  • In June the European Court of Human Rights asked the government to clarify the circumstances of the death in September 2004 of a 25-year-old pregnant woman, Z. In the months before her death, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and an abscess that required three operations to remove. Z was admitted to a number of hospitals, but none would perform a full endoscopy and other diagnostic examinations for fear of risking the life of the foetus, despite appeals from her family. Z miscarried on 5 September 2004 in the fifth month of pregnancy and died from septic shock on 29 September 2004.

Justice system

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on pretrial detentions and prison overcrowding in Poland.

  • In February, in Kauczor v Poland, the Court concluded that numerous cases of excessively lengthy detention on remand revealed a "malfunctioning of the Polish criminal justice system" that affected large numbers of individuals.
  • In Jamrozy v Poland, the Court ruled in September that the extensive length of pre-trial detention - more than two years - violated the right to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial.
  • In October the Court found Poland in violation of the prohibition of torture or degrading treatment. Krzysztof Orchowski had passed most of his prison sentence in a cell with a personal space smaller than 3m² and at times 2m². The government acknowledged that prison overcrowding was systemic.

Freedom of expression

Criminalizing defamation, an offence punishable by up to two years' imprisonment for journalists (Article 212 of the criminal code), had - in at least one case - an adverse effect on freedom of expression.

  • In February the European Court of Human Rights found that Poland had violated the right to freedom of expression. In 2000 journalist Jacek D?ugo??cki was convicted of insulting a politician under Article 212 and fined. The ruling stated that the penalty amounted to a form of censorship and that the conviction was likely to deter journalists from contributing to public discussion or performing their task as public watchdog.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Refugees and asylum-seekers continued to experience difficulties in accessing health care services and the labour market. In December some 200 asylum seekers, mostly people from Georgia and Chechnya, travelled to Strasbourg without tickets or identity documents as a way of protesting at the conditions of refugees and asylum-seekers in Poland.

Amnesty International report

Poland: Briefing to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1 October 2009)