Amnesty International takes no position on issues of sovereignty or territorial disputes. Borders on this map are based on UN Geospatial data.
Back to Poland

Poland 2023

Poland continued to rely on fossil fuels and challenged new EU legislation combating climate change before the Court of Justice of the EU. A Senate commission found that use of the Pegasus spyware had rendered the 2019 parliamentary election unfair. Parliament debated controversial legislation which would prohibit NGOs from providing anti-discrimination education in schools. Access to abortion remained limited. An amendment to the law on domestic violence expanded the offence to cover both cyber and economic violence. Border guards continued to violate the rights of refugees and migrants reaching the country via the Belarusian border. The government continued to target judges and prosecutors who raised concerns over reforms to the judiciary.


Opposition parties won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections in October. The new government announced a number of measures aimed at restoring the rule of law and criminalization of hate crimes.

Right to a healthy environment

In July 2022 thousands of fish and other wildlife died after an environmental disaster in the River Oder. By year’s end the government had still not taken effective action to restore the river’s ecosystem despite ongoing pollution and risks to marine life, health and livelihoods.

Poland continued to rely on fossil fuels including coal and in July challenged the EU’s recently adopted climate legislation, including a 2035 ban on new combustion engine cars, in the Court of Justice of the EU.

Right to privacy

On 6 September, the Senate’s Extraordinary Commission for clarification of illegal surveillance reported that the use of Pegasus spyware against opposition figures and government critics was unlawful, and rendered the 2019 parliamentary elections unfair.

Right to education

In August parliament continued debating an amendment to the Law on the Education System, the so-called Lex Czarnek 3.0. The latest iteration, a citizens’ proposal, aimed to prohibit NGOs from supporting schools by providing anti-discrimination and sex education not covered by the school curriculum. The change in the law ultimately did not happen.

Concerns remained about access to education for Ukrainian refugee children, given language challenges, among other issues. An estimated 200,000 Ukrainian school children remained outside any educational system.

Right to social security

In July parliament adopted a law which will increase the amount of child benefit paid under the so-called Family 500+ programme to PLN 800 (EUR 184).

However, Poland had still not accepted any of the UN mechanisms allowing complaints of alleged violations of social, economic and cultural rights to be lodged at the international level.

Sexual and reproductive rights

Access to abortion remained limited, with pregnant people at risk as hospitals did not provide abortions even in life-threatening situations. At least one woman was said to have died as a consequence of being denied abortion services in May.

In March activist Justyna Wydrzyńska was convicted under draconian and discriminatory laws for providing information to and supporting a pregnant woman experiencing domestic violence who needed a safe abortion. She was sentenced to eight months of community service. The verdict was not final pending an appeal by her lawyers.

Police continued to harass women suspected of having had an abortion. In April a woman from Kraków was strip searched and her electronic devices were confiscated by police officers after she told a doctor whom she had consulted on another matter that she had had an abortion the previous week.

Gender-based violence

An amendment to the law on domestic violence entered into force in June. It contained a new definition of the offence to include both cyber and economic violence and broadened the range of potential perpetrators to include ex-partners. The definition of rape in criminal law continued to fall short of that in the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention).

Freedom of expression

In December the newly appointed minister of culture and national heritage unilaterally dismissed the boards of several public broadcasters. Although public media needed urgent reform, the form of the intervention violated human rights standards with regard to freedom of expression.


In December an MP used a fire extinguisher to put out a menorah that had been lit in parliament for the Jewish festival of Hannukah. Although he was suspended from his party, and parliament lifted his immunity, his action met with approval from a section of society.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Refugees and migrants reaching the country via the Belarusian border continued to face official hostility. Border guards violently forced people back to the border, denying them international protection. Some people who were forced back by Polish border guards were subsequently also mistreated by Belarusian guards and sent back into Białowieża Forest. From the beginning of the crisis in 2021 until the end of 2023 at least 55 migrants and asylum seekers were reported to have died due to lack of medical care, malnutrition and exhaustion.1

Thousands of refugees and migrants, including children, who had managed to cross into Poland from Belarus continued to be arbitrarily detained in closed centres for foreigners. Automatic detention with no individual determination led to many court rulings awarding compensation for unlawful detention.

Many Ukrainian refugees were still living in group housing centres, despite their temporary nature, and faced challenges finding rental accommodation. Most refugees were required to pay up to 75% of the cost of group accommodation. While this obligation was supposed to exclude certain groups of people, it still applied to the majority of people who were currently in those centres, which caused some refugees to return to Ukraine.

A referendum in October asked suggestive and misleading questions, including one which implied that the refugees were “illegal”. The referendum was preceded by a notable increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric by politicians and pro-governmental media. In protest many voters refused to participate, and a final turnout of under 50% meant the results were void.

Unfair trials

The government continued to target judges and prosecutors who raised concerns over reforms to the judiciary. In January parliament granted the Supreme Administrative Court jurisdiction over disciplinary cases regarding judges, despite this contravening the Polish Constitution. It did not resolve issues concerning the independence of judges, who could still be dismissed if they questioned the legality and the decisions of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), established to participate in their appointment. The KRS was restructured in order to grant the executive more control over the judiciary and to exercise political control over judicial appointments.

In July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Tuleya v Poland that the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which had lifted Judge Igor Tuleya’s immunity from prosecution and suspended him from judicial duties, was not an independent and impartial court. The measures taken against the judge were found to have violated his rights to a fair trial, to a private life and to freedom of expression.

In July parliament passed an amendment to the Defence of the Homeland Act that prevented a single judge, Piotr Raczkowski, from continuing to serve as a judge. The amendment stipulated that any military judge released from military service must also retire as a judge. At the time of the amendment, Piotr Raczkowski was the only judge who fell into that category. He was well-known for criticizing the government in power at that time, which had already tried to remove him from office by different means.

A law on investigating Russian influence on internal security – the so-called Lex Tusk – was adopted in April, despite widespread concerns about its negative implications for human rights. These included fears that the law may be used to target and stigmatize opposition politicians, dissidents and others who may be running for political office or who may be critical of the government.2

  1. Poland: Amicus Curiae Brief on the Ruling on Providing Assistance at the Polish-Belarusian border, 15 December (Polish only)
  2. “Poland: Law establishing special commission threatens human rights”, 28 June