Poland among countries with most frequent human rights violation complaints

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One of the last decisions of the Polish Parliament in its current term of office was the election of a new Ombudsman. He is 55 year old lawyer Professor Andrzej Rzeplinski, associated for many years with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. Radio Polonia spoke to Professor Rzeplinski about the tasks he'll have to tackle during his five-year term and the sort of complaints that Poles lodge against the public administration and the courts.

"Most complaints are on the right to a fair trial, to personal liberty, and personal security, and - a problem that is common to all post-Communist countries - the right to property confiscated by the Communist regime. There are 60,000 complaints lodged with the office of the Ombudsman or parliamentary commission for human rights in Poland."

How does Poland compare with the other post-Communist countries in this respect?

"Fortunately our history in the last 45 years was not as bad as that of other countries like Romania or the former Soviet Union. We were called the most amusing barrack within the Communist camp. But of course we all lost 45 years and our public administrations, our laws, our standards, were not just different but completely different from those elaborated after WWII in Western Europe. So, we now have to catch up quickly. Fortunately, we've been - for the last year - a member of the European Union and a member of the western European tradition of law and relations between individuals and the public administration."

This means that you are facing very difficult tasks in your new capacity. Can we say that now, 16 years after the change of the system, after the collapse of Communism, that there are many cases of human rights violations in Poland?

"Yes. Poland is a country where the number of complaints made on the violation of basic rights is most frequent. This is not only compared to Western Europe but also within the territory of the Council of Europe, which also covers countries like the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, or Turkey.

"I don't think the human rights situation in Poland is much worse than in other EU countries. But, in some areas, we have more problems, especially in the right to a fair trial, especially in the context of the length of trials. Pre-trial detention, for example, is used too often and is too long. It is in these two areas where I think our country still has to go a long way to catch up with the so-called 'old democracies', especially Nordic countries like Germany and the Netherlands. It is quite rare that these countries lose a case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg."