FOR Communication: Amendments to the Law on Assemblies violate the constitutional freedom of assembly and international standards of human rights
On 13 December 2016 Parliament passed a bill amending the Law on Assemblies(1). The version that was voted through takes into account two important amendments proposed by the Senate. However, irrespective of the adoption of Senate's amendments, if the amending bill comes into force, it will drastically reduce the possibility of organizing the so-called counter-demonstration to cyclical meetings. In addition, the key competencies to decide about the time and place of assembly amendment are delegated to a governmental body - the voivode. Proposed changes threaten the fundamental human and civil rights and freedoms, namely freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, and thus violate the constitutional rights and freedoms as well as international law. The President of the Republic of Poland, as the guardian of the Constitution, should refuse to sign the bill in question in the name of defending the rights and freedoms of citizens.
On 2 December Parliament passed an Amendment to the Act of July 24, 2015, the Law on Assemblies, and submitted it to the Senate. On 6 December the Senate Committee on Human Rights, Rule of Law and Petitions, together with the Committee on Local Government and State Administration, accepted the bill without amendments. After appeals from nongovernmental organizations(2) and sharp criticism of Ombudsman, the Supreme Court(3) and international institutions (Council of Europe, OSCE)(4), the Senate adopted on 7 December, two significant amendments to the above Act, withdrawing provision on the preferred status of state organized meetings and religious gatherings and introduced a 14-day period of vacatio legis (originally Act was to come into force on the date of announcement). On 13 December the Parliament passed the amendment including the above amendments of the Senate. Importantly, even after taking these changes into account, the complaints about the non-conformity to the Constitution and international law remain fully valid. The law should not enter into force in its current wording.
We ask the President of the Republic of Poland and urge him to refuse to sign the law in question in the name of defending the rights and freedoms of citizens.
Full communication by FOR (in Polish) available to download here.
1 Parliamentary document No. 1044.
2 Appeal to reject the project as a whole signed by 194 non-governmental organizations, including the FOR. The position of international organizations is available on the Internet: http://wiadomosci.ngo.pl/wiadomosc/2005928.html.
3 Opinion on the parliamentary draft law amending the Act - Law on Assemblies drafted on November 30 this year. Bureau of Studies and Analysis of the Supreme Court, ref. I-BSA 021-499 / 16.
4 The common position was taken on the issue by the Head of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE Michael Georg Link and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Nils Muižnieks (cf. http://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/european-human -rights-officials-voice-serious-Concerns-over-changes-to-polish-laws-on-freedom-of-assembly - available on 11.12.2016).
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Justyna Baszczeska, Analyst at FOR
Karolina Wąsowska, Analyst at FOR
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