A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Poland court rules 1981 martial law declaration unconstitutional

Poland's Constitutional Tribunal [official website] on Wednesday ruled that the 1981 declaration of martial law [Polish government backgrounder] violated the country's then-governing constitution [text]. The decision facilitates the restitution process [Dziennik Gazeta report, in Polish] for those harmed while martial law remained in effect by eliminating the need for courts to rule on the declaration's constitutionality on a case-by-case basis. Thousands of restitution claims are expected from victims or their families, including those killed, imprisoned, terminated from their employment or otherwise harmed during the period.

The trial of former Polish leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski [JURIST news archive], charged with "organizing crimes of a military nature," deprivation of freedom through internment, and other offenses in connection with the martial law declaration, resumed [Polskie Radio report] last month after originally commencing [JURIST report] in 2008. Jaruzelski was previously tried for ordering troops to fire on striking ship workers [BBC report] in the 1970s, but that trial ended without a verdict. The prosecutions were part of a plan for "moral renewal" [WP report] pushed by then-president Lech Kaczynski and his brother, former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. About 100 people are said to have died as a result of the martial law declaration and the subsequent arrests of Solidarity leaders, including Lech Walesa [BBC profile], and some 10,000 people were held in internment camps.

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.