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Who safeguards our rights?

The Advocate for Citizens Rights (Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich) or RPO is claimed to be an independent legal protection authority (SadRejonowyTarnow, 2021), who responsibility is to safeguard the rights of the inhabitants of a certain country. It goes without saying that this role, as well as the responsibilities associated with it, are of extreme importance, nevertheless considering the recent events, which are taking place in Poland, this position proves more significant and problematic than ever.

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In the last year Polish citizens have experienced a variety of attacks on their rights, some of which include the de-legalization of abortion, verbal, legal and physical condemnation of members of the LGBTQ community (Karpieszuk, 2021), police brutality against protesters (Żytnicki, 2020) and the threatening the independence of Polish Free Media (wyborcza.pl, 2021). The list, continues, however, and includes more indirect examples such as reforms limiting the autonomy of the judiciary, illegal reforms in the education sector (Suchecka, 2021) and numerous examples of nepotism, corruption and favouritism within the ruling party (Visegrad, 2021). It is clear that the list is dense and extensive, however, it is meant to represent the complexity of the increasing amount of issues that the RPO must face and thus the urgency with which this role should be filled by an objective and unbiased politician.

Nevertheless, there are an increasing amount of concerns surrounding the current state and the future of this role, which make themselves even more visible considering the current human rights situation in Poland and which arise in relation to the recent decision-making processes the government had to take regarding the election of a new candidate for this position.

First off, the RPO is chosen not by the citizens, whom it should serve, but by the parliament and it additionally must answer to the Constitutional Tribunal. Both of those entities are politically aligned to the ruling party. This undemocratic method of election and modes of controlling the actions of RPO are problematic, as they put a question mark on the autonomy of the advocate as well as their intentions to truly safeguard the citizens (Mazurek, 2021). Secondly, based on the recent proceedings taken by the government in regards to this role, it is not difficult to suspect that the RPO will be treated more as an indirect pawn within the political games between the ruling party and opposition and less as a serious advocate for the citizens (mjz//rzw, 2021). Already today, some of the assessment criteria regarding the candidates relate to their stance on the European Union or their relation with conservative values, religion, fundamentalism and nationalism (asty\mtom, 2021). It seems that currently more effort (by both the opposition and the government) is being concentrated on electing a candidate, who will be politically aligned, represent the wishes of a certain ideology and act as a method to manipulate or control political parties (tvn24, 2021).

Even if it is not immediately felt, the increasingly dubious affairs surrounding the RPO will put a strain on the trust and the relationship between the advocate and the citizens, which may inhibit the long term legislative and the short term work of the RPO and thus allow further disregard for human rights in Poland.

 

Sources

asty\mtom, 2021. Kandydat PiS na Rzecznika Praw Obywatelskich z rekomendacją sejmowej komisji. [online] TVN24. Available at: <https://tvn24.pl/polska/bartlomiej-wroblewski-z-rekomendacja-sejmowej-komisji-na-rpo-5067057> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

Karpieszuk, W., 2021. Wyborcza.pl. [online] Warszawa.wyborcza.pl. Available at: <https://warszawa.wyborcza.pl/warszawa/7,54420,26873739,policja-publikuje-portret-nozownika-ale-nie-wspomina-ze-motywem.html> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

Mazurek, R., 2021. Paweł Kukiz: Zaszczepię się, ale rozumiem osoby, które mają wątpliwości. [online] Rmf24.pl. Available at: <https://www.rmf24.pl/tylko-w-rmf24/poranna-rozmowa/news-pawel-kukiz-zaszczepie-sie-ale-rozumiem-osoby-ktore-maja-wat,nId,4941016> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

mjz//rzw, 2021. “Partii rządzącej przeszkadza to, że ratownik na kąpielisku czeka, aż przyjdzie jego następca”. [online] TVN24. Available at: <https://tvn24.pl/polska/rzecznik-praw-obywatelskich-i-jego-kadencja-slawomir-nowak-wychodzi-z-aresztu-profesor-marcin-matczak-komentuje-5066865> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

SRTarnow, 2021. Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich – Sąd Rejonowy w Tarnowie. [online] Tarnow.sr.gov.pl. Available at: <https://www.tarnow.sr.gov.pl/rzecznik-praw-obywatelskich,new,mg,3,161.html,12> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

Suchecka, J., 2021. Eksperci ministra kontrolowali podręczniki, posłowie kontrolują ekspertów. Są wstępne ustalenia. [online] TVN24. Available at: <https://tvn24.pl/polska/podreczniki-szkolne-eksperci-ministerstwa-sprawdzaja-ksiazki-poslowie-opozycji-przeprowadzaja-kontrole-poselska-ich-prac-5066759> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

tvn24, 2021. Bodnar: Dałoby się wybrać RPO. Brakuje woli, stąd sprawa przed TK, aby za wszelką cenę postawić na swoim. [online] TVN24. Available at: <https://tvn24.pl/polska/sprawa-kadencji-rpo-przed-trybunalem-konstytucyjnym-adam-bodnar-komentuje-5066875> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

Visegrad, 2021. Daniel Obajtek’s Transparency Problem ⋆ Corruption – Visegrad Insight. [online] Your Central European Intelligence. Available at: <https://visegradinsight.eu/corruption-daniel-obajteks-transparency-problem/> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

wyborcza.pl, 2021. Wyborcza.pl. [online] Wyborcza.pl. Available at: <https://wyborcza.pl/7,75399,26786437,europejska-rzeczniczka-praw-czlowieka-atak-na-media-jest-atakiem.html> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

Żytnicki, P., 2020. Wyborcza.pl. [online] Poznan.wyborcza.pl. Available at: <https://poznan.wyborcza.pl/poznan/7,36001,26432998,agresywne-reakcje-policjantow-w-calej-polsce-pis-dopinguje.html?disableRedirects=true> [Accessed 13 April 2021].

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