Rights officials concerned about Polish freedom of assembly

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2016 1:56 PM
Rights officials concerned about Polish freedom of assembly

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — European human rights officials voiced serious concerns Monday over proposed legislation in Poland that would limit the right to freedom of assembly.

Proposed amendments to the law on assembly give priority to gatherings organized by public authorities, churches and religious organizations, to the detriment of other groups.

The lower house of parliament, the Sejm, approved the legislation last week and this week the Senate will debate it.

Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, and Michael Georg Link, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, urged officials in a joint statement not to pass the legislation as it is now and to consult more with civil society.

Muiznieks said the amendments "would restrict unnecessarily and in a disproportionate way the possibility for a large part of the population to enjoy their human right to freedom of assembly."

The new law was proposed by Law and Justice, the conservative and populist party that has governed Poland for the past year. Since assuming power it has taken steps to centralize power, sparking a wave of street protests at home and the criticism of international human rights groups, the European Union and the United States.

The most serious criticisms center on new laws that have weakened the ability of the judiciary to act as a check on government power.