Democracy and Human Rights – Polish and European Standards (2007)

The conference Democracy and Human Rights – Polish and European Standards took place on 16 March 2007 and the Center for Human Rights had the honor of having inter alia prof. Wojciech Sadurski, prof. Wiktor Osiatyński, prof.  Ewa Łętowska and prof. Magdalena Środa as speakers.

The first panel concerned ‘democracy’ and Prof. Wyrzykowski proposed the panelists (prof. Wojciech Sadurski, prof. Wiktor Osiatyński and prof. Piotr Winczorek) not to avoid the question if democracy was in danger.

Prof. Sadurski (EUI) analysed the notion of democracy and concluded that there is no legal standard of democracy as such within the Council of Europe and European Union but effective transcription of human rights and democratic accountability standards developed in those organizations should greatly improve the standing of democracy in Europe.

Prof. Piotr Winczorek (Institute of Theory of Law and State, Faculty of Law, Warsaw University) compared the liberal and the popular democracy.   The latter is characterized by the absence of pluralism, instrumental use of the legal system, plebiscite

Prof. Piotr Winczorek 2007

law-making, repressive legal system and the principle of perennial rule. P. Winczorek concluded that the Polish political system was still far from falling into the latter category, where the freedoms effectively enjoyed by the press was the essential missing element of popular democracy.

Prof. Wiktor Osiatyński (Central European University in Budapest) started off by stating that espousing the concept of ‘a IV Republic of Poland’ is a violation of the the Constitution of the III Republic of Poland, and the problem is particularly acute when the concept is sponsored by public officials. The principal challenge of modern democracy concerns controlling public powers between elections and indicated strategic litigation as one of the effective means the civil society has at disposal.  The principle of democracy rests on division and separation of powers, the independence of the banking system, of the media, of public prosecution and of territorial government.  Going through current challenges to those principles in Polish politics, Prof. Osiatyński concluded that he hoped that the Kaczyński period should mobilize liberal thinking in Poland.

The ‘Human Rights’ was a forum for Prof. Ewa Łętowska (Polish Academiy of Sciences), prof. Magdalena Środa (Institute of Philosophy, Warsaw University),  Dr Hanna Machińska (Council of Europe Information Center) and Dr. Adam Bodnar (Center for Human Rights, University of Warsaw) .

Prof. E. Łętowska offered some reflection on the standards of legal thinkin on human rights.   She started off criticizing formalism of civil procedure that might result in violations of the right to court.   She proposed to promote the principle of proportionality as the overriding principle of legal reasoning and conceived of it as a principle that is akin to the effet utile principle, under which the judges are supposed to do as they please as long as what they do is right. Effective protection of human rights thus lies in going beyond literal interpretation.

Prof. M. Środa compared two world-views that are dominant in contemporary Poland, i.e. the Catholic world-view and the Enlightenment world-view.  This comparison helped to explain why the Polish society fails to understand ecological issues (the Earth has been given to man for his use) and to affirm that the principle of world-view tolerance delevopped by the Enlightenment and the Christian principle of charity (‘Love thy Neighbour’) are one and the same thing.

H. Machińska mówiła o znaczeniu monitoringu Rady Europy dla utrzymania wysokich standardów ochrony praw człowieka. Zapowiedziała raport Komisarza Praw Człowieka RE, prawdopodobnie krytyczny w szczególności jeżeli chodzi o kwestię lustracji w Polsce. Pokreśliła, że wg. RE celem lustracji jest ochrona demokracji, jej umocnienie a nie zemsta.

Dr A. Bodnar analyzed the problem of lustration in Poland and  conclulded that current development should either destroy democracy or lead to the development of human rights standards that should protect not only individuals but democracy itself from the politics of political revenge.  The outcome should depend on the work of lawyers, journalists and the academia .

Comments are closed.