White House Should Address Poland’s Democratic Decline, Not Military Aid During Duda Visit
Washington, D.C.— In advance of next week’s White House visit by Polish President Andrzej Duda, Human Rights First calls on the Trump Administration to raise the Polish government’s continued move towards authoritarian rule and assault on democratic norms. The visit comes as Duda seeks to cement a military partnership with the United States, including by welcoming a U.S. military base in the country.
“President Duda is seeking military support from the United States to ostensibly bolster his country’s national security, while his party has decimated its judiciary and undermined democratic institutions that themselves help guarantee that security,” said Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper. “If President Trump stays true to form, he will likely not raise Duda’s actions during the visit, but that is shortsighted and counterproductive. If the United States hopes to have lasting allies in the region, it cannot ignore such blatant violations of democratic norms.”
Human Rights First today released a new issue brief documenting Law and Justice’s attacks on Poland’s military and intelligence service. The brief features interviews with judges, officials, and former military leaders forced out of service because they gave less than full-throated support to Law and Justice policies, or even because they were perceived to disagree with them—tactics used in the past against the court system, media, and civil service. Using party loyalty tests to staff non-political bodies, such as the judiciary and military, risk a serious loss of professionalism and diminish the ability of these bodies to protect rights and freedoms in a democratic society.
“If the United States is going to provide military support to Poland, it should make sure it will be used in service of mutual interests and values,” added Hooper. “Assistance must only be provided after a review of the functioning of major institutions and rule of law to ensure that the aid will be used to help bolster democracy.”
Since the Law and Justice party took power in 2015, Human Rights First has monitored the erosion of democratic norms in Poland, reporting on the politicization of the country’s judiciary and the crackdown on civil society.