Statement of the Commissioner for Human Rights concerning plans to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention
As Commissioner for Human Rights who safeguards human and civil rights and who holds the role of an independent equality body I am truly concerned about the declarations of representatives of the Council of Ministers and about their actions regarding the withdrawal from the Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (so-called Istanbul Convention).
The Convention reinforces the currently existing protection mechanisms against gender based violence, including domestic violence. The positive impact of the Convention on the polish legislation and on the situation of victims is clear: the document has initiated, and resulted in, major changes in the law. The Convention has also been a catalyst for launching a 24/7 telephone helpline for victims of violence and has contributed to the introduction of a special hearing procedure for victims of sexual abuse. Thanks to the Convention the Parliament passed a regulation enabling the police to order a perpetrator to vacate the joint place of residence immediately, which gives victims an opportunity to lead their lives free from violence.
Despite those positive changes we are still at the beginning of the road, and the protection and support provided to victims still insufficient. In a recently published alternative report I have set out 46 recommendations, the introduction of which is going to improve the tragic situation of people who have experienced violence. The Convention is an excellent guideline in this respect as well as a genuine warranty that we will seek to ensure the highest protection standards possible while being supported by independent experts from GREVIO.
When following the public debate I am concerned about numerous statements of public officials, which repeat incorrect information concerning the text of the Convention. I must admit with regret that they not only attest to the politicians’ not being familiar with the text of the Convention, but they are also a manifestation of lack of respect for victims of violence. I wish to underline that by ratifying the Convention Poland has undertaken, at the international level, the obligation to take responsibility for how we protect victims of violence and how we attempt to prevent violation of their rights, especially that an absolutely fundamental value is at stake, namely the protection of life and health.
In view of the above, as Commissioner for Human Rights Commissioner I hereby call for refraining from any actions that undermine the authority of the Convention and for giving up all and any works aimed at withdrawing from it.
At the same time I also express my support for the recommendation of 27 July 2020 of the President of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), PACE General Rapporteur on violence against woman and co-rapporteurs on the monitoring of Poland, and I urge that a parliamentary hearing is held which, conducted in the atmosphere of respect and solidarity with the victims, would provide an opportunity for dispelling doubts as to the scope and aim of the Convention.