UN rights experts express concern over Poland’s new security legislation
UN rights experts express concern over Poland’s new security legislation

UN human rights experts on Monday urged [press release] Poland to ensure “free and full participation” at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) expressing serious concerns over the impact of the nation’s newly enacted safety and security legislation on rights to privacy, peaceful assembly, and participation.

The legislation in question, titled Bill on Specific Solutions Related to the Organization of Sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Republic of Poland, was approved by the parliament in January and signed into law by president Andrzej Duda [official website, in Polish] later the same month.

The experts, which included Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment John Knox, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, and Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy Joe Cannataci sent an internal communication [text, PDF] to government officials in Poland last month expressing concern about the legislation.

The experts particularly criticized the scope of Article 17 of the new legislation that they allege give the police and secret service “sweeping surveillance powers” to collect and process personal data about all COP24 participants using existing legislation allowing surveillance of suspected criminals and individuals posing a threat to public safety. The experts stated that such a presumption about COP24 participants is unwarranted and unbalanced and noted that the broad surveillance authorized by the legislation is not subject to judicial review.

The experts also scrutinized Article 22 of the new legislation that allegedly prevents peaceful assemblies in Katowice, a city in the Silesian province of southern Poland. The experts urged Poland to permit spontaneous protests to be freely and peacefully conducted noting the “evolving nature” of the COP24 negotiations.

The experts, now part of the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures unit, added:

We acknowledge the commitment of the Government to host the climate conference, aiming to ensure that it will take place in a secure and safe manner … As COP24 will take important decisions to implement the Paris Agreement and address challenges in mitigation action, it is critical that Poland strikes the right balance between safety concerns on the one hand, and fundamental freedoms of assembly, participation and privacy, on the other. … As we move forward to combat climate change, Governments should encourage and ensure full and meaningful public participation in these critical multilateral discussions. All eyes are on the Polish Government to see how, as the host and the president of COP24, it will honour its human rights obligations and uphold its responsibility to ensure free and unfettered access for broader participation.

The COP24 talks are scheduled to be held later this year between November 26 and December 16.