Who is the Commissioner?
The Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection is a constitutional legal protection authority, independent from other institutions and sovereign in his actions. He performs his duties in accordance with the article 208 - 212 of the Constitution and the act of 15 July 1987 (Journal of Laws of 2001 No. 14 item 147). He is appointed by the Sejm, upon approval of the Senate for a 5-year term office.
The basic task of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection is to safeguard the liberties and rights of citizens as set forth in the Constitution and in other legal acts.
The Commissioner performs this duty by investigating whether, due to any action or abstaining on the part of organs, organisations or institutions obliged to observance and implementation of human and citizen's liberties, the law and principles of community life and social justice have been infringed, and if so, by taking appropriate measures.
While performing his duties, the Commissioner is supported by his deputies and the Office of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection.
Who can ask the Commissioner for assistance?
In accordance with the article 80 of the Constitution and the principles specified by the act, everyone shall have the right to apply to the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection for assistance in protection of their freedoms or rights infringed by organs of public authority. It means that a Polish citizen or an alien subject to the law of the Republic of Poland, a legal person, or even an organisational unit without such a personality if, in accordance with the regulations, it can be subject to rights and duties, as well as organisation of citizens or a self-government authority has a right to apply for the assistance of the Commissioner.
The Commissioner can take measures on his own initiative, e.g., on the basis of an information published by the media and a motion of the Commissioner for Children's Rights.
The Commissioner and his office
- verify the facts presented by the petitioner. At the same time, they may do it themselves or apply to another controlling authority to examine the case,
- can examine the case on the spot and require the case files or information about the status of the case from every institution,
- having examined the case and stated that human and citizen's rights and liberties have been infringed, they address a motion to a competent authority, organisation or institution whose actions caused this violation, or to a superior authority to remove this violation,
- may apply to the Constitutional Tribunal for examination of the accordance of the act with the Constitution and ratified international agreements or to examine the accordance of inferior acts with superior acts; the Commissioner may also address a similar application concerning the accordance of local law with superior acts to a Voivodship Administrative Court,
- although the Commissioner himself has no legislative power, he may apply to competent authorities for taking legislative actions as well as for issuing or changing of an inferior legislative act,
- has a right to lodge cassation in a penal case to the Supreme Court,
- the cassation can only be justified by a statement that the law has been grossly infringed by courts,
- a cassation in a penal case cannot be lodged if it is justified only with disproportion between the guilt and sentence,
- may demand that proceedings be instituted in civil cases and participate in any ongoing proceedings and lodge cassation complaints to the Supreme Court,
- may demand that administration proceedings be instituted, lodge complaints against decisions to administrative court and participate in such proceedings with the rights enjoyed by the prosecutor, file a complaint for acts and activities of public administration authority, and file a cassation complaint for a decision of a Voivodship Administrative Court to the High Administrative Court,
- may demand that preparatory proceedings be instituted by a competent prosecutor in cases involving an offence prosecuted ex officio,
- may apply for a penalty for an offence, as well as for reversal of a legally valid decision concerning an offence case,
- has a right to present a court a request for a ruling on nullity of the decision issued by law enforcement and judiciary authorities or non-judicial authorities concerning persons oppressed for activities in favour of the independence of the Polish State.
- while proceeding with the cases, the Commissioner needs not respect the deadlines set out by the code of administrative procedure, there is no possibility of appeal if the Commissioner refuses to take measures.
The Commissioner cannot...
The capabilities of the Commissioner are restricted by the scope of his competences.
All interventions of the Commissioner depend on the results of the case analysis and a statement that legal regulations have been infringed and the circumstances really require Commissioner's interference.
- does not substitute for administrative or judicial authorities to adjudicate on the merits of cases,
- does not take up the case where the appropriate authorities and institutions have not expressed their opinion,
- does not investigate situations where, e.g., a case was rejected, and the individual concerned failed to appeal to a higher authority, but instead applied to the Commissioner, despite having legal means of remedy,
- does not apply the right of mercy,
- does not distribute apartments, medicaments and money,
- does not investigate disputes arbitrated by courts,
- does not take part in collective disputes, e.g., concerning raise of salaries for certain groups of employees,
- does not take up cases when there is no sufficient evidence that freedom or law has been infringed,
- does not intervene if the case is examined by the court or administrative authority without any delay, and does not interfere in autonomy of the judge, e.g. when the evidence is evaluated by the court,
- cannot institute legal proceedings after the deadline set out by the act,
- does not consider anonymous motions.
You should know that
All letters addressed to the Commissioner are carefully read. In order to facilitate the work, as well as to accelerate the process of case examination, when addressing a motion to the Commissioner, you should: a) give the name, surname, address and postal code for the correspondence, b) explain the case in a detailed way and provide concise and clear arguments pointing out that liberty or rights have been infringed. Indispensable documents (photocopies or copies) possessed by the petitioner should be attached to the motion.
Before you send a letter to the Commissioner, please verify if all possibilities of finding a solution to the case according to the normal procedure have been exhausted and the freedom and rights of a citizen were really infringed. If you have any doubts, please ask a solicitor or a legal adviser for opinion or try to seek advice in a local counselling office for citizens or in a so called law clinic at law departments of universities and certain administrative colleges giving advice to people of limited means.
If the Commissioner receives cases where proceedings are not justified, the process of taking up cases which really need the Commissioner's intervention slows down. A person who really needs help can thus suffer from it. The commissioner cannot ensure taking up every case. However, he can ensure that each case will be examined in a detailed way, and the person concerned will receive an answer to their motion.
Office of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection
Office of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection, Aleja Solidarności 77, 00 - 090 Warsaw
Phone (+ 48) 22 55 17 700
Fax (+ 48) 22 827 64 53
Monday from 9.00 to 17.00
Tuesday to Friday from 9.00 to 15.00
Phone: (+ 48) 22 55 17 760, (+ 48) 22 55 17 811
Local Representative in Gdańsk (for Zachodniopomorskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodship)
ul. Chmielna 54/57, 80 -748 Gdańsk
Phone (+ 48) 58 764 73 02
Fax (+ 48) 58 764 73 03
Monday from 10.00 to 17.00
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 9.00 to 15.00
Local Representative in Katowice (for Śląskie, Małopolskie, Świętokrzyskie)
ul. Jagiellońska 25 room 122, 40 – 032 Katowice
Phone (+ 48) 32 72 86 800
Fax (+ 48) 32 72 86 823
Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 9.00 to 15.00
Tuesday from 10.00 to 17.00
Local Representative in Wrocław (for Dolnośląskie, Lubuskie and Opolskie Voivodship)
ul. Wierzbowa 5, 50 - 056 Wrocław
Phone (+ 48) 71 34 69 115
Fax (+ 48) 71 343 43 25
Phone (+48) 71 34 69 100
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday from 9.00 to 15.00
Wednesdays from 10.00 to 17.00