Poland adopted a controversial anti-terrorism law

2 min. read

On 22 June, Polish president signed a new anti-terrorism law. The law contains measures that are inconsistent with the Polish Constitution and with the European Convention on Human Rights. The list of controversies is long: foreigners’ phone calls might be wire-tapped without a court order, and police might collect their fingerprints, biometric photos and DNA if their identity is “doubtful”. Online content might be blocked, citizens' freedom of assembly limited, and secret services are given free access to all public databases. Also measures such as the obligation to register pre-paid phone cards are included. Panoptykon Foundation and other critics, including the Commissioner for Human Rights in Poland, Adam Bodnar, have appealed to the Polish President, Andrzej Duda not to sign the law but President ignored these appeals. The law will come into force within seven days from announcing.

Polish government claims that the new anti-terrorism law is necessary to increase coordination between the intelligence agencies and to prepare for potential security threats related to two major upcoming international events organised in Poland in July 2016: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit and World Youth Day. While the need to enhance management of information flows among the existing agencies and better coordination mechanisms seem evident, the law is going much further than necessary in terms of limiting fundamental rights, especially when it comes to foreigners living in or visiting the country. The government failed to justify how measures such as targeting not terrorism suspects but all foreigners or all users of certain technologies are supposed to increase public security.

Already prior to its adoption, the controversial law proposed by Polish government was criticised by Panoptykon, the Commissioner for Human Rights in Poland, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Amnesty International Poland, and the Polish Data Protection Authority. The quality of the law was criticised by the Senate Legislation Bureau. Experts condemned changing the law and competencies of the secret services just before two big events. Despite the criticism, no public consultations were conducted. The Parliament also refused to organise an open discussion, and declined all the amendments proposed by the opposition. However, two open meetings were organised: by the Human Rights Commissioner and another by the Warsaw University together with a group of NGOs. Attendees of both meetings emphasised that the law is causing further deterioration of the balance between the powers of the state, and highlighted the importance of respecting citizens' fundamental rights and freedoms.

Panoptykon and other NGOs have officially appealed to the President not to sign the law. On 14 June, 25 websites, including popular IT blog niebezpiecznik.pl, black-outed as a form of protest against the law and to encourage citizens to appeal to the President. Already (as of 21 June) 780 internet users have sent the appeal through the online application available at mojepanstwo.pl/ustawaAT, and a number of citizens have contacted the President directly by email and through his social media accounts.