Commissioner for Human Rights

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. When has the National Preventive Mechanism (hereinafter referred to as the NPM) been established and what was its legal basis?
    By way of the letter dated 18 January 2008, acting on the grounds of the resolution of the Council of Ministers No 18/2008 of 14 May 2005, the Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Justice entrusted the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection with the function of the National Preventive Mechanism, in the meaning of the Optional Protocol to UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (hereinafter referred to as the OPCAT). The Protocol was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on 18 December 2002. The President of the Republic of Poland ratified the Protocol on 2 September 2005 pursuant to the Act of 8 July 2005 on the ratification of the OPCAT. The Protocol came into force on 22 June 2006 as regards the Republic of Poland.
  2. Why have the NPM tasks been entrusted to the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection?
    Entrusting the Polish Ombudsman with the tasks of the National Preventive Mechanism guarantees proper implementation of the OPCAT provisions related to the mandate of national preventive mechanisms. The Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection acts independently of other state authorities, and reports only to the Sejm.
    The visiting team members have necessary skills and expertise to carry out visits intended to prevent torture at national level (Article 18 (1)(2) of the OPCAT). Composition of the visiting teams also ensures the gender equality, as required by the OPCAT provisions.
  3. What is the NPM structure in the Office of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection?
    In 14 October 2010 the National Preventive Mechanism was separated within the Office of the Human Rights Defender. Since January 2011 there are 7 people working in National Preventive Mechanism Department (incl. Director and Deputy Director). However, due to the large number of places to be visited by NPM and not enough human resources, the tasks of the National Preventive Mechanism are still supported by other members of specialized departments in the Office of the Human Rights Defender.
  4. What are the NPM competences?
    Pursuant to Article 19 of the OPCAT, the national preventive mechanisms have the power to regularly examine the treatment of the persons deprived of their liberty in places of detention, with a view to strengthening, if necessary, their protection against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They are entitled to make recommendations to the relevant authorities with the aim of improving the treatment and the conditions of the persons deprived of their liberty and to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Besides, the mechanisms submit proposals and observations concerning existing or draft legislation.
  5. What is torture?
    Pursuant to Article 1 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment "torture" means "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."
  6.  What kind of places does the NPM visit?
    The National Preventive Mechanism visits places of detention. Within the meaning of Article 4 of the OPCAT, a place of detention means any place under the jurisdiction and control of a given State where persons are or may be deprived of their liberty, either by virtue of an order given by a public authority or at its instigation or with its consent or acquiescence. Deprivation of liberty means any form of detention or imprisonment or the placement of a person in a public or private custodial setting which that person is not permitted to leave at will by order of any judicial, administrative or other authority.
    This above definition of places of detention and persons deprived of liberty is very wide and covers about 1800 institutions in Poland. The National Preventive Mechanism carries out visits in the institutions such as prisons, custody suits, juvenile detention centres, juvenile refuges, juvenile reform schools, youth sociotherapy centres, spaces within Police organizational units designed for persons apprehended or brought in to sober, emergency centres for children, detoxification centres, social care facilities, psychiatric institutions, guarded facilities for foreigners, deportation custody facilities, and military disciplinary custodies.
  7. Who is financing the activities of the NPM?
    In accordance with Article 18(3) of the OPCAT the States Parties to Protocol undertake to make available the necessary resources for the functioning of the national preventive mechanisms. Therefore, the National Preventive Mechanism is financed from the State budget in Poland.
  8. Does the NPM carry out intervention visits? Does the NPM deal with individual cases?
    The National Preventive Mechanism has been established to prevent torture and other prohibited forms of treatment of detained persons. The visits under the NPM are of preventive and general nature. Examination of individual cases and intervention visits do not fall within the competence of the NPM.