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UN experts urge Poland to ensure free and full participation at climate talks

Poland: COP24 freedoms

07 May 2018

GENEVA (7 May 2018) - Poland should ensure free and full participation at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) at the end of the year, UN human rights experts* said, citing concerns about a new safety and security law that could hamper civil society’s involvement.    

Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the legislation, which was written specifically for the conference in Poland, saying it could affect their rights to privacy, peaceful assembly and participation. The UN experts raised the issue as the Polish Government briefed officials about preparations for COP24 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn today.

“We acknowledge the commitment of the Government to host the climate conference, aiming to ensure that it will take place in a secure and safe manner,” they said.

“As COP24 will take important decisions to implement the Paris Agreement and address challenges in mitigation action, it is critical that Poland strikes the right balance between safety concerns on the one hand, and fundamental freedoms of assembly, participation and privacy, on the other.

“For the COP24 to be a true success, the Polish Government must do its utmost to prepare and hold the meeting in a manner that facilitates the climate change negotiations and also ensures meaningful civic space that is free from undue surveillance and restriction.”

The UN experts encouraged the Government to respond to their communication** with detailed clarifications.

“As we move forward to combat climate change, Governments should encourage and ensure full and meaningful public participation in these critical multilateral discussions. All eyes are on the Polish Government to see how, as the host and the president of COP24, it will honour its human rights obligations and uphold its responsibility to ensure free and unfettered access for broader participation," the experts said.

“We stand ready to work with the Government and advise on the ways to achieve that important objective.”

Highlighted human rights concerns:

  • Article 17 appears to give sweeping surveillance powers to the police and  secret services to collect and process personal data about all COP24 participants, on the basis of existing legislation that allows such surveillance of suspected criminals and individuals posing a threat to public safety. Applying such presumption on the COP24 participants appears to be unwarranted and unbalanced. Such broad surveillance is not subject to judicial review;
  • Article 22 appears to prevent spontaneous peaceful assemblies in Katowice, which owing to the expected evolving nature of the COP24 negotiations should be tolerated to allow for spontaneous protests to be freely and peacefully conducted.

COP24 will take place in Katowice from 26 November to 16 December.

ENDS 

(**) The communication by the UN experts was sent to the Polish Government on 23 April 2018.

(*) Mr. John H. Knox, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Joe Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, and are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Proceduresof the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

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This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.