ECtHR vs. POLAND: Unprecedented inquiry about temporary arrests

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Systemic problem of pre-trail detention

European Court of Human Rights addressed of systemic abuse of pre-trial detention in Poland with an unusual measure. The ECtHR lodged a formal request with Polish government to confirm whether notorious allegations of the abuse of temporary arrests are true. This is unprecedented since the Court has never made such formal inquiry concerning a general legal issue. Polish legal experts, including Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, agree what it means is that the problem is serious.

The trigger: Jamrozy Case

The aim of the ECtHR inquiry is to investigate the problem in depth and force the government into cooperation. The general question about abuse of temporary arrest was asked on the basis of the case of Wladyslaw Jamrozy that was brought before the Court in November. Mr Jamrozy - a former CEO of one of the leading Polish insurance companies - was arrested in 2002 and held in detention for 2 years and three months. The law allows for pre-trial detention up to one year and for the extension up to two years exclusively in exceptional circumstances. Jamrozy, alike a few tens of others, claims that his detention was unjustified and violated fundamental human rights.

The Ministry of Justice: ashamed and mobilised

Polish Ministry of Justice, among others, is working on the preparation of reply to the ECtHR. New Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Cwiakalski admits that the inquiry in itself is simply a shame for Poland. This feeling is, obviously, shared by legal practitioners. The main concern among them, however, is how the new government will tackle the problem to prevent its perpetuation.

Diplomacy and our national pride aside, systemic abuse of pre-trial detention remains a flagrant violation of human rights for the regime that claims itself fully democratic and has already made irreparable harms to the lives of many. Due to its systemic nature, however, this problem can be tackled effectively only by way of a general reform of the justice system.

The ECtHR gave Poland time until the end of March/beginning of April to reply for its inquiry and propose "structural changes". For now, the Ministry of Justice called upon regional prosecution services from all over the country to submit statistics on how pre-trial detention is administered.

Warsaw correspondent

Sources in Polish:,80708,4808296.html

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