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(en) Seicond report of AF and ABC on repressions in poland

Date Fri, 04 Nov 2005 15:43:43 +0200


Freedom of assembly and speech has been limited in Poland. Enough
police and state repressions!
The Anarchist Federation and the Polish Anarchist Black Cross
published its first report on 21st of December 2004. In it, attention was
drawn to the fact that over the last few years, the actions of many
different political and social groups that openly protest against the Polish
government's policies are subject to bigger and bigger repressions, by the
police and court apparata. This phenomenon is not a set of isolated
instances but is occuring on a mass scale. For the past 3-4 years many
activists from the anarchist, antiwar, radical left wing, workers' and
ecological movements have been put on trial. It is easy to see not only the
rising number of "political" cases but also how the courts are handing down
more and more severe verdicts. Today the number of legal proceedings is even
hard to count, however, we can mention these examples:

1) Several people are charged in connection with a demonstration
against the war in Chechnya which took place at Lawica Airport in Poznan in
2004. They are now standing trial in Poznan.

2) A few dozen defendants are charged in connection with a
demonstration against Vladimir Putin's visit to Cracow in January 2005. They
are now standing trial in Cracow.


3) One person accused in connection with a critical mass bicycle
demonstration in Poznan is standing trial now in Poznan.


4) One person was convicted of charges stemming from a demonstration
of the Nurse and Midwife's Trade Union in Warsaw in 2000. He was fined and
failure to pay will result in arrest.


5) 11 people are accused of various charges in connection with a
demonstration which took place in Warsaw on the 16th of May 2005 during the
3rd Council of Europe Summit.

We assess the number of people recently repressed by the police to be
about 80. This figure is based on the number of recent detentions.

We don't precisely know the number of cases against workers'
protesters. For example, 20 people were arrested on the 22nd of October 2002
after a demonstration of shipyard workers. 11 of them were charged. No less
than 20 people, but maybe even as much as 70 have been charged after the
protests in Ozarow on 27-30th of November 2002.

The reason for the government's repressions is undoubtedly an increase
in the number of social conflicts (for example the number of demonstrations,
according to police statistics, rose from 315 in 2001, to 2054 in 2003, and
1476 in 2004). There are so many that the government apparently can not deal
with them. So it tries to restrict the freedom of assembly and speech. It
has happened at two levels:

Firstly, officials have taken steps, using formal and legal
procedures, in order to reduce the freedom of demonstration. During the past
few years we could notice many examples of such behavior; we'll mention here
just some of them:

1) The mayor of Poznan prohibited 11 demonstrations by the group
Committee Free Caucasus (Komitet Wolny Kaukaz- KWK) which protests against
the war in Chechnya. Every time KWK activists demonstrated in spite of the
illegal prohibition, they were repressed by the police and then the court.
On the 30th of September 2004, the Main Administrative Court (NSA) ruled all
prohibitions given by the mayor as illegal. It announced that he had no
right to prohibit anyone from demonstrating. The court referred to the 57th
article of the Polish constitution which ensures everybody the freedom to
organize peaceful assemblies and to take part in them. The court noted in
its decision that "the constitution ensures the institution of freedom of
assembly, not only the right to organize demonstrations".

2) In the beginning of 2004 the parliament tried to introduce an
amendment to the act on public assembly which would forbid people who cannot
be identified because of appearance from taking part in demonstrations. It
would also hold the organizer of a protest responsible for damages made by
any member of the demonstration or made shortly afterwards. The official
reason for this planned change of law was to ensure the safety of the
members of protests but in fact the government wanted to limit the rights to
demonstrate. That amendment was planned to be introduced shortly before a
protest against the European Economic Forum in Warsaw 2004. The Polish
Constitutional Tribunal found it in contradiction to the Polish
constitution.

3) The local authorities, mainly connected with "Prawo and
Sprawiedliwosc" (Law And Justice- the political party that won last month's
parliament elections and whose representative became the Polish president
two weeks ago) and "Liga Polskich Rodzin" (the League of Polish Families - a
radical right-wing party) tried to restrict the right to demonstrate for
"Equality Parades" (gay rights) many times in Poznan, Warsaw and Cracow.
The most glaring example took place on the 11th of June 2005 in Warsaw
where, despite the fact that Lech Kaczynski (the present Polish president)
banned the parade, about 3 thousand people marched through Warsaw as an act
of civil disobedience.

4) The police use surveillance and intimidation against activists on a
mass scale, under the pretext of preventive actions. A well-known case took
place at the beginning of 2004 just before the alterglobalist demonstration
against the European Economic Forum. The police raided dozens of activists
at their homes and at workplaces, put pressure on them and provoked them in
order to intimidate and discourage them from participating in the legal
protest. On the 29th of April 2004, the police abused their power and
stopped buses of activists from Poznan, Elk and other cities from going to
protest in Warsaw. In addition, border officials didn't let in two buses of
Hungarian activists going to that protest.

Secondly, in many individual and specific cases, actions are taken
that restrict freedom of assembly and speech; the police and judicial
administration use the most glaring provocations and base abuses. This
includes employing restrictions to discourage people from taking part in
demonstrations and using brutal and violent police interventions during
protests in order to provoke protestors and by this creating situations
which can be used against them on trial. It is common that the police (often
without any evidence) accuses protestors of aggression or assault. Courts
usually believe policemen. They consider policemen's testimony to be more
credible than the defendant's because police officers have no reason to lie.
Of course the rule of credibility of a policeman's testimony in which Polish
courts seem to fully believe has no rational psychological and sociological
sense. On the contrary, there are many cases when policemen has lied in
court and it is in his interest as it is a consequence of an intentional
strategy of abusing violence.

It results in:

1) criminalizing people who protest against the policies of the
authorities


2) police actions getting more and more violent and sentences of the
courts stricter and stricter


3) charges not being commensurate with situations and often against
completely innocent people.

We can mention many examples of those situations. For instance:


1) Proceedings against Andrzej Smosarski have been completed in a
court in Warsaw. Andrzej Smosarski was invited to take part in a protest of
the Trade Union of Midwives and Nurses on December 2000 in Warsaw. The
demonstration was dispersed by police force and demonstrators were divided
into small groups surrounded by a police cordon. Suddenly, Andrew noticed
that one of the women required immediate medical treatment. Despite his
requests, police officers refused to let the woman contact ambulances
standing nearby. Seeing that, the group of demonstrators, with Andrew among
them, started to push forward and finally broke through the cordon of police
officers in order to help the sick woman. As a result of that, Andrew and
another agitator were accused of assault on a policeman (kicking him in his
chest), although nothing like that happened.


In Andrew's presence, the police officers agreed upon their own false
version of the whole accident. The lower court and the court of appeals
found him guilty of violating a policeman's physical "untouchability".
Smosarski was sentenced to a 3700 zloty fine which can be commuted to 100
days of imprisonment. With false accusations and a severe sentence, the
judges and police obviously want to silence social critique and threaten
other activists

2) Agnieszka Wasieczko was one of 11 people arrested after a
demonstration in Warsaw on 16th of May 2005 against the 3rd Council of
Europe Summit. They were offended by the police, who even in the police car
didn't want to give a reason and the legal basis for their detention. After
arrival at the police station they were kept in a garage belonging to the
headquarters. Afterwards they were examined in a tent. Every attempt to
resist was suppressed. Detainees were pulled, pushed, beaten and strangled.
One of them was thrown on a table, had his head hit and had got a black eye.
All were chained to chairs by their right hand. Policemen took photographs
and fingerprints. Almost all irregularities committed by the police during
the detention were afterwards taken by the court as justifiable. Ironically,
Agnieszka Wasieczko was accused of "kicking and hitting a policeman in the
face and violating his corporal inviolability", and "in the same place, by
shouting: "you are fucked up" she wanted to force the policemen to stop the
actions", and finally that "she insulted the police officer by using words
commonly known as offensive". For this she may be sentenced for 3 years of
imprisonment. Agnieszka firmly denies that any of these events took place
during the detention.

3) The organizers the demonstration planned on 26th of January 2005
against Vladimir Putin's visit in Cracow reported the protest to the Town
Council the 24th of January. The Town Council rejected their application
because it was "too late". Despite this, on the 26th of January, the protest
of human rights protestors took place. It started peacefully till several
officers shouted: "we'll take him!" and tried to take one demonstrator who
carried a Chechen flag. Being surprised by the officers' assault, other
members of the protest decided to help and to shelter the beaten
demonstrator. The reaction of the police was that several people were pulled
on the snow, kicked in the legs, had their arms twisted and hair torn out.
Taking out one demonstrator, the police attacked the next person in a
similar way. According to the protest participants, outside observers and
even the media, which wrote a statement about the aggressive behavior of the
police, the police reaction was not justified. What is more, we can suppose
the brutal intervention was intentional in order to change the image of
protesting people from peaceful demonstrators to "dangerous hooligans".
Demonstrators did not use violence or did not call for violence, just
chanted slogans, which didn't offend anybody. Policemen individually said to
the protesters to finish the meeting, but nobody heard a call to disperse
announced through a police megaphone or in another official legal way. The
police didn't let protesters finish the protest and disperse on their own
but created a cordon around protest participants and did not inform them
about anything. Half an hour later, individuals, after being identified,
were taken straight to the police cars. People who didn't have any documents
were immediately taken into custody. The whole action finished at 7, when
the last frozen and drenched person was released. Over 30 protesters were
detained. The police officers did not allow detainees the possibility of
writing a complaint about the conditions of detention. They also they didn't
give reasons for detention and didn't give copies of the proceedings. In the
meantime, a few new policemen appeared for their shift at the police
station, who officially were recorded as the arresting officers although
they weren't. At least two detainees weren't allow to see the doctor. The
police took pictures of all the detainees without permission and
accusation, which is unlawful. People opposed were dragged to the place
where photographs were taken by force. Not everybody received a warm meal
during the day, just a cup of tea, although they were wet and frozen from
dragging through puddles and snow during the intervention. Those who wanted
a vegetarian meal got only several slices of bread. Two hours after being
released from the police station, one detainee fainted a few times. She was
immediately taken to the hospital where doctors recognized exhaustion of the
body caused by starvation and stress. At the beginning, the police accused
33 people, but finally they decided to send the cases of 6 people to court:
Iwona Bojarczuk, accused of pushing away the hands of an officer; Jan
Sawicz, accused of pushing away an officer's hands; Marek Kurzyniec, accused
of waving hands and pushing against an officer; Monika Gilowska, accused of
waving her hands in front of an officer; Grzegorz Sobieszka, accused of
waving his hands and legs, making detention difficult by kicking police
car's doors, kicking an officer in a head and insulting an officer by using
vulgar words; Karolina Wisniewska, accused of having illegal drugs. Claims
of human rights abuses against the prisoners include: throwing people into
water despite the sub-freezing temperatures; kicking people in the genitals,
pulling their hair (dreadlocks) in order to exert pain, throwing two women
to the ground and putting their knees on the women's backs despite no
violence from the side of the protestors.

4) On 26th of November 2004 cyclists organized a "critical mass"
bicycle protest in Poznan. From the very beginning, several police cars
appeared and officers subjected the cyclists to a routine control. The
police made a list of cyclists, who decided to continue their protest. No
policeman informed demonstrators in any way that that demonstration was
illegal. Near the Freedom Square, the police cars freely overtook cyclists
but then they blocked the road. Policemen bluntly threw people off from
their bicycles, threw the detained on bonnets of the police cars and on a
fence. They were offended, pulled, kicked, persecuted and demeaned.
Undoubtedly the provocation was part of an intervention scenario. A senior
officer threatened the detained not only verbally and young policemen
followed his example. They used words: "paws on fence fucker and legs wide
spread, other way I'll kick your ass". Every objection or movement of the
detainees ended with threat of accusation about making difficulties to the
actions of police. In a short time tens of people were standing along the
fence with wide spread legs and hands on the fence. Policemen did not react
when a protester invoked the law on police procedure. In such circumstances
none of cyclists accepted fines and all became arrested. Persecutions and
humiliations were repeated at the police station. A few hours later almost
all demonstrators were free but they would face the trial at local court.
But Slawomir Kmiotek was detained on the charge of punishable threat, only
because he rebuked the police officers during the intervention that they had
used means inadequate to the situation. At the police headquarters, in the
accuser's presence, policemen established their testimonies. Slawomir
Kmiotek may be sentenced for 3 years of imprisonment.

In all these cases the fact that intervening public order services do
not respect freedom of assembly and speech has a fundamental meaning. The
public is rarely informed about repressive methods of police actions. The
media sometimes bow before the illusion of "the state of law" and they
believe the police and prosecutor's excuses. Meanwhile, year by year we come
closer and closer to the authoritarian system, where democratic standards
are established by the police officers and the officials of the state
administration. Under the pretext of crime and terrorism, they try to force
legal solutions which will be ruthlessly used against the political
opposition.

The Anarchist Federation section Poznan (Federacja Anarchistyczna
sekcja Poznan)
The Anarchist Black Cross (Anarchistyczny Czarny Krzyz)
23.10.2005
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