Polish Authorities Continue to Attack Human Rights Defenders Near the Belarus Border
By Brian Dooley and Maya Fernandez-Powell
Polish authorities continue to target Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) providing humanitarian and legal aid to refugees crossing the border from Belarus, say local activists, who fear attacks on them could increase as the country’s general election approaches in the fall.
They report being judicially harassed, criminalized, threatened, and physically attacked. They say that in an ominous new development this year, the Internal Security Agency has summoned nine people for questioning in relation to human rights work at the border. Some are accused of conspiring with the Belarussian authorities.
Since 2021, when large numbers of people began to cross from Belarus into Poland, Human Rights First has been documenting attacks on local activists providing humanitarian and other aid to refugees.
Tens of thousands of people have attempted to cross from Belarus into Poland over the last two years. Most come from the Middle East or Africa and are often fleeing conflict. Many are women and small children.
The Belarussian government, a close ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, has lured many of them with promises of taking them to the border of the European Union. Belarus aims to cause problems for the European Union by pushing people across its borders with Poland (and, less frequently, into Latvia and Lithuania.)
People attempting to come into Poland from Belarus – unlike those fleeing the war in Ukraine – have often been met with hostility and violence by Polish border guards and other security forces. Polish authorities also continue to target local human rights activists who give humanitarian aid to those crossing.