University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Poland, U.N. Doc. A/48/18, paras. 178-198 (1993).



Forty-second session


Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination


178. The tenth, eleventh and twelfth periodic reports of Poland, submitted in one document (CERD/C/226/Add.2), were considered by the Committee at its 981st, 982nd and 983rd meetings, held on 17 and 18 March 1993 (CERD/C/SR.981-983).

179. The report was introduced by the representative of the reporting State, who explained that since the report had been drafted in 1992 there had been no notable developments concerning the situation of racial discrimination in Poland. He emphasized that there were no laws in Poland regarding the legal status of persons which made any distinction on the grounds of race or ethnic origin. The Constitutional Court had ruled on several occasions that the principle of equality before the law constituted the very foundation of the State and was to be strictly respected by all State organs. Poland had a comprehensive system of institutional guarantees for the rule of law based on the independence of the judiciary. Justice was administered not only through the courts, but also through the Commissioner for Human Rights/Ombudsman, who was empowered to act not only in cases involving breaches of the law, but also in cases of violations of accepted principles of community life. Cases of discrimination in Poland were few and were usually related to nationality.

180. With respect to the application of the international human rights treaties ratified by Poland, the representative informed the Committee that, in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court in June 1992, such treaties would henceforth become directly applicable and binding provided that they were self-executing. Unfortunately, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which had been ratified before the constitutional amendment of April 1989, could not yet be considered as directly incorporated in Polish law. However, that situation was expected to change with the adoption of the new Constitution, which would put all human rights treaties ratified by Poland on an equal footing and make them part of the internal legal order irrespective of the date of ratification.

181. Members of the Committee welcomed the recent trend towards greater democracy in Poland. The ratification by Poland of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its acceptance of the jurisdiction of the European Court on Human Rights, as well as of the procedure whereby individual petitions could be made to the European Commission on Human Rights, were evidence that it had consolidated its status as a democratic State based on the rule of law.

182. Members of the Committee noted that the report under consideration was somewhat brief and not fully in accordance with the Committee's revised general guidelines. Those guidelines should be taken into account when the next periodic report was prepared. Members wished to have more detailed information on the legal situation in Poland with regard to the implementation of the Convention. They observed that the Government should consider submitting a "core document" containing general information on the situation in the country which could be used by all human rights treaty bodies and which would make the task of reporting easier. Members also wished to have more precise demographic data showing the ethnic and racial situation in Poland. In particular, further information was requested on attitudes and behaviour towards Jews and Gypsies in Poland and on the problem of racial discrimination against immigrants and refugees.

183. With respect to article 2 of the Convention, members of the Committee indicated that the Polish authorities should take into account the provisions of article 2.1 of the Convention in connection with any policy which the National and Ethnic Minorities Commission might adopt. The authorities should formulate a more comprehensive policy towards minorities, put it into written form and bring it to the attention of the persons it was intended to protect and those who were required to implement it. Furthermore, a governmental body should be specifically designated as responsible for its coordination. The Committee would welcome further information on all those points in the next report of Poland. Members requested more information with respect to the implementation of article 2.1 (d).

184. With respect to article 4 of the Convention, members of the Committee stated that the report should have been more informative about the Polish National Party, which sought to promote negative attitudes towards Jews. They asked whether the Polish Constitution allowed the establishment of political parties and organizations on racial, ethnic or religious grounds.

185. With regard to article 5 of the Convention, members of the Committee noted that the information provided in connection with that article related only to legislation and not to the actual situation in the country. Members wished to have more information on the groups organized by the Socio-Cultural Society, which had secured for the German minority a strong representation in local government; on limitations on the right to own property; on the cultural education provided and training in the languages of minority groups; on the national education system and the extent to which it reflected the interests of the different ethnic groups.

186. Referring to article 6 of the Convention, members of the Committee indicated that insufficient detail had been given with respect to the implementation of that article. Further information was requested on the functions of the Ombudsman and of the National and Ethnic Minority Commission. More information was also requested with respect to recent changes in the organization of the judiciary.

187. Concerning article 14 of the Convention, members of the Committee asked whether Poland planned to make a declaration recognizing the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals or groups of individuals claiming to be victims of a violation of any right set forth in the Convention.

188. Replying to the questions, the representative of the State party stated that, in regard to the demographic composition of Poland, the Minister of Culture had estimated that the population included 300,000 Ukrainians, between 200,000 and 250,000 Belarusians, between 200,000 and 500,000 Germans, between 20,000 and 25,000 Lithuanians, 15,000 Jews, 15,000 Greeks and Macedonians, 3,000 Russians, Tartars, Karaites, Ormians and Czechs, and between 10,000 and 15,000 Gypsies. Ethnic minorities thus totalled some 1.1 million out of a total population of 40 million citizens. Apart from some isolated instances, there was no negative attitude or discrimination towards foreigners in the country.

189. With regard to article 1 of the Convention, the representative stated that although that provision had not been literally incorporated in domestic legislation, there was no doubt that it had influenced the understanding in Poland of what constituted racial discrimination.

190. Concerning article 2 of the Convention, the representative gave further information on the status of the Convention in the Polish legal order and indicated that the Convention played an important role in Polish jurisprudence. There were, for example, frequent references to the International Covenants, which similarly had not yet been transformed into domestic law, in the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, the Administrative Court and in the activities of the Ombudsman.

191. With regard to article 4 of the Convention, the representative explained that, following decades of communist rule, Poland was still in the initial stage of establishing a multiparty system. The general approach adopted was to limit State interference in that process as much as possible. At present, there were more than 180 political parties active in Poland, most of which were very small with no political influence. That was the case for the National Party under the leadership of Mr. Tejkowski. Because of his statements and other activities, criminal proceedings against Mr. Tejkowski had been initiated, but they had not yet been completed. In that connection, the statute on political parties of 1990 made it possible for the Constitutional Court to declare a political party inconsistent with the Constitution. Legislation on associations provided similar restrictions in regard to organizations other than political parties.

192. Concerning article 5 of the Convention and the participation of minorities in representative organs, the local administration in Poland was based on the principle of self-government. Representatives of minorities were members of local parliaments, as well as of the national Parliament. In order to facilitate the access of minorities to the legislature, the electoral law of 1991 had established lower criteria for the registration and election of candidates representing minorities. With regard to educational opportunities for minorities, there were no restrictions as to teaching in minority languages. Availability of such instruction depended on the need and on material resources. Since 1 September 1992, German had been taught as a basic language in 7 schools and as an additional language in 170 schools in areas inhabited by the German minority. Ukrainian was taught in 3 primary schools and in 3 general secondary schools, while Belarusian was taught in 48 primary schools and in 2 general secondary schools.

193. With respect to article 6 of the Convention, the representative stated that the Sejm Committee for National and Ethnic Minorities had been established immediately after the political changes of 1989. It was a standing parliamentary committee which dealt with all matters relevant to the protection of minorities. In particular, the Committee discussed the question of a draft statute on that question.

194. In regard to article 14 of the Convention, the representative stated that, in general, Poland recognized the right of individuals to avail themselves of international complaints procedures in instances where they felt that their rights had been violated. It was only for technical reasons that Poland had not yet made the declaration under article 14 recognizing the competence of the Committee in that regard.
195. In conclusion, the representative stated that the observations and recommendations made by the members of the Committee would be very useful to the Polish authorities.

Concluding observations

196. The Committee recommended that the Government of Poland, in drafting its next periodic report, should make use of the possibility created by the revised guidelines on reporting to submit a core document covering the general legal, political and economic situation in Poland. It expressed the hope that the next periodic report would provide all the information requested during the Committee's consideration of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth periodic reports.

197. The Committee reiterated its request for further demographic data in accordance with general recommendation IV and for full information on the situation of ethnic groups.

198. The Committee considered the form in which the Convention had been incorporated in Polish law and noted that a different system had been provided for under the new Constitution. It recommended to the Government that it should consider giving the Convention the same status in domestic law as other international human rights instruments.




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