Polish PM angers human rights campaigners with plans to shake up NGOs (The Guardian)

Beata Szydło. Photograph via Creative Commons

The Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło, has angered human rights campaigners by announcing plans for a new department of civil society to centralise state funding and “bring order to the whole sphere of NGOs”.

Too many non-governmental organisations were still “subordinate to the policies of the previous ruling system”, Szydło told reporters last week. She and other senior Polish ministers from the rightwing Law and Justice party were due in London on Monday for talks with the British government.

The move could allow the Polish government to put pressure on NGOs who have criticised ministers over human rights issues. 

Activists accused ministers of grandstanding over attacks on Poles in Britain after the 23 June referendum to leave the European Union, while sabotaging efforts to respond to rising levels of hate crime at home.

Earlier this month, Poland’s interior ministry merged its human rights protection team, which worked with NGOs on hate crime and human rights issues, into a larger department dealing with European migration and anti-trafficking efforts.

In a statement, the interior ministry insisted the team’s staff would carry on with the same work as before, but a source close to the ministry told the Guardian it was “a clear attempt to weaken its role by removing its autonomy”.

In May, the Polish government abolished the state council for combating racism despite a steep rise in the number of investigations launched by prosecutors into allegations of discrimination and hate crime; up from 60 in 2009 to 1,500 in 2015. Law and Justice argued that the council had been ineffective, but did not propose any alternative arrangements.

My report for the Guardian can be found here.

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