New COVID-19 laws will ensure impunity for government - opposition

2020-09-16 20:17 update: 2020-09-17, 11:50
Sejm. Phot. PAP/Marcin Obara
Sejm. Phot. PAP/Marcin Obara
Poland's opposition, including The Left, the Polish Coalition and the right-wing Confederation have protested against planned amendments to COVID-19 laws which would decriminalise violations by authorities if committed to protect citizens against the effects of the epidemic.

The amendments, filed by Poland's ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), had their second reading in the Sejm (lower house) on Wednesday.

According to opposition spokesmen, the new legislation will allow the government to do whatever it chooses with full impunity.

Deputy Sejm Speaker Wlodzimierz Czarzasty from The Left warned that the laws would endorse all kinds of violation by the ruling elite. "It will be proper to steal, cheat, use violence. You'll just need to say you're fighting the epidemic, and you'll go unpunished," Czarzasty said.

Krzysztof Paszyk from the Polish Coalition moved for rejection of the laws, which he called "strange and harmful." Paszyk added that "legislation that licences impunity for politicians (...) belongs in the waste bin."

Grzegorz Braun from the Confederation said that if the laws are voted through, they will allow the authorities "to do anything." According to Krzysztof Bosak, a member of the same group, the legislation threatens to devastate Poland's legal system.

A motion against the legislation was also filed by main opposition group Civic Coalition (KO). On Tuesday, KO's Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska and Borys Budka called the laws "a legal bauble designed to ensure impunity for the government."

Explaining the motives behind the new legislation on Tuesday, government spokesperson Piotr Muller said their aim was to "regulate responses in high-alert situations."

Among other measures, the laws contain a clause lifting criminal responsibility from "persons who undertake action to protect health and life from the effects of the epidemic in violation of laws, procedures and duties, if they are acting in the public interest and if the actions would have not been possible or encumbered without committing the said violations."

The legislation has been sent back to Sejm committees after PiS MPs filed an amendment excluding corruptive acts from its impunity clauses. (PAP)