After the ‘Wyborcza’ daily revealed the controversial practices of the Polish Hotel Holding (PHH), 25 MPs submitted a request to the Council of Europe’s Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee to investigate the information about the potential surveillance of the opposition in hotels managed by the said company.
If the request is accepted, a rapporteur designate by the committee will visit Poland to assess whether illegal surveillance is being conducted by secret services against people associated with the opposition in hotels of the Polish Hotel Holding.
Persons who may have been subjected to surveillance include Belarusian opposition activist Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Bartosz Kramek of the Open Dialogue Foundation and Polish opposition activists.
The Polish Hotel Holding, which manages the hotels where the illegal practices allegedly took place, plays the key role in the whole scandal. Two key pieces of evidence exist in the context of the discussed case. The first is an e-mail dated 9 September 2020, sent by Gheorghe Cristescu, the President of the Polish Hotel Holding (PHH), to Law and Justice MP Joachim Brudziński. In this message, the President of the PHH informs Brudziński about a meeting planned to be held on the next day between Polish opposition leaders and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya at the PHH-managed Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Warsaw. The e-mail message contains detailed information about the event, such as the hour, venue, list of participants and security measures in place.
The second piece of evidence is the notarised statement of Robert Z., the security manager of the Polish Hotel Holding. In this statement, Robert Z. claims that his duties at the PHH included secret cooperation with special services and surveillance of Bartosz Kramek in accordance with their instructions. Robert Z. also highlights that Maciej Wąsik, the Deputy Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration and Law and Justice (PiS) MP, knew about the case.
Despite the publication of this information, the Polish Hotel Holding disputed the words of Robert Z. and maintained that no illegal practices were conducted by special services in the company’s hotels and that the cooperation with the secret services was within the limits set by the law. Nonetheless, the Polish Hotel Holding did not deny that the President of the Polish Hotel Holding, Gheorghe Marian Cristescu, conveyed information to Law and Justice (PiS) MP Joachim Brudziński about a meeting of opposition activists in a hotel owned by the PHH.
The initiator of the initiative is Krzysztof Śmiszek, a New Left (Nowa Lewica) MP, who collected the required signatures together with other members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Śmiszek emphasized a quick response and interest in the matter on the part of MPs from various countries, which shows their awareness of the threats to democracy in Poland.
If the Council of Europe accepts the request, the opening of an investigation could lead to a full and transparent clarification of PHH’s role in this controversial case, as well as to an examination of the potential consequences for all the parties involved. Therefore, the applicants look forward to a fair and impartial investigation and a possible appeal to the Polish authorities to cease such practices.