Polish EU presidency: Weak on human rights
(Brussels, 28 October, 2011) Mid-way through Poland’s six-month presidency of the European Union, Amnesty International has assessed the country’s progress in achieving various human rights goals it set at the presidency’s outset, and has concluded that the presidency’s overall performance has been weak and half-hearted.
“The presidency has achieved modest progress with multilateral discussions on asylum issues”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “But these have unfortunately been overshadowed by inaction on EU countries’ complicity in CIA renditions, including zero progress on investigations into secret prisons on Polish soil, and an unambitious approach to protecting human rights defenders in Belarus.”
Amnesty International has welcomed the presidency’s decision to prioritise work on the Common European Asylum System, and stressed that the key to the credibility of a common system is that member states apply adequate and equivalent standards of treatment and procedures, and make asylum-seekers’ human rights central to the process.
However, the human rights organisation has strongly criticised the presidency’s silence and lack of drive in pursuing the alleged complicity of several EU countries in the US-led rendition and secret detention programmes. During Poland’s presidency, the Lithuanian Government has announced its refusal to re-open criminal investigations into its own alleged complicity. There has also been scant progress in investigations by the Polish prosecutor’s office into Poland’s alleged complicity in hosting secret prisons.
Turning to Croatian accession to the EU, Amnesty International has recognised that the presidency has made limited efforts to encourage discussion about continued impunity for crimes under international law committed during the 1991-95 war in Croatia. But the organisation feels the presidency should do more to ensure the Croatian authorities show genuine political will to tackle impunity for crimes, which it feels has not recently been the case. Amnesty International believes that Poland should ensure international monitoring of Croatia’s progress in prosecuting war crimes and other crimes under international law within the accession process.
Finally, Amnesty International has said that while it was encouraged by the presidency’s initial commitment to promoting human rights in Belarus and strengthening democratic processes, there has been no tangible evidence of action on Zmitser Dashkevich, or the ten other prisoners of conscience connected with the 2010 post-election crackdown. Indeed Amnesty International believes there has been a regression in Poland’s handling of human rights issues. Human rights defender, Aleś Białacki, was arrested in August as a result of his banking details having been divulged to Belarus by the Lithuanian and Polish authorities. And contrary to the human rights recommendations, the Polish presidency has shown no sign of having applied pressure to Belarus to abolish the death penalty.
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