The Ombudsman, Marcin Wiącek, asked Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to adjust the principles of surveillance to constitutional and European standards. He stated that “generally” Polish law on surveillance does not meet these standards and that the control over collecting information about citizens is “illusory”.
Marcin Wiącek states that “generally Polish law on surveillance does not meet constitutional and European standards”. “Control over collecting information about citizens is illusory – it should be exercised by an independent body that would also investigate complaints” – he added.
Therefore, the Ombudsman asked the Prime Minister to take “urgent measures to bring the applicable legal status in this area into line with constitutional and European standards”.
At the same time, the ombudsman asked for “any information on the activities undertaken so far, in particular on the analyzes and legislative work that had been started prior to the preparation of an appropriate draft of a normative act – if such had been undertaken”. “Moreover, I would like to kindly ask for a detailed reference to all the issues and doubts raised by the Commissioner for Human Rights,” Wiącek asked the prime minister.
Questions about the permissibility of using Pegasus
Wiącek pointed out that the Office of the Human Rights Defender receives inquiries from citizens about the “admissibility of using Pegasus spy software in the course of operational controls”.
“The Ombudsman would like to remind you that he has repeatedly submitted applications regarding the necessity to undertake legislative work in connection with the non-compliance of surveillance provisions with the – respectively – constitutional standards, defined by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal, as well as international and EU standards, as defined in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice EU. Failure to take any corrective action in the field of legislation requires another intervention on the part of the Ombudsman, “the letter reads. It cites the jurisprudence of the above-mentioned tribunals.
Postulates of the Human Rights Defender
In his speech to the head of government, the spokesman made a reservation that he did not question – in line with the judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal – the need to conduct such surveillance activities in situations that “are justified and assuming that they are undertaken in accordance with the principle of proportionality”.
The Ombudsman, however, recalled his earlier – developed in cooperation with experts – postulates relating to this issue. These demands indicated, inter alia, the need to establish a special independent body that would supervise the activities of secret services and could consider complaints about their activities. In addition, it was proposed to “grant an individual the right to be informed of interest by authorized institutions and the right to access the collected data”.
Pegas surveillance case
A group of researchers from Citizen Lab, operating at the University of Toronto, in the expert opinion showed that in Poland, under surveillance with the Pegasus software, were attorney Roman Giertych, prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek and KO senator Krzysztof Brejza. The fact that Brejza was under surveillance was also confirmed independently Amnesty International. According to Citizen Lab the senator was under surveillance 33 times before the 2019 parliamentary elections, when he was the head of the KO campaign.
In an interview for the weekly “Sieci” Deputy prime minister for security and PiS president Jarosław Kaczyński confirmed that the government had bought Pegasus, but assessed that the issue of surveillance with this system was “a scandal out of nothing”. Kaczyński also downplayed the doubts related to the purchase of Pegasus from the Justice Fund.
Main photo source: Marcin Obara / PAP