Following our support of the Resolution on the independence of judges, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on January 26th, ODF became a target for representatives of the Polish PiS government, whose actions were harshly criticised in the Resolution. PiS MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk, supported by British Conservative Ian Liddell-Grainger, initiated a series of actions based on manipulative and false claims, which we aim to debunk below.
- On 4-5th March, two news items have been circulating concerning the PACE resolution on the independence of judges, adopted on 26th Jan. – One concerns a letter from ECR leader in PACE, British Conservative Ian Liddell-Grainger (ILG) to PACE President Rik Daems; ILG suggests unauthorised access by ODF to PACE information and premises. The second is a request by Polish PiS MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk to Polish Sejm Speaker Witek “to investigate the influence of the Open Dialogue Foundation on Polish parliamentarians in the Council of Europe and its influence on the adoption of resolutions and amendments unfavourable to the Polish state”. ILG’s letter was most likely sent at Mularczyk’s request (ILG himself mentioned “complaints at a group meeting” of the ECR).
- The news appeared in the media thanks to several Polish Press Agency (PAP) dispatches, updated several times, and Mularczyk’s social media. They were copied by a number of pro-government media, including TVP Info, TVP2 (Panorama), wPolityce.pl, TV Republika; some of them had additional input by Mularczyk.
- According to these stories, ODF was supposed to ‘dictate’ ‘anti-Polish’ amendments to the aforementioned resolution to opposition PACE parliamentarians, as well as to influence their activities in other ways (incl. financial incentives, i.e. bribery).
What is the manipulation of Mularczyk and the above-mentioned outlets?
- ODF has been participating in the work of PACE for many years, receiving official access to the buildings of the Council of Europe and participating in every plenary session by advocating for human rights and since 2017 also for the rule of law in Poland – this is not a secret. NGOs from other countries function the same way, lobbying for issues that are important to them. It is standard procedure, as allowed by PACE regulations; ODF has no secret access to rooms, information, or floors closed to others (contrary to ILG’s suggestions).
- By opposing to this practice, Mularczyk aims to limit the transparency of PACE and exclude inconvenient NGOs from its work. Unlike the Sejm (lower chamber of Polish parliament), PACE is not surrounded by barriers and its management does not ban civil activists from entering it, as the Speaker of the Sejm and the Chief of the Marshal’s Guard do.
- ODF and other similar NGOs fighting for the rule of law in Poland (such as Wolne Sądy [Free Courts] and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights) cannot dictate anything to MPs, but only make proposals and provide expertise, e.g. in the form of reports gathering information about specific violations. ODF cooperates in this respect with the “Themis” Association of Judges and this cooperation is communicated publicly. Just on March 4th we held a public hearing of persecuted prosecutors from the Lex Super Omnia association and judge Dariusz Mazur from Themis for the European Parliament (3rd hearing on the topic we’ve organised with MEPs).
- It may happen that NGOs seek specific amendments to PACE resolutions, but these can only be submitted by parliamentarians – members of PACE. They must then be voted through. All this is governed by detailed procedures. There is no evidence or even reasonable grounds to believe that they have been broken. If an NGO even writes about ‘its amendments’, it means the ones it has advocated or provided expertise for. It is clear that experienced parliamentarians make their own decisions on whether or not to table amendments.
- We were seeking this particular resolution back when we convinced MPs to prepare a ‘motion for a resolution’ in 2018. Our allies at the time included MEPs Frank Schwabe (Germany), Petra De Sutter (Belgium) and Roberto Rampi (Italy), all of whom are often involved in human rights topics.
- To suggest corrupt incentives on the part of ODF, or even “paying off” PACE members, is an insinuation that qualifies for slander and personal rights lawsuits. There is no evidence for this and such suggestions are completely absurd. ODF has already filed approx. 20 such lawsuits due to the massive propaganda campaign of PiS and the “media” supporting them. Lately, TVP (state TV) was forced by a court order to stamp articles with special clauses and remove some articles about us.
- Mularczyk has a personal grudge against ODF, because we publicly exposed his lies – when he failed to water down a resolution on the Polish judiciary, very critical towards PiS, he tried to discredit the rapporteur – Italian MP and former Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando. Mularczyk accused him of refusing to come to Poland for meetings with representatives of institutions such as the neo-National Judiciary Council and Julia Przyłębska’s Constitutional Tribunal, suggesting that his report – on which the resolution adopted on 26 January was based – was one-sided. In fact, on December 1st, 2020, on Mularczyk’s initiative, a videoconference was held with the participation not only of the heads of the above-mentioned institutions, but also of many other government agencies and de facto subordinates of the government responsible for the broadly defined justice system in Poland. This form of meeting was suggested by Mularczyk himself because of the pandemic.
- The ECR chairman in PACE, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP – an authority for Polish pro-government media – is an extremely controversial figure. He is a member of the far-right wing of the Conservative Party. In the past he has been described as, among other things, “the Trump of Somerset” and “a disgrace to the Conservative Party“. He is known for his nepotism (he is the only MP to employ his wife and two children at the expense of the UK Parliament), his consistent opposition to nature conservation projects, his regular conflicts with his constituency council, his uncensored verbal attacks on others, his jokes exceeding the limits of good taste, his making of unfounded allegations etc. He advocates for a close alliance with extreme nationalist European parties such as the Alternative for Germany and the Italian Northern League.
- ILG lies that “at least one person” from ODF is banned from entering the Schengen area – such a person, for a short time in 2018, was ODF President Lyudmyla Kozlovska, but this ban (issued by Poland) was ignored by other countries as politically motivated and removed after Lyudmyla was granted permanent residence by Belgium – still in 2019. Funny enough, ILG publicly argued in PACE, in Strasbourg, with Lyudmyla herself a year ago.
- The attacks on us in pro-government media are based on false, often ridiculous accusations. Their context, like “problems with the Internal Security Agency”, was debunked, among others, by Onet.pl and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, and confirmed by 3 court verdicts, which concluded that the authorities had no basis for their actions against ODF President Lyudmyla Kozlovska and the entire dossier against us is “vague”, “sketchy” and “insufficient to reach any conclusions”. The third verdict was announced at the same time as Mularczyk’s ‘revelations’, hence it’s entirely possible that his attack served to cover the news of the verdict.