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From: Frans Mulschlegel (
Date: Wed Apr 05 2000 - 09:23:17 EDT

The US State Department has published its Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices, which are submitted annually to the US Congress. The reports
cover internationally recognised, civil, political, individual and labour
rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The
chapter regarding Poland was critical.
According to the report, Poland's judiciary is independent but inefficient.
"A cumbersome legal process, poor administration, and an inadequate budget
hamper the court system. Court decisions are frequently not implemented,
particularly those by administrative courts, while simple civil cases can
take as long as 2 or 3 years to complete. Many poorly paid prosecutors and
judges have left public service for more lucrative employment."
These comments apply to cases against state institutions such as hospitals.
The decisions in such cases may not be enforced due to a lack of money. The
report also emphasises the large number of wiretaps made by law enforcement
without outside review. Additionally, prison conditions are regarded as
generally poor. According to the report, 100 of 156 penitentiaries need to
be renovated. Despite the need for renovations, the annual budget for state
penitentiaries has been steadily reduced. The ombudsman has also submitted
several complaints regarding prison safety on behalf of prisoners who have
been victimised by other incarcerated convicts.
A substantial portion of the report is devoted to women. The report states
that violence against women continues to be a problem. According to the
report, in a 1996 survey, 9 percent of Polish women questioned by the
Public Opinion Research Centre (OBOP) admitted to being beaten repeatedly
by their husbands. The courts often treat domestic violence as a minor
crime, pronounce lenient verdicts or dismiss cases. Moreover, in divorce
cases, courts frequently grant a divorce without issuing a property
settlement. Women are then faced with the prospect of having to continue to
live with their former abusive husbands. The report goes on to state that
even though the Constitution provides for equal rights regardless of sex,
in practice women are frequently paid less for the same work, hold lower
level positions, are discharged more often, and are less likely to be
promoted than men. Despite having a generally higher level of education,
women earn 30 percent less on average than men.
According to the report, the trafficking of women and children seems to be
a significant problem. There is no governmental agency responsible for
providing public assistance in this area.
The report also comments on the status of religious and ethnic minorities
in Poland, stating that there were incidents of desecration to Jewish grave
sites, and in general some societal discrimination and violence against
ethnic minorities. The report also claims a very high level of unemployment
in Poland's Roma, or Gypsy, community.
Despite the critical comments, the report also recognises Poland as a
country which generally respects the rights of its citizenry, while its
government structure is a parliamentary democracy based upon a multi-party
political system and free elections. It was stressed that the country has
made a successful transition to a free market economy and has already
enacted the most significant systemic reforms.
The report's purpose is to identify areas of law which do not comply with
international human rights standards. A full text of the report is
available on the Internet at

Polish News Bulletin
The PNB is a non-profit organisation publishing a daily digest of the
Polish press. No legal responsibility is accepted for any errors or
omissions or misleading statements, however caused, in either source or
final texts.

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