Letter to Poland's President and PM from Amnesty's outgoing and incoming Secretary Generals

Dear President and Prime Minister,

We are writing to you regarding two crucial issues in Poland which we believe have now reached a crisis point: the independence of the judiciary, and the right to protest.

The law on the Supreme Court, the dismissal of judges starting from 3 July 2018, and the politicization of courts, are causing a severe erosion of the rule of law. The arbitrary lowering of the retirement age from 70 to 65 makes it impossible to believe these measures are objective and not political.

Poland has a proud history of protest against oppression. However, in the last two years, there has been an ever-shrinking space for critical voices and the defence of human rights
Salil Shetty and Kumi Naidoo

The right to protest is also being rapidly eroded. Poland has a proud history of protest against oppression. However, in the last two years, Amnesty International has documented how the combination of the law on assemblies, heavy-handed policing measures, numerous prosecutions, and expanded surveillance powers are resulting in an ever-shrinking space for critical voices and the defence of human rights in Poland.

As the global leadership of Amnesty International is gathering in Warsaw this week, we requested a meeting with the President of the Supreme Court, Ms Małgorzata Gersdorf. Our incoming Secretary General Kumi Naidoo had the honour of discussing the reforms in the courts with her directly. Unfortunately, our requests for a meeting with you were denied, but we remain available and keen to meet to discuss these matters in person.

Given the severity of the situation, and its great urgency, we call on you to:

  • Ensure that judges can exercise their judicial functions free from retaliatory action or other forms of pressure;
  • Ensure there are no actions that further undermine the independence of the judiciary, including the arbitrary dismissal of judges such as Ms Gersdorf;
  • Remove any provisions from laws that erode the independence of the judiciary and put the right to fair trial at risk.

We look forward to your urgent response to this significant deterioration of Poland’s proud history of dissent, protest and the rule of law. It is not too late to put on the brakes. 

Yours sincerely,

Salil Shetty and Kumi Naidoo