Thanks to the latest resolution of the Council of Europe, the Open Dialogue Foundation’s Lyudmyla Kozlovska hopes that she will be able to effectively appeal the ban on entering Poland and learn the reasons for her expulsion by the Polish authorities. “The Council of Europe stands up for foreigners prosecuted for political reasons,” said Kozlovska in an interview for the ‘Wyborcza’ magazine.
“Today the European Union has no mechanism to effectively defend human rights defenders when a country aims to destroy them. I have been experiencing this personally for five years, but thanks to the recent moves of the Council of Europe, I am beginning to see an opportunity for a change of this situation and for better protection against persecution,” said Ukrainian Lyudmyla Kozlovska, the president of the Open Dialogue Foundation, which engages in the defence of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Poland and Eastern European countries.
Ban on entry into Poland without giving a reason
Since 2017, the activist, the foundation and its employees have been targeted by PiS politicians and the media that support them. At that time, Kozlovska’s husband, Bartosz Kramek, published the article “Let the state come to a stop: let’s shut down the government” during the mass social protests against the PiS laws on the Supreme Court, the National Council of the Judiciary and the common courts. Referring to the experiences of the Ukrainian Maidan, Kramek recommended civil disobedience – from general strikes to a tent city in front of Jarosław Kaczyński’s house.
This triggered an avalanche of attacks on the Open Dialogue Foundation, and in 2018, the Head of the Internal Security Agency entered Kozlovska into the Schengen Information System and marked her with the highest alert. This meant that the activist who had a Ukrainian passport was banned from entering most EU countries, including Poland. She found out about it when she landed at Brussels airport.
Since then, Lyudmyla Kozlovska has been struggling to regain her rights. She was supported by other European countries, granting her the right to stay on their territory. Such decisions were taken by Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland. “In this way, they gave a signal that they did not agree to use international legal instruments to persecute someone whom the authorities of another country consider to be an inconvenient person. This mode of action has been tried many times by Russia, which has used Interpol’s international arrest warrants against its political opponents,” said Kozlovska.
In the end, after almost a year-long struggle, the details of the president of the Open Dialogue Foundation were deleted from the Schengen Information System. Polish authorities were forced to remove Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s record. However, she still cannot enter Poland, although the decision to expel her from the country was overturned by the Voivodeship Administrative Court in Warsaw, considering that there was not enough evidence to prohibit Kozlovska from entering Poland. “To this day, I have not learned the justification for the decision of the Internal Security Agency. Unofficially, I know that the basis for this action was the two-page report about me and our foundation, prepared on the basis of propaganda materials and fake news from Moldova, Kazakhstan and Russia,” she said in her interview for ‘Wyborcza’.
The Council of Europe in defence of foreigners
For years, the Open Dialogue Foundation has sought to amend the provisions of the Schengen Information System in the EU institutions and the Council of Europe, so that a person subject to a ban on moving around the area can appeal against it and learn the reasons for the decision.
This is the direction of the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted last week, which calls on the Member States to stop the abuse of the Schengen Information System by the unjustified inclusion of people for, among others, political reasons. It also calls for the creation of effective legal mechanisms for persons entered in the SIS. “The resolution was prepared in cooperation with all the major European institutions, on the basis of the Council of Europe’s report on SIS. There is a deep understanding of the situation of foreigners who have always had fewer rights, so the Council of Europe is asking for the possibility of effective defence, especially in the case of prosecution for political reasons,” explained Kozlovska. The resolution must now be translated into EU law by the European Parliament or be implemented at the level of the national parliaments of the Member States.
Open Dialogue defends its reputation in court
At the same time, proceedings brought before Polish courts by Kozlovska and Kramek against the politicians of the ruling camp and the media related to them are pending. These are over 20 cases concerning, among others, Witold Waszczykowski, Joachim Brudziński, Maciej Wąsik, Patryk Jaki, Krystyna Pawłowicz, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Ryszard Czarnecki, Szymon Szynkowski, Dominik Tarczyński, Tomasz Sakiewicz, and Witold Gadowski, as well as TVP, Polskie Radio i Fratria – the published of the pro-PiS ‘wPolityce.pl’ website and the ‘Sieci’ weekly magazine. In total, the activists demand almost PLN 1.7 million.
“Thousands of defamatory texts in many languages have been produced on the basis of these people’s statements,” said the president of the foundation. “This has been reflected in every aspect of our lives, and defending a good name requires great commitment and resources. The attack by the Polish government has even affected our business in Belgium, because the foundation’s bank accounts were closed,” she added.
A few days ago, in the headquarters of the Council of Europe, the Open Dialogue Foundation organised a discussion panel on the rule of law in Poland. A day later, around 20 amateur posters with images of Lyudmyla Kozlovska and a human rights defender from Kazakhstan, Botagoz Jardemalie, appeared in the building, informing that activists were illegally arriving at the Council’s headquarters. “If you see these persons, call security”, the posters read. “We are not yet sure who did it, but we see it as a small revenge for the resolution adopted by the Council of Europe”, said Lyudmyla Kozlovska.