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Covid 19 – Criminal Justice Campaign

The COVID-19 Justice Campaign is a global coalition to resist and roll-back unaccountable criminal justice powers created during the pandemic.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a global trend of increased criminal justice powers. In many countries, the police have been given new powers to detain people, control where they can go, and even restrict what they can say. Often, the oversight of policing and detention has been weakened, leaving people vulnerable to police abuse.

The COVID-19 Justice Campaign brings together international partners to resist and rollback unaccountable criminal justice powers.

From March to November 2020, Fair Trials tracked how criminal justice systems and fair trial rights were affected by responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Justice Project received hundreds of updates from around the world, which can be found on these pages, and which have informed the COVID-19 Justice Campaign.

Operation of the European Arrest Warrant in Poland during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in 2020

On 6 August 2021, the European Commission published a report on the operation of the European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”) in the 27 Member States of the European Union in 2019.


The HFHR obtained data on the operation of the European Arrest Warrant in Poland in the years 2019-2020 from the Ministry of Justice by filing an access to public information request. These data permit a partial assessment of the operation of the EAW during the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic.

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Arrests and abuse of force: HFHR writes to the Chief Commissioner of the Police on protests against a judgment of the Constitutional Court

Protests have erupted in Warsaw after the Constitutional Court delivered the so-called judgment on the Ombudsman’s term of office. Once again, the police have engaged in abusive conduct that may have violated the guarantees under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Helsinki Foundation sent another letter to the Chief Commissioner of the Police requesting a comment on the incidents covered by the media.

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HFHR takes action in response to police conduct in Głogów

According to a video released to the media, a police officer arresting a protester appears to have used force disproportionate to the behaviour of the person detained. In a letter sent to the head of a provincial Police department, the HFHR noted that only the necessary and least oppressive measures of direct coercion should be taken against persons being taken into police custody.

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COVID-19 survivor detained despite ill health, prevented from seeing his lawyers. Detention lifted thanks to HFHR’s brief

The HFPC was approached by the counsel of a person detained on remand despite ill health, suffering from the consequences of hospitalization and severe COVID-19). The counsel emphasised that their client, who speaks only Italian, is unable to communicate any symptoms or abnormalities resulting from his ailments. At the same time, his access to a lawyer has been obstructed. The Foundation has submitted a brief related to the proceedings for the extension of man’s pre-trial detention.A court agreed to release the man from detention upon the provision of financial surety.

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Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the Criminal Justice System. Access to a Lawyer in Criminal Proceedings in Times of the Pandemic

In Poland, access to a lawyer is primarily governed by the Law of 6 June 1997 – the Code of Criminal Procedure. The understanding and interpretation of the provisions of the Code are also influenced by international standards. In this context, the EU legislative arrangements are of particular importance.

The HFHR assesses the changes introduced during the pandemic and the challenges faced by lawyers and parties to criminal proceedings.

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Situation of Inmates of Polish Penitentiary Facilities During the Pandemic

A total of 172 prisons, remand centres and external detention units operate in Poland. On the eve of the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic, nearly 75,000 persons were deprived of liberty in Poland, and the occupancy rate at the facilities exceeded 91%. Currently, there are 68,828 people in remand centres and prisons, and the occupancy rate at those facilities is 84.31%.

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Situation of Persons in Pre-trial Detention in Polish Penitentiary Facilities During the Pandemic

The coronavirus mostly affects persons over the age of 60. Statistical data show that in recent years there are increasingly more persons from this age group among the persons in pre-trial detention. On the eve of the pandemic, there were nearly 500 of them in Poland, which accounted for 5% of the persons detained on remand.

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Freedom of Assembly During the Pandemic

Freedom of assembly is guaranteed in Article 57 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland and may only be restricted under a law provided that such a restriction is adequate, necessary and proportionate. The most far-reaching restrictions, which interfere with the essence of freedom of assembly, can only be introduced when certain extraordinary measures are introduced.

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