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Home / Press Release / Polish Prime Minister Signs Restrictive “Anti-NGO” Law
October 16, 2017

Polish Prime Minister Signs Restrictive “Anti-NGO” Law

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today condemned passage of a new law in Poland which severely restricts the ability of nongovernmental organizations to operate within the country. The bill was signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda last week.

The law was signed one week after the government raided women’s organizations, seizing their computers and years’ worth of prior grant documentation, in what was widely perceived as an attempt to intimidate them. The raids occurred the day after protests erupted in response to proposed new policies regarding women’s health care. 

“The Polish government has unleashed blatant attacks on civil society, the rule of law, and democratic processes,” said Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper. “This new law will only make it more difficult for nongovernmental organization to serve as a crucial check on its consolidation of power.”

The legislation establishes a "National Institute of Freedom” and a "National Center for Civil Society Development." The Institute would give the Polish prime minister's office power over an appointed director that would control distribution of all civil society funding—including funding from the European Union and the so-called Norway grants, the largest sources of funds for NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe. 

Human Rights First urges Secretary Tillerson to call on the Polish government to appoint an independent organization, such as the Batory Foundation, which has made grant decisions for years, to decide which NGOs receive funds.

Polish NGOs and human rights groups view “The Law on the National Institute of Freedom” as an attempt to silence critics of the Law and Justice party. The law is particularly troublesome in light of several other moves toward power-consolidation instituted by the Law and Justice party since it came to power.  These include changing the makeup and rules governing the Constitutional Tribunal to prevent it from checking current government policies, and giving the treasury ministry control of all public media. For more information see Human Rights First's 2017 report, Poland's New Front: A Government's War against Civil Society.

The law was developed in response to protests earlier this year after the Law and Justice government attempted to place the Supreme Court, and other judicial bodies, under the control of parliament or the executive branches of government.

For more information or to speak with Hooper, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.