On April 20th, 2018, the Arbitrary Detention Working Group of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council adopted a groundbreaking resolution to which Fort Russ has gained exclusive access ahead of its official release.
This official UN opinion document, “WGAD/2018/POL/OPN No. 18/2018”, declares the imprisonment of the Polish activist and scholar turned political prisoner, Dr. Mateusz Piskorski, to be arbitrary and in violation of international law on human and civil rights. The document thus calls on the Polish government to immediately release Piskorski and afford him appropriate reparations.
Mateusz Piskorski was arrested and his political party Zmiana’s offices and members’ homes were raided by Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) on May 18th, 2016, two days after Piskorski had publicly warned that the deployment of US troops to “NATO’s Eastern Flank”, i.e., Poland, would lead to waves of political repression against dissenting voices. Piskorski, the co-founder of the European Center for Geopolitical Analysis, the founding chairman of the “first non-American party in Poland”, Zmiana, scholar of international relations and experienced international election observer, was one of the most outspoken voices against Washington-dictated Polish policy, which in a series of letters from behind bars he described as degrading Poland into a helpless battlefield between the US and Russia.
Since 2016, Piskorski has been kept “temporarily” behind bars under suspicion of working for the intelligence services of the Russian Federation and People’s Republic of China, but no such official charge was presented until nearly two years later, on April 23rd, 2018. The evidence and key case files have been kept classified from not only the public, but from Piskorski himself, who was also not even “invited” to several of his own case hearings.
Fort Russ has been the only English-language news service, and one of the only independent news resources in the world, that has provided constant coverage of the Piskorski case.
The UN document, which is set to be unveiled in Poland tomorrow, on the day of yet another hearing to extend Piskorski’s detention, arrived at a number of conclusions which Fort Russ and critics of the Polish government’s actions have exposed since day one.
The Working Group determined that “Mr. Piskorski’s activities clearly fall within the boundaries of the freedom of opinion and expression, and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, protected by articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…” (point 45), and that “his deprivation of liberty is therefore arbitrary” (point 48).
Given this violation of Piskorski’s rights, the Working Group “wishes to emphasize that no trial of Mr. Piskorski should take place in the future” (point 49). However, the report noted that “there is no apparent end in sight to the constant renewal of Mr. Piskorski’s pre-trial detention and, although his detention is kept under regular review every three months, he is effectively being detained indefinitely” (point 50).
Concerning the nature of the “case” and the allegations against Piskorski, the document also recognized that the Polish government “has failed to allow Mr. Piskorski and his lawyers fair access to classified information” (point 53) and that “Mr. Piskorski’s right to present a defence was violated as he could only participate in some hearings on his pre-trial detention” (point 54).
In conclusion, the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention assessed that “the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Piskorski immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law” (point 60), and calls on the Polish government “to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Piskorski, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights” (point 61).
Of extreme significance is the fact that the document mentions in multiple places that the Polish government has not responded to any of the Working Group’s requests for clarification despite the fact that on “18 December 2017, the Working Group transmitted the allegations from the source to the Government under its regular communication procedure”, “requested the Government to provide detailed information by 19 February 2018 about Mr. Piskorski’s current situation” and, despite the fact that “the Government requested an extension of the deadline for response…the Government did not submit any information” (points 38 and 39).
The fact that the Working Group’s investigation, including attempted outreach to the Polish government, has evidently been underway since December 2017 demonstrates that the document’s conclusions have been meticulously deliberated over a significant span of time, and that the Polish government still has no valid justification, whether verbal or legal, to present on its imprisonment of Dr. Piskorski.
In turn, the document spells out clearly in section (d) of point 63 that Poland’s international obligations and the compatibility of its laws and practices in line with the present opinion founded on international law are hereby in question and necessitate follow-up investigation. This is no more nor less than a questioning of Poland’s adherence to international law as a UN member over its imprisonment of Dr. Piskorski. This bears serious implications for Poland’s reputation and poses it with a serious dilemma out of which it will be more than difficult to maneuver.
In short, the UN Human Rights Council’s working group has confirmed what many have been saying all along, namely, that Piskorski’s detention is politically motivated, a violation of international law on human rights and civil freedom, and therefore a symptom of unjust and unlawful practices by the Polish government in the present time.
In many respects, this breakthrough is thus a confirmation of Piskorski’s own warnings that Poland is sliding down the path of political repression, fostered by its instrumentalization as “NATO’s Eastern Flank” and seeking to silence dissent under the pretexts of “Russian information and hybrid war” and “espionage,” both of which terms the document found highly questionable. The UN document clearly reprimanded the Polish government to “refrain from imposing restrictions that are not consistent with international human rights law, including restrictions on discussion of government policies and political debate; reporting on human rights, government activities and corruption in government; peaceful demonstrations or political activities; and expression of opinion and dissent” (point 46).
This resolution is an enormously important development. With the presentation of this UN-backed document, Zmiana’s General Secretary, Tomasz Jankowski, believes “with full confidence” that “Mateusz Piskorski will win first – if not today then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow then the next day.”