Statement of civil society organisations on the takeover of the office of the Ombudsman by the parliamentary majority

16 April 2021

As representatives of civil society organisations, we object to the hostile takeover of the office of Ombudsman by the ruling parliamentary majority. We do not accept the de facto settlement of our rights and freedoms by Julia Przyłębska’s politically dependent tribunal, the disregard of the fundamental principles of fair trial, including the independence and impartiality of judges, in its work.

The view taken yesterday by the tribunal is yet another example of the appropriation of the state by the party in power, the undermining of the foundations of democracy and the circumvention of the provisions of the Constitution in accordance with the principle: “when I am dead the deluge may come for aught I care”.

The provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland do not preclude the continuation of the Ombudsman’s mission until a successor has been elected. On the contrary, the values enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution and its constitutional principles, such as continuity in the functioning of public authorities, civic trust in the state, as well as the concern that the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens should not be breached, require that this office be held independently by a person who has previously been granted a democratic mandate until a successor is elected.

The opposite standard adopted by Julia Przyłębska’s tribunal means that we are all losing our protector. The people who will be most affected by this change are those for whom the Office of the Ombudsman has been the main refuge and advocate of their rights in recent years. Therefore, the people who will be most affected by this change are those who are at risk of exclusion for various reasons: people from smaller towns, the elderly, people with disabilities, people in crisis of homelessness, people belonging to minorities, especially sexual minorities, and people in detention centres. The Ombudsman’s Office received more than 72,000 requests for protection in individual cases in 2020 alone. In the light of recent events, Poland will also lose an important centre for speaking up for women’s rights.

As a civic society, we are also losing an important centre for social debate, a place where forgotten or ignored problems are raised, and where new ideas and solutions are forged. It is one of the last areas where people with different views could meet and respectfully seek common solutions to the problems they encounter.

The tribunal’s decision also poses a direct threat to several hundred people working in the Ombudsman’s Office. There is a risk of purges, an attack on their independence and behaviour, which is known from other institutions taken over in a similar way. We stand together in these difficult times with everyone working in the Ombudsman’s Office. We would like to thank them all, as well as the outgoing Ombudsman, for their hard work in upholding human rights in Poland.

We simultaneously demand that the election of a new Ombudsman takes place in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. We consider any attempt to bypass the Sejm and the Senate when appointing an acting Ombudsman to be a circumvention of the provisions of the Constitution.

We ask the international community to monitor the actions of the ruling parliamentary majority in this regard.

List of signatures of the organisations:

Akcja Demokracja [Democracy Campaign]
The Wiktor Osiatyński Archive
Fundacja Ośrodek Kontroli Obywatelskiej OKO [OKO Centre for Civic Control Foundation]
Centre for Social Initiatives in Gliwice
Social Initiatives Development Centre CRIS
Roman Czernecki Educational Foundation
Federation for Women and Family Planning
The Donors Forum in Poland
Forum Unia Młodych [Youth Union Forum]
Fundacja “Przestrzeń dla Edukacji” [Space for Education Foundation]
360! Foundation
Fundacja Aktywności Lokalnej [Local Activity Foundation]
Autonomy Foundation
Fundacja Bęc Zmiana [Bęc Zmiana Foundation]
Bronisław Geremek Foundation
Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre 50+ Foundation
Chustka Foundation
Silent Rainbow Foundation
ClientEarth Prawnicy dla Ziemi Foundation
Foundation for Poland
Goodwill Foundation
Fundacja Domu Baudouina [Baudouin Foundation]
The “Iustitia” Foundation for Legal Education
Ecological Foundation “Green Action”
Civil Development Forum (FOR Foundation)
Responsible Business Forum Foundation
Frank Bold Foundation
Fundacja Głuchych Zacisze [Zacisze Foundation for the Deaf]
The Stefan Batory Foundation
Jagoda Foundation
Liberal Culture Foundation
Znak Foundation for Christian Culture
Liberte! Foundation
Fundacja Machina Zmian [Machine of Change Foundation]
Lubartów Civic City Foundation
Mundus Cantat Foundation
WE Patients Foundation
Foundation for Pupils’ Rights
STER Foundation for Equality and Emancipation
Fundacja na rzecz Wolnomyślicieli [Foundation for Free Thinkers]
Fundacja Najpierw Mieszkanie Polska [First Flat Poland Foundation]
Fundacja Nowe Centrum [New Centre Foundation]
KARTA Centre Foundation
Panoptykon Foundation
Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy Foundation
Patria Foundation
Full of Life Foundation
Fundacja Pole Dialogu [Area of Dialogue Foundation]
Auxilium Foundation for People with Disabilities, Children and Youth
Fundacja Pomorskie Centrum Psychotraumatologii [Pomeranian Psychotraumatology Centre Foundation]
Przemijanie Foundation
Res Publica Foundation
Childbirth with Dignity Foundation
Rokoko Foundation
Independence of the Kitchen Foundation
Heart of the City Foundation
Shipyard Foundation
School with Class Foundation Foundation
Foundation Towards Dialogue
Faith and Rainbow Foundation
Freedom from Religion Foundation
WWF Poland Foundation
Snow Mountain Community Fund
Greenpeace Poland
Ponton Group
The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Inicjatywa obywatelska “Chcemy całego życia!” [“We want a full life” Civic Initiative]
Institute of Public Affairs
Janów Association for Assistance HUMANUS
Kalisz Urban Initiative
Campaign Against Homophobia
Committee for the Defence of Democracy
Cracow Institute of Criminal Law Foundation
Stanisław Brzozowski Association Political Critique
International Institute of Civil Society
Citizens of Culture
Wielkopolska Branch of Foster Parenthood Association
National Federation of Polish NGOs
All-Poland Women’s Strike
“Open Republic” Association against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia
Robert Schuman Foundation
Polish Institute for Human Rights and Business
Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society, Żyrardów Branch
Consultative Council to the All-Poland Women’s Strike
Citizens’ Network Watchdog Poland
Siedlce Association of Helping People with Alzheimer’s Disease
Amnesty International
Spring without Barriers Association
Stowarzyszenie Cała Naprzód [Full Steam Ahead Association]
Stowarzyszenie Dialog Społeczny [Social Dialogue Association]
Homo Faber Association
The Professor Zbigniew Hołda Association
Association for Legal Intervention
Klon/Jawor Association
Women in Film Association
Better World Association
Association of Young Scientists
Tolerado Society for LGBT People
Our Imaginarium Association
NOMADA Association for Multicultural Society Integration
Stowarzyszenie Oświata Polska [Polish Education Association]
Stowarzyszenie Plac Solidarności [Solidarity Square Association]
Association for the Development of the Kaliska Municipality
Śmiałowice Village Development Association
Stowarzyszenie SZERSZE HORYZONTY [Wider Horizons Association]
Stowarzyszenie TAK Trójmiejska Akcja Kobieca [Tricity Women’s Campaign Association]
Tarnowska Rospuda Association
Multicultural Kraków Association
Stowarzyszenie Wspólne Wójtowo [Common Wójtowo Association]
Zachodniopomorskie Smaki Association
Stowarzyszenie Zielone Dzieci [Green Children Association]
The Świętokrzyskie Centre for Social and Cultural Initiatives
Towarzystwo Dziennikarskie [Journalists’ Society]
Zalewska Land Lovers Society
Towarzystwo Muzyczne Ziemi Proszowickiej [Musical Society of the Proszowice Land]
Great Coalition for Equality and Choice
Free Courts
Czulent Jewish Association

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