Polish ombudsman accuses state of poor democratic standards

Adam Bodnar, the departing Polish ombudsman, has accused the government of trying to restrict his operations and failing to observe democratic standards.

Bodnar, who has been a thorn in the flesh of Poland’s Law and Justice dominated government, made the accusations in a report presented to the lower house of parliament summing up his term of office that will expire in mid-July.

The ombudsman, sometimes called human rights commissioner, said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the year 2020 was a time "when citizens needed increased support, but the government did a lot to restrict the operations of the ombudsman's office."

According to Bodnar, last year was plagued by legal chaos.

"The constitution was violated many times and the division of powers was disturbed," Bodnar said. "A number of public institutions lost attributes of independence that the constitution and laws should ensure them."

"For nearly six years, we've been heading towards a state in which power is centralised, a state that experiences increased problems with the rule of law and observing democratic standards," the ombudsman said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to mounting social and legal problems as new threats to civil rights emerged, Bodnar went on to say, referring to government restrictions that critics say had not been properly grounded in existing law.

Among the threats, Bodnar mentioned, are the curbing of women's abortion rights, discriminating against LGBT people and curbs on the right to demonstrate.