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Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, A/HRC/4/19/Add.1, June 5, 2007: Poland

Follow-up to previously transmitted communications

146. On 21 February 2006, the Government replied to the Special Rapporteur’s letter dated 5 December 2005 concerning the banning of assemblies organized by the sexual minority community in Warsaw (June 2004 and May 2005) and Poznan (November 2005).  The Government of  Poland indicated that it did not share the concern expressed by the Special Rapporteur in connection with the abolition of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary, at the same time determining that “tasks pertaining to the prevention of all forms of discrimination shall be implemented by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy and the remaining members of the Council of Ministers, as competent.”

147. Pursuant to an ordinance issued by the Prime Minister on 9 December 2005 concerning the statute of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, a department for women’s affairs, the family and prevention of discrimination was established within the structure of the Ministry. In accordance with the Ministry’s rules of procedure, the department “is responsible for coordination of actions connected with the status of women and the family in society, and implements tasks concerning the prevention of discrimination in all spheres of social, economic and political life, with the exception of matters concerning the prevention of ethnic discrimination” (ordinance of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy of 30 December 2005 introducing the rules of procedure of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy). The above circumstances indicate that protection against discrimination will now be broader than in the past, since it will not be restricted to issues of gender inequality.

150. The Government of Poland reported also on the training for law enforcement officials concerning the rights of sexual minorities. Problems pertaining to discrimination are discussed during training provided by State institutions to many professional groups. One example of such training was the PHARE 2002 project “Strengthening Anti Discrimination Policies” implemented by the Secretariat of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Status of Women and Men. A key component of the project consisted in preparing a model and programme of training on the prevention of and fight against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender and religion. The training was designed to provide representatives of different professional groups with the knowledge needed to identify and counter discriminatory phenomena and to sensitize them to the possibility of discrimination against different social groups. An additional, long-term assumption of the project was that it would lead to the implementation of similar training by professional associations, thus increasing the number of persons sensitized to discrimination and prepared to counteract it effectively.

152. Poland ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 3 March 1977, thus guaranteeing to all persons on its territory and subject to its jurisdiction full protection of the rights and freedoms envisaged under the Covenant. Discrimination, including against groups of different sexual orientation, is prohibited in a number of legal acts. Any person who has been denied equal treatment may pursue appropriate claims. Protection against discrimination on different grounds is explicitly provided in the Constitution, as well as civil, criminal and labour law.

Since 1 May 2004 Poland has also been bound by directives obligating EU member States to ensure individual assistance to victims of discrimination in pursuing their claims connected with discrimination. In particular, the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 1997 (art. 32) provides that all persons are equal before the law, have the right to equal treatment by public authorities and cannot be discriminated against for whatever reason in political, social or economic life. The Penal Code of 1997 (arts. 256 and 257) prohibits the instigation of hatred because of national, ethnic, racial and religious differences or non-denominationalism, and similarly insulting behaviour. The Civil Code of 1964 (arts. 23 and 24 in connection with art. 415) also provides victims of discrimination with the possibility of seeking damages. Under the Civil Code victims may invoke provisions protecting personal interests to claim damages or compensation. Also, the Labour Code of 1974 prohibits any direct or indirect discrimination in employment, employee recruitment and in work relations.

153.  It should be emphasized that the legal regulations prohibiting discrimination grant persons of different sexual orientation the same legal protection as that enjoyed by other persons whose rights have been violated through discrimination. The prohibition of discrimination against all persons in political, social and economic life is a constitutional principle. It is obvious that this also encompasses the prohibition of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. The prohibition of this type of discrimination is contained in numerous international agreements to which Poland is a party. Since the Constitution stipulates that an international agreement ratified upon prior consent granted by statute has precedence over statutes if such an agreement cannot be reconciled with the provisions of such statutes, it should be understood that full institutional protection against all forms of discrimination is ensured within the Polish legal order.

Link to full text of the report: Summary of cases-SR Racism-2007-eng