The Commissioner for Human Rights
The presentation of the institution and its organizational structure:
The Commissioner for Human Rights (hereafter: CHR) is entrenched in the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2 April 1997. It was established by the Commissioner for Human Rights Act of 15 July 1987. Conforming to Article 210 of the Constitution, the CHR is autonomous and independent from other state bodies and is responsible only before the Sejm (lower chamber of the parliament). There are currently three Deputy Commissioners.
The CHR was first accredited by the GANHRI with the ‘A’ status in 1999 and has maintained this accreditation ever since.
The CHR fulfils its constitutional and statutory obligations with the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (hereafter: OCHR). The OCHR’s main office is located in Warsaw with three regional offices in Katowice, Gdańsk and Wrocław. The internal structure is organized into 18 units. As of 31.12.2022, the OCHR employed 336 staff members.
Mandates and activities:
Mandates: Ombuds; Monitoring body under CRPD Art 33(2); National Preventive Mechanism under OPCAT Art. 3 (NPM); Equality Body.
Specifically, the CHR has a mandate to safeguard human and civil freedoms and rights, including the implementation of the principle of equal treatment. In these matters, the Commissioner examines whether the law or principles of social conduct and social justice have not been violated by acts or omissions of authorities, organizations or institutions required to respect and implement these freedoms and rights. The CHR may carry out an investigation independently (Article 12(1) of the Act), request the examination of the case by competent authorities (Article 12(2) of the Act), or request the Sejm to order the Supreme Audit Office to examine the case (Article 12(3) of the Act).
The CHR can also approach relevant authorities with proposals for legislative initiatives or for issuing or amending legal acts concerning human and civil freedoms and rights. This power is an important and frequently used tool in the Commissioner’s interventions. The CHR may also submit motions to the Supreme Court for adopting resolutions to explain legal provisions which, in practice, raise doubts or whose application has resulted in conflicting judicial decisions. Moreover, the CHR regularly draws the attention of the Polish Government to international standards for the protection of fundamental rights and the need for ratification by the state of international instruments.
The CHR cooperates with associations, civic movements, other voluntary groupings, foundations, foreign and international authorities and organizations to protect human and civil freedoms and rights, including in the area of equal treatment. This cooperation includes in practice many educational activities that promote knowledge of human rights standards, such as: posting information on its activities on its official website and social media, publishing leaflets and newsletters, conducting awareness-raising campaigns on human rights, holding events (many of which are live-streamed), participating in events organized by other public bodies and NGOs, as well as preparing scientific and popular science publications.
Budget in 2022: 58 483 000 PLN (approx. 12 620 000 EUR). The budget is not formally divided into specific mandates.
Statistics regarding complaints (2021):
Complaints received – total number: 74 279.
In 2021 the OCHR provided advice to 917 complainants in person and 40 941 more via phone calls.
Telephone (general): +48 22 55 17 700
E-mail: email@example.com (international relations); firstname.lastname@example.org (individual complaints).