There were reports of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in ''sobering-up'' centres. The authorities appeared to condone the ill-treatment of new recruits to the army. Some Roma were inadequately protected from racist violence.
Arbitrary detention and ill-treatment
There was concern that a 1982 law which allows people to be held for up to 24 hours in ''sobering-up centres'' was used by police officers to detain people arbitrarily. Under this law, detention is not subjected to judicial review. Many of those detained under this law complained that they were ill-treated by officers working in the centres, but investigations appeared to have been conducted only in cases of grave injury or death in custody.
In April the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the detention of Witold Litwa had been in violation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Witold Litwa had been arrested by police officers in a post office in Kraków in May 1994, following a complaint by postal clerks that he was drunk and behaving offensively. He was then taken by police officers to a ''sobering-up'' centre where he was beaten by police officers and ill-treated by staff.
In May, 28-year-old Robert M. was stopped by police at a railway station in Warsaw and taken to the ''sobering-up'' centre in Kolska Street. According to the police, he was so drunk he could not travel on his own. It later came to light that he had a relatively low level of alcohol in his blood and that during a medical examination he had been conscious, in good physical condition with a normal pulse and blood pressure. In the morning he was taken unconscious to a hospital where he died following an operation in which a haematoma was removed from his brain. The doctor who operated on him reportedly said: ''He didn't stand a chance. If he was conscious on entering the 'sobering-up centre', his injuries must have happened there.'' An investigation into Robert M.'s death was reportedly under way at the end of the year.
The humiliation and abuse of new recruits was believed to be endemic in the army. The Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights expressed concern that military commanders failed to tackle the routine ill-treatment of younger soldiers.
In February Polish television broadcast a documentary film about the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, based at Tomaszów Mazowiecki. The documentary showed non-commissioned officers tormenting conscripts with verbal abuse, and humiliating them during training. In April, two corporals of this brigade were reportedly convicted by a military court for forcing two conscripts who were caught smoking to perform press-ups while wearing gas masks containing 10 lighted cigarettes.
In February, seven former senior conscripts went on trial before the Szczecin Garrison Court for forcing younger colleagues to ''play sheep'', which involved crawling around on the floor and hitting their heads against the wall. Junior conscripts were also forced to wear dog collars and walk on a lead, and were undressed and sexually assaulted.
In June the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance expressed concern about racially motivated violence against Roma. The Commission noted that according to some reports, the police response to such acts was slow and investigations inadequate. The Commission also expressed concern about allegations of police violence and called on the authorities to investigate all alleged malpractice and to punish offenders.
In August, in Tarnów, two masked men broke into the home of Agata Ciureja, a 32-year-old Romani mother of six, and attacked her with an axe, causing injuries which required hospitalization. Agata Ciureja told a local Romani organization that she believed that the attackers were members of a group of about 20 skinheads who had broken into her apartment about three weeks previously, in an attempt to scare her out of the neighbourhood. At the time the police detained two suspects who were subsequently released. Following the second attack Agata Ciureja went into hiding. Link