In a minority government since parliamentary elections in September 2005, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), formed a coalition government in May with the League of Polish Families (LPR) and the Self-Defence (Samoobrona) party. After a political crisis in September, Samoobrona was expelled from the government, but later readmitted when PiS faced losing early parliamentary elections.
Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
Openly homophobic statements made by politicians and officials, including the encouragement of violence against peaceful demonstrators, worsened the climate of discrimination and intimidation.
• Wojciech Wierzejski, LPR Vice-President and member of parliament, in May encouraged the use of force against participants in the annual Equality March in Warsaw in June. He reportedly said, "If deviants begin to demonstrate, they should be hit with batons".
• In May the Deputy Minister of Education said that an international project organized by LGBT rights groups and financially supported by the European Commission would lead to the "depravity of young people", and that such groups should not receive funding. In September a project submitted by one LGBT organization to the National Agency of Youth Programme was rejected by the Ministry of Education on the grounds that it "aimed to propagate homosexual behaviour".
• In June the Minister of Education dismissed the director of the National In-Service Teacher Training Centre for having books that encouraged teachers to organize meetings with LGBT organizations. The only book that met the description was an anti-discrimination handbook by the Council of Europe, which subsequently expressed concern at the "homophobia?and homophobic behaviours" within the government. The Centre's new director said in October that "homosexual practices lead to drama, emptiness and degeneracy".
Demonstrators from the LGBT community and other activists were reportedly attacked by counter-demonstrators and unable to exercise their right to peaceful assembly because of police failures.
• In April, despite the presence of the police, more than 1,000 participants of a Tolerance March in Kraków were reportedly harassed and intimidated by members of a right-wing grouping, the All Polish Youth, who held a counter-demonstration, the Tradition March.
Court rulings clarified the legality of the Equality March in Warsaw arranged for 10 June, which the City Council of Warsaw finally authorized on 1 June. Owing to threats from counter-demonstrators, the march organizers agreed a different route with the Council and the police provided sufficient forces to guarantee security. The march went ahead without major incidents.
• In January the Constitutional Court confirmed a Warsaw court ruling of September 2005 that the banning of the Equality March in Warsaw in June 2005 by the then Mayor Lech Kaczyñski was unlawful, and declared that demonstrators need only inform city officials that a public demonstration would be taking place.
• In May the Supreme Administrative Court in Warsaw upheld the decision of the Regional Administrative Court in Poznań, in the case of an LGBT march banned in November 2005, that the threat from a counter-demonstration could not be grounds for banning the demonstration.
Secret detention centres and renditions
In March the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe released his opinion on alleged secret detention centres in member states set up as part of the USA's programme of secret detentions and "renditions" - the illegal transfer of people between states outside of any judicial process. He expressed concern at Poland's inadequate response to questions of whether officials had been involved in the detentions or renditions.
In June the Rapporteur on secret detentions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) reported on the global "spider's web" of detentions and transfers by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and alleged collusion by 14 Council of Europe states. He reported that the Polish authorities were unable, despite repeated requests, to provide information from national aviation records to confirm CIA-connected flights into Poland.
In November a Temporary Committee of the European Parliament, looking into allegations of illegal CIA activity in Europe, deplored Poland's lack of co-operation and failure to establish a special inquiry committee or an independent parliamentary investigation.
The majority of asylum seekers from Chechnya in the Russian Federation were denied refugee status, in violation of the 1951 Refugee Geneva Convention, and were granted "tolerated stay" permits only.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reported in May that almost half of school-age children seeking asylum did not attend school at all. People with only "tolerated stay" permits were denied the social assistance given to asylum-seekers and the integration package provided for refugees.
The number of asylum-seekers sent back to Poland from other European Union (EU) states increased following application of the so-called Dublin II Regulation, which establishes criteria and mechanisms for determining which EU state will examine an asylum application.
In March, reporting on its last visit in 2004, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture made recommendations to the government on the treatment of detainees. It urged police officers to be informed on a regular and frequent basis that physically or verbally ill-treating detainees was unacceptable and would be severely punished; that only strictly necessary force should be used during arrests; and that there was no justification for striking detainees once they were brought under control. The Committee called on the authorities to ensure that judges and prosecutors who heard a complaint of police ill-treatment from any person before them should immediately request a forensic medical examination. The Committee expressed concern that Poland had not implemented recommendations on police detention facilities for children made during its previous visit in 2000.
President Kaczyñski called for the restoration of the death penalty in Poland and throughout Europe in a Polish public radio broadcast on 28 July, saying: "Countries that give up this penalty award an unimaginable advantage to the criminal over his victim, the advantage of life over death." In August the LPR announced a campaign for Europe-wide restoration of the death penalty and for a referendum on its reintroduction in Poland. Wojciech Wierzejski called the EU's ban on the death penalty "anachronistic."
In response, the European Commission said that the death penalty was "not compatible with European values." The President of the PACE wrote in an open letter to President Kaczyński that "its reintroduction... would be a direct attack on our common values, which are founded on respect for the basic human dignity of every person."
AI country reports/visits
• Poland and Latvia: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Poland and Latvia (AI Index: EUR 01/019/2006)
• Poland goes backwards: No to the restoration of the death penalty (AI Index: EUR 37/002/2006)
AI delegates visited Poland in May and June.