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NEWS

Short Update: Rights at risk for Polish prisoners

FairTrialsAdmin - April 17, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Court closures, Delayed or accelerated proceedings

Under Poland’s emergency measures to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, courts are closed to most cases, but are still hearing urgent issues, including motions for detention on remand (i.e. decisions to impose pre-trial detention). However, it is unclear whether appeals against court decisions are considered to be urgent matters.

According to the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland, conditions in Polish prisons are challenging to human rights protection. At over 91% of capacity, there is little opportunity for physical distancing inside facilities. At particular risk are the nearly 5% of prisoners over the age of 60. In the absence of physical distancing, prisons have imposed different restrictions for prisoners, including cancellation of visitation by both family and defence counsel, religious services, outside employment, certain payments to prisoners, and receipt of mail amongst others. In order to compensate for these restrictions, some additional access has been provided in some facilities for extended telephone and video conferencing, television, and access to sanitary facilities.

The Executive Penal Code allows prison directors to introduce such restrictions on a weekly basis, subject to renewal by the consent of a judge. However, many of these restrictions have been introduced for longer periods, and some have failed to identify when they will be lifted. Furthermore,  77 out of 173 prison authorities have failed to identify the legal basis for these restrictions, as required by law.

This study was prepared following the analysis of communiqués published by the Prison Service on the official websites of specific correctional facilities. Detailed information from all 172 prisons, pre-trial detention facilities   and external wards are presented in Table 1. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights will analyse and monitor the situation of persons deprived of their liberty on an ongoing basis.

We publish information as it is reported to us. If you would like to make us aware of an inaccuracy or send us more information please email us at [email protected] 

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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