2nd Mar 2024


Have the Polish people finally had enough?

  • Poland's Jarosław Kaczyński. Frustration, loss of faith in the democratic process or in any chances for justice on the national or EU-level has led a group of civil society organisations and law firms to step up their game (Photo:
Listen to article

After years of mostly ineffective protests against the dismantling of the independent judiciary, human-rights standards, relationship with the EU and, finally, against the ongoing deaths of migrants at the Belarus border, you'd be excused for thinking Poles must have lost hope.

Indeed, some on the pro-European side of the expert circles fear Polish democracy might not last until the 2023 elections.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

This feeling of frustration, loss of faith in the democratic process or in any chances for justice on the national or EU level led a group of civil society organisations and law firms to step up their game. Significantly.

The Citizens of the Republic of Poland (Obywatele RP) and the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD) - two leading protest movements - together with the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) human rights watchdog are collecting cases of unjust imprisonment and deprivation of liberty which would fall under Article 7 of the Rome Statute - the founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. The article's title?: Crimes against humanity.

Sitting justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro or his right-hand man Bogdan Święczkowski down on the same bench as Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga or Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir might seem like a longshot, if not overkill, but shows just how desperate the Polish people have become.

Yet, considering the eventual case will be brought before the ICC by the law firms of former deputy prime minister Roman Giertych, State Tribunal Justice Jacek Dubois and Mikołaj Pietrzak - the only attorney in the country accredited at the ICC - the idea is less far-fetched than it would seem.

As an NGO closely monitoring abuses of fundamental rights in Poland we can confirm that the scale of politically-based deprivation of liberty easily counts in the thousands - from hours spent in freezing cold within so-called police kettles, through overnight detention, to months in detention centres awaiting trial. All without a court verdict, all meant as a means of punishment or intimidation.

The three lawyers preparing the ICC notification agree: the systemic and political nature of these cases indeed places them within the definition of crimes against humanity, with Poland's 2001 ratification of the Rome Statute making it fall within the Court's jurisdiction.

Of course, seeing Ziobro, PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński or prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki actually put on trial remains rather in the realm of fantasy. But seeing them called for questioning - less so. Already at the current stage of a 'preliminary examination', having been notified by our lawyers on 21 October, the ICC's prosecutor can summon witnesses, victims and the persons investigated for the alleged crimes.

Presence is mandatory and far harder to evade than the paying of penalties ordered by the European Court of Justice - ignoring the request will result in an international arrest warrant, with no national immunity providing safety.

How far the case will get is impossible for us, mere citizens, to predict. The legal minds have high hopes, but we've been burned too many times now to keep our fingers crossed.

So many of us went through hell to finally receive a favourable court sentence, clearing us of any charges, with the real culprits - those in power who unlawfully detained and humiliated us - escaping any responsibility and doing the same over and over again.

Hundreds of activists like Arek Szczurek, Elżbieta Podleśna, Mola, Klementyna Suchanow, Bartosz Kramek or Linus Lewandowski; government critics like Roman Giertych; finally scapegoats used to cover the regime's own offences like army intelligence head gen. Piotr Pytel or entrepreneur Piotr Osiecki.

All deprived of their liberty for hours, days, months or even years, only to be ultimately proven innocent.

Our wish is to give them a chance for justice. But knowing their oppressors might for once feel the chill they inflict on us every day is a pretty good consolation prize.

Author bio

Martin Mycielski is a civic activist and the vice-president of the Open Dialogue Foundation.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU top court slams Poland and Hungary again

In a joint letter, five European Parliament groups - from centre-right to far-left - called on EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to defend EU law and take all necessary measures.

Poland vs EU - is a compromise possible?

To understand why Law and Justice believes its reforms are required, it is useful to look back at the collapse of communism in 1989. Did Poland consolidate liberal democracy after 1989?

Von der Leyen vows action against Poland

Ursula von der Leyen said the commission might use either an infringement procedure, an EU probe into the ruling, the new tool of conditionality which could lead to the suspension of EU funds, or the Article 7 sanctions procedure.

Latest News

  1. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit
  2. 'Outdated' rules bar MEP from entering plenary with child
  3. Commission plays down row over Rwanda minerals pact
  4. EU socialists set to anoint placeholder candidate
  5. Why are the banking lobby afraid of a digital euro?
  6. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  7. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  8. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us