Top court rules bill limiting public gathering constitutional
March 17, 2017
Constitutional Tribunal head Julia Przylebska
Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled on Thursday that
a bill on gatherings giving preference to protests organized by the state authorities and the church does not violate the country’s constitution.
The controversial bill gives special priority to the so called ‘cyclical’ rallies’, repetitive assemblies aimed at celebrating what are deemed important events in Poland’s history, over other demonstrations and gatherings.
The bill enables regional authorities to give three-year permits for such regular rallies, deemed by the authorities to have national importance and organized at a given place and time, bans counter-rallies from taking place in the same site and enforces a minimum 100-meter distance between gatherings.
One of such ‘cyclical’ rallies’ is a monthly commemoration of the plane crash that killed former president Lech Kaczynski, twin brother of ruling Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. According to the bill local authorities are obliged to ban any non-‘cyclical’ protests in case of an overlap.
Poland's ombudsman and human rights campaigners have criticized the bill saying it would allow authorities to prohibit citizens from holding a demonstration if the church or the state decides to organize its own rally at the same time and place.
In December Poland's President Andrzej Duda declined to sign the bill into law and sent it to the constitutional court.
"President Andrzej Duda believes that the freedom of assembly is an necessary element of democracy and a condition for exercising other freedoms and human rights connected with the public sphere," a statement from the president's office said then. "If the bill came into force, it could result in norms supporting the exercise of the constitutional freedom of assembly to cease to function properly."
The Supreme Court, back in December, said that the bill has all the characteristics of the martial law legislation and is in clear violation of the articles 2 and 57 of the constitution. Additionally it violates treaties signed by Poland.