UN Universal Periodic Review of Poland
The constitutional crisis, protection of the independence of the justice system, the safeguarding of the freedom of the media and speech and the protection of LGBT persons from violence and discrimination as well as support for victims of domestic violence were the leading topics discussed by UN Member States during the session of the Universal Periodic Review of Poland held on 9 May.
Representatives of over 70 states from all over the world joined the discussion. They asked the Polish delegation about the recent key changes in the area of human rights protection. European Union countries (including Germany, France, Spain, Holland, Denmark and Austria) expressed their concerns over the lasting constitutional crisis and urged Poland to strengthen the independence of its judiciary. Their voice is very important because it is the first time that the EU Member States have commented on the constitutional crisis in Poland that started in 2015. This may be an important signal sent before the publication of the information regarding the situation in Poland by the European Commission scheduled on 16 May at the session of the UE General Affair Council.
At the same time when Poland received calls to secure the rule of law and independence of the justice system, the Sejm commission worked on the amendment to the National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ) Act.
During the discussion held as part of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations were also issued regarding hate crimes prevention. The states recommended, among other things, the reinstatement of the Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance abolished in April 2016 and the creation of the similar body. The UN States also called Poland to improve the functioning of the support system for women who are victims of domestic violence and to better comply with the provisions of the Istanbul Convention (“anti-violence convention”).
An equally important topic addressed over and over again in the speeches given by state delegations was the problem of a better protection of LGBT persons. As many as 13 countries issued recommendations in this regard to Poland. The recommendations involved, among other things, recognising sexual orientation and identity as grounds protected in the provisions on hate speech and bias-motivated crimes, improving access to support for victims and taking actions to increase the level of reporting hate crimes.
The Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council serves as a mechanism to monitor the human rights records in individual states. All UN Member States are subject to this mechanism. The review is conducted once every four years. Poland was under review for the first time in 2008, the next review cycle was in 2012.