Police officer and vehicles in the border forest area

Poland: New firearms regulations risk undermining the rule of law

Ahead of the second reading of the new proposed firearm regulations that would decriminalize the use of firearms by soldiers, border guards and police officers in a wide range of circumstances in Poland on 11 July, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Europe, Dinushika Dissanayake said:

“These proposals set a dangerous precedent for the regulation of the use and potential abuse of firearms in Poland and should be rejected. Under international law and standards, the use of force against individuals must be strictly necessary and proportionate to the threat posed; the use of firearms is prohibited except in situations where there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury. Any attempt by the Polish authorities to undermine these principles would be unlawful.”

According to the draft law, the proposals would excuse public officials carrying weapons from liability where they use weapons in self-defence or ‘pre-emptively’ when the ‘life, health and freedom’ of law enforcement officials are threatened during an ‘unlawful attack on the inviolability of the state border’.

The proposal comes in response to the detention of three Polish soldiers, who, after firing live ammunition at people crossing the border with Belarus, were charged with overstepping their duties and endangering the lives of others.

On 13 June, the Polish Government also decided to reintroduce an exclusion zone along parts of its border with Belarus. The zone covers over 60 km of the border and is up to 2km wide. Media and human rights organizations are prohibited from entry into the zone. The measures will be in place for 90 days.

“The situations in which guards would be excused from liability are extremely expansive and vaguely defined. The notion of ‘pre-emptive’ self-defence is not in line with international law and standards on the use of force and opens the door to all kinds of abusive practice.

“The reintroduction of the exclusion zone increases the likelihood of a humanitarian crisis as these measures not only deny people access to life-saving humanitarian aid and medical support, but also shield authorities from public scrutiny.

“The proposed firearms regulation, along with the so-called ‘exclusion zone’, threatens to create a physical and legal grey zone hidden from the watchful eye of the media and civil society, where soldiers and border guards would be able to act with impunity.

“While Polish authorities have tried to portray these measures as necessary to protect Polish and EU borders from the so-called ‘instrumentalization’ of refugees and migrants by Belarus and Russia, such measures undermine international law and standards and further endanger people fleeing conflict and persecution who are being exploited by these governments. This poses grave risks for the future of the rule of law in Poland and in Europe.

“As it prepares for its upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU, Poland should reject the amendments, end the exclusion zone policy  and work to uphold international and EU law that protects the right to asylum, without exception,” said Dinushika Dissanayake.


On 26 June the draft law on Activities of the armed forces, police and border guards in case of a threat to state security was presented to the Polish Parliament for its first reading. The second reading of the law will take place on 11 July.  

The reintroduction of the ‘exclusion zone’ came as a response to an increased number of attempted entries from Belarus to Poland and an incident which resulted in the death of a border guard. According to the Polish authorities the most common nationalities of people crossing the border are; Afghan, Belarusian, Georgian, Indian, Russian, Turkish, Syrian and Uzbek.

Under the new measures, the government can continue reinforcing the border police by deploying military personnel and riot police armed with firearms, shields and tear gas. Similar measures were introduced and extended several times in 2021 and finally withdrawn in 2022.

On 25 June, Amnesty International, together with four other civil society organisations, urged EU leaders to closely monitor developments in Poland after the premature closure of the EU’s Article 7.1 Treaty on European Union (TEU) proceedings.

For more information, please contact [email protected]

Out of hours contact details:
telephone: +44 20 7413 5566
Twitter: @amnestypress