JUSTICIA European Rights Network expresses its deep concerns on the decision of Poland to introduce a possibility to sentence a convict for a whole life sentence

14June2019

The members of the JUSTICIA European Rights Network (a coalition of the European leading civil liberties organizations working on the right to a fair trial) would like to express their deep concerns regarding the recent Polish Parliament decision to adopt an amendment to the Criminal Code introducing a possibility to sentence a convict for a whole life sentence.

Pursuant to the newly adopted provision the Criminal Court will have a power to exclude the possibility of conditionalearly release whenever the nature or circumstances of convict’s crime, as well as its personal characteristics, indicate that the convicted person’srelease from prison will result in a permanent threat to the life, health, liberty orsexual freedom of any other person. Moreover, the Court will also be able to make a similar decision in the case of convicts who were previously sentenced to life imprisonment.The JUSTICIA European Rights Network would like to emphasize that these provisions raise serious concerns regarding theircompatibility with the Conventionfor the Protection of Human Rightsand Fundamental Freedoms(the “Convention”). The European Court of Human Rights has on numerous occasionspointed out that all life prisoners cannot be denied a prospect of a release and they should have a possibility to apply for the review of their sentence1.Otherwise, their punishment will result in inhuman treatment violating requirements arising from art. 3 of the Convention. This is also required by other international human rights standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, for example,indicates that the essential aim of the penitentiary system should be a prisoner’s reformation and social rehabilitation. Moreover, theCouncil of 1See e.g.: ECtHR judgement (Grand Chamber) of 9 July 2013 in the case Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom, application no. 66069/09; ECtHR judgement (Grand Chamber) of 26 April 2016 in the case Murray v. Netherlands, application no. 10511/10;ECtHR judgement of 4 October 2016 in the case T.P. and A.T. v. Hungary, application no. 37871/14

Europe Recommendationsindicate conditional release to be available to all sentenced prisoners, including life–sentenced prisoners2.Likewise, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CPT”) has indicated its serious reservations regarding countries which have introduced whole life sentence. In the CPT’s opinion,imprisonment for life without any real hope of releasehas constitutesinhumantreatment.3Therefore, the members of JUSTICIA European Rights Network hope that Polish authorities will revoke proposed changes in Criminal Code and ensure compliance of the national system of conditional release with the requirements of the Council of Europe. As a result, we call upon the President of Poland to veto the proposed amendment. The adoption of this law will significantly underminehuman rights in Poland. 2Recommendation Rec(2003)22 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on conditional release (parole)3Situation of life-sentenced prisoners, Extract from the 25th General Report of the CPT, published in 2016, available at: https://rm.coe.int/16806cc447

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