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map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Poland is a multiparty parliamentary democracy in which executive power is shared by the Prime Minister, the Council of Ministers, and to a lesser extent, the President. The Prime Minister is typically chosen from a majority coalition in the bicameral legislature's lower house. The President is elected every 5 years and serves as head of state.

The parliament, consisting of 460 members of the Sejm and 100 members of the Senate, was elected in September 1997. A 1993 electoral law stipulated that with the exception of guaranteed seats for small German and Ukrainian ethnic parties, only parties receiving at least 5% of the total vote could enter parliament. As of June 2000, nine parties are represented in the Sejm.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Courts & Judgments

The Polish judiciary has a four-tiered court and prosecutorial structure. The courts consist of regional, provincial, and appellate divisions, as well as a Supreme Court. These tiers are subdivided further into five parts: Military, civil, criminal, labor, and family. Regional courts are courts of first instance, while appellate courts are charged solely with appeals. Provincial courts have a dual responsibility, handling appeals from regional courts while enjoying original jurisdiction for the most serious types of offenses. Appellate courts handle appeals tried at the provincial level, and the Supreme Court only handles appeals about questions of law. The prosecutorial system mirrors the court structure with national, provincial, appellate, and regional offices. Criminal cases are tried in regional and provincial courts by a panel consisting of a professional judge and two lay assessors. The seriousness of the offense determines which is the court of first instance.

Judges are nominated by the national judicial council and appointed by the President. They are appointed for life and can be reassigned but not dismissed, except by a court decision. The Constitutional Tribunal rules on the constitutionality of legislation. Constitutional Tribunal decisions are final and binding.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Polish Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas in 2001. There were reports that police mistreated persons in refugee camps. Prison conditions remained generally poor. A cumbersome legal process, poor administration, and an inadequate budget hamper the court system, and court decisions frequently are not implemented. Lengthy pretrial detention occurred occasionally. The Government restricted the right to privacy. There were a few restrictions in law and in practice on freedom of speech and of the press. Violence against women continued to be a problem. Women continued to experience serious discrimination in the labor market and were subject to various legal inequities. Child prostitution was a problem. There were incidents of desecration of graves in both Jewish and Catholic cemeteries, and anti-Semitic sentiments persisted. There was some societal discrimination and violence against ethnic minorities. Some employers violated worker rights provided for by law, particularly in the growing private sector, and antiunion discrimination persisted. Trafficking in women and children was a problem.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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