1. The Committee considered the third periodic report of Poland
on the implementation of the Covenant (E/1994/104/Add.13), along
with the written replies to the list of questions, at its 10th to
12th meetings, held on 4 and 5 May 1998, and adopted at the 26th
meeting (eighteenth session), held on 14 May 1998 the following
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the third periodic report
of Poland, which it found to be comprehensive and to conform to
its guidelines on the preparation of reports. The Committee also
expresses appreciation for the additional information presented
prior to and during the dialogue by a well-informed delegation,
which enabled it to engage in a frank and constructive dialogue.
3. The Committee notes with satisfaction the prominence accorded
to economic, social and cultural rights in the new 1997 Constitution,
which contains provisions protecting, inter alia, the rights
freely to pursue an occupation, to safe conditions of work, to social
security, to education and to housing. It welcomes the State party's
expressed intention to abide by international human rights standards,
including the European Social Charter. The Committee also notes
with interest that Poland has no substantive objections to ratifying
International Labour Organization Convention No. 97 on migration
for employment, No. 102 on minimum standards for social security,
No. 159 on vocational rehabilitation and employment for disabled
persons, and No. 176 on safety and health in mines. It further welcomes
Poland's expressed intention to ratify Convention Nos. 102 and 176
and to examine the possibility of ratifying the other treaties in
the near future.
4. The Committee further welcomes the status accorded to international
legal instruments, including the Covenant, in Polish national law.
Under the new Constitution, international treaties may be directly
invoked in the courts, except for those considered not to be self-executing
in nature. The Committee was assured that any provisions of the
Covenant not considered to be self-executing will be adopted into
domestic law and given effect in that way. It expresses satisfaction
that in cases of conflict with national law, international treaties
will prevail over national law.
5. The Committee welcomes the establishment and functioning of the
office of the Commissioner for Citizens' Rights, who may be addressed
by all persons and who appears to exercise sufficiently broad powers
of investigation and application for redress from the relevant authorities.
The Committee also notes that the new Constitution foresees the
establishment of a Commissioner for Children's Rights. It looks
forward to receiving information in the next report of the State
party on the specific functions and authority entrusted to these
posts, as well as on any follow-up to the decisions or recommendations
of the Commissioners.
6. The Committee welcomes the success achieved during the last five
years in terms of economic performance, particularly in controlling
inflation, raising production and doubling the level of per capita
income since 1994. It also expresses satisfaction that the State
party has sought international assistance in implementing many social
programmes and modernizing government facilities.
7. The Committee welcomes the recent Action Programme for Women,
which includes among its objectives the elimination of violence
against women, and notes with interest the assurances offered that
domestic violence will be fully addressed in the next periodic report.
8. The Committee commends the efforts of the Government to upgrade
its labour market services designed to improve access to employment
opportunities, to retrain workers for jobs in demand, and to provide
assistance to people wishing to move from overpopulated to underpopulated
and difficulties impeding the
implementation of the Covenant
9. The Committee recognizes that there are, inevitably, difficulties
arising from the process of political transition to a democratic
form of government, as well as problems arising from transition
to a market-oriented economy.
D. Principal subjects of concern
10. With respect to the question of minorities, the Committee notes
with interest the treaty concluded with Germany on the subject of
the German ethnic minority in Poland by which various rights of
this group were given effect, including a fixed number of seats
in Parliament and the right to operate a large number of schools.
The Committee notes that similar treaties were not concluded with
respect to other minority groups and is concerned that such a situation
may lead to perceived or actual inequalities between minorities.
11. The Committee notes that under the new Constitution, Poland
is a secular State with no formal role attributed to any religious
denomination. The Committee is nevertheless concerned that policies
and decisions of a social nature seem to be excessively influenced
by particular religious considerations and do not take adequate
account of the existence of minority religious groups.
12. The Committee notes that restrictions have recently been imposed
on abortions that exclude economic and social grounds for performing
legal abortions. The Committee expresses its concern that because
of this restriction, women in Poland are resorting to unscrupulous
abortionists and risking their health in doing so. The Committee
is also concerned that family planning services are not provided
in the public health-care system so that women have no access to
13. The Committee also expresses concern at the rising incidence
of domestic violence and of trafficking of young women, as acknowledged
by the Government. It notes the absence of specific regulations
on sexual harassment of women, the lack of shelters for the women
and children who are victims of family violence in 33 per cent of
voivodships, and the apparent lack of counselling facilities for
14. The Committee expresses deep concern that the right to work
is not fully enjoyed by women. It notes that the principle of equal
pay for equal work is not being respected. The Committee deplores,
in particular, the fact that women earn on average only 70 per cent
of the wages earned by men, despite their generally higher levels
of education. It also notes the existence of discriminatory practices
such as job advertisements specifying the preferred gender of the
employees sought and women candidates for jobs being asked to take
pregnancy tests, despite the existence of legislation prohibiting
15. The Committee notes that despite the efforts of the Government
referred to in paragraph 8, there is high unemployment rate in the
State party. The Committee is concerned over the large numbers of
unemployed and underemployed persons, particularly youth in rural
areas. The Committee suggests that the high unemployment figures
may be partly attributable to the "grey" and "black" markets, where
people work with no formal contract and pay little or no taxes and
which is encouraged in large part by the high employment taxes.
The Committee notes that measures to deal with these situations
are new and awaits information on their results in the next periodic
Committee draws the attention of the Government to article 11, paragraph
1, of the Covenant and to its General Comment 7 (1997) on the right
to adequate housing. The Committee is concerned about existing legal
provisions under which forced evictions may be carried out without
provision for alternative lodging. The Committee also views with
concern the problem of homeless people in Poland caused by the acute
shortage of housing, the relatively high number of families living
below the poverty line, the recent flooding and forced evictions.
17. The Committee expresses concern over the deteriorating health
indicators that have been recorded during the last five years. It
also draws attention to several areas of particular concern identified
during the dialogue, namely, declining levels of nutrition, rising
alcoholism, and increasing cardiovascular disease and cancers.
18. The Committee is concerned about the inadequate enforcement
of occupational safety laws in Poland resulting in a relatively
high number of accidents in the workplace, both in the private and
the public sectors.
19. The Committee recommends that special care be taken to ensure
full respect for the rights of all religious groups, particularly
concerning issues of national policy such as education, gender equality
and health care. The Committee further recommends that the rights
of all minority groups with regard to their right to participate
in national political and economic life and the right to practise
and teach their culture be fully respected.
20. The Committee recommends that every effort be made to ensure
women's right to health, in particular reproductive health. It recommends
that family planning services be made available to all persons,
including counselling on safe alternatives to contraception and
reliable and informative sex education for school-age children.
21. The Committee recommends that sexual harassment against women
be prohibited by law. It recommends that shelters for women and
children who are victims of family violence, with all necessary
support facilities, including counselling and other assistance,
be provided in all voivodships. It looks forward to receiving in
the next periodic report detailed information on the problem of
domestic violence and the results of the recently adopted Action
Programme for Women.
22. The Committee recommends that the 1962 citizenship law, which
discriminates against women by not granting them the same right
as men to transmit citizenship to their foreign-born spouses, be
23. The Committee recommends that the right to work be fully protected
for women as well as for men on the basis of equal pay for equal
work. It suggests that a study be undertaken on the subject and
requests that information on measures taken in this regard be contained
in the next periodic report submitted by the State party.
Committee urges the State party to take appropriate measures, especially
increasing the number of State labour inspectors and strengthening
their powers, in order to ensure that occupational safety legislation
is properly implemented.
25. The Committee recommends that the conditions for permissible
forced evictions be specified in law, with provisions that address
the need for alternative lodging for those evicted. The Committee
urges the State party to take all appropriate measures in addressing
the problems of the acute housing shortage and homelessness. It
further recommends that the basis for setting rental rates be determined
in a way that protects the rights of both property owners and tenants,
especially those among the most vulnerable groups of society. The
Committee suggests that information on one's rights and responsibilities
and the public and private avenues of assistance available in a
market economy be provided to all consumers, in particular tenants.
The Committee emphasizes that respect for the right to housing should
include, when appropriate, measures to assist those whose homes
are put in jeopardy or who are rendered homeless by dramatic rent
increases due to the elimination of rental subsidies.
26. The Committee recommends that the State party engage in a large-scale
public information campaign to promote healthy lifestyles among
the Polish people in order to improve the quality of their nutrition,
combat alcoholism and smoking, and reduce the risks of cardiovascular
diseases and cancers. The campaign should extend to schools, where
such information should be incorporated into the regular curricula.
27. The Committee urges the State party to accelerate the process
of ratification of ILO Convention Nos. 102, 176, 97 and 159. It
requests that information on that process, as well as on all points
contained in these concluding observations on which information
has been requested, be contained in the next periodic report submitted
by the State party.
28. The Committee urges the State party to disseminate the present
concluding observations widely.