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January 25, 2018

Tillerson Urged to Raise Threats to Rule of Law on Poland Trip

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to raise with his Polish counterparts the government’s concerning efforts to undermine the rule of law in Poland when meeting with leadership in Warsaw this week. The call came in a letter from Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino ahead of Tillerson’s trip to the Polish capital to discuss security and economic matters. 

“Today, the Polish government is engaged in actions that go well beyond the normal give and take of politics, and that threaten the very institutions upon which Polish democracy rests. This trend is occurring against the backdrop of Russian efforts to undermine human rights and democratic institutions as a means toward weakening transatlantic solidarity,” wrote Massimino. “While the government of Poland remains firmly opposed to the Kremlin’s flouting of other nations’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is playing directly into Russian strategy. This is a dynamic that should be of utmost concern to the United States, and one we should seek to discuss directly with one of our closest friends.”   

Since assuming power in 2015, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has undertaken a campaign to dismantle the country's Constitutional Tribunal, attacked public media and independent journalists, increased police power and surveillance, and characterized refugees and foreigners as terrorists. The Polish government's actions are part of a wave of anti-democratic activity in Eastern and Central Europe that is both fueling and being powered by rising xenophobia and ultra-nationalism. In August, Human Rights First released “Poland’s New Front: A Government’s War Against Civil Society,” a report detailing the impact of the country’s backsliding on democratic values.

“As the administration’s recently released National Security Strategy recognizes, America’s adversaries are actively engaged in efforts to undermine transatlantic unity and weaken democratic governments and institutions. In this environment, we must maintain the courage of our convictions,” added Massimino in the letter. “I hope you will use the opportunity of your trip to Poland to remind Polish officials of our commonly held values and commitments, and why upholding these values is integral to our common security.” 

For more information or to speak with Massimino, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.