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- After the verdict of the Constitutional Tribunal that restricted abortion rights, huge emotions erupted, with hundreds of thousand of Poles taking to the streets. How do you assess the actions of the police against people who protested? - A TVN 24 journalist asked the Duda - 'Even now, teenagers are still being dragged to police stations because they attended the Women's Strike or encouraged others to participate. Is that OK? - he added.
- I must tell you that the police in Poland behave in a really professional way. Please note that in our country there are no cases of anyone being killed by the officers during any protests. In contrast, in countries like France or in the United States, nobody is surprised that...[there are civilian casualties of police intervention] - Duda replied.
- But the fact that someone didn't die is not a sufficient reason to positively assess the actions of the police - protested the journalist. - It should be a reason. The police are there to maintain order. And the police do their job. If they do it in such a way that there are no victims, it means that they are doing it in an exemplary manner," Duda retorted.
Asked about the brutal pulling of people out of the crowd by plainclothes policemen, he repeated: - The police act professionally, and their job is sometimes to act firmly. Especially against people who are genuinely disruptive and dangerous.
The president argued that such a police response also helps those being detained. - It happens partly also for their safety, so that they do not remain at the centre of the conflict that they are escalating. The police actions serve to defuse emotions and remove those who could cross a line.
What about the female MPs who were holding their parliamentary IDs in their hands and got tear gassed by the police? - We should never judge such situations as appropriate, but as we all know, when the wood is chopped, the splinters fly and when someone gets into the so-called cauldron, such a situation will happen. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. This also shows the professionalism of our police".
Duda's "Professional police" broke Aleksandra’s arm
Duda's words contradict the stories of those detained after the Women's Strike protests. The most famous case of police brutality is the story of activist Aleksandra who was detained in December. The 20-year-old student first found herself in a "cauldron," then an officer allegedly choked her by pulling her scarf, before twisting her arm with such force that the bone broke in several places.
With her arm broken, Alexandra was allegedly thrown into a police car, where she was not given medical attention for about 45 minutes. A doctor later qualified the fracture for surgical treatment.
"If the assembled people had not broken the law, there would have been no need to intervene and, consequently, no need for direct coercive measures," commented Superintendent Supt. Sylwester Marczak, spokesman for the Capital Police Headquarters. - The person who suffered the injury resisted. She would be fine if she had just followed the orders of the intervening officers. - He argued.
- It's not true that I resisted, in the video posted on social media you can see that I'm walking to the police car on my own, but I'm screaming because a policeman was breaking my arm at that very moment," Aleksandra told us.
New report on the use of torture: “You are a piece of sh*t”
Duda's words also contradict the findings of experts who visited police stations after the detention of protesters. The report on police actions was prepared by lawyers from the National Torture Prevention Mechanism. It operates under the Office of the Ombudsman and monitors places of custody based on the provisions of the UN Convention against the use of torture. The main conclusion of the report is that the "police treated detainees at demonstrations brutally".
"What is most disturbing is the brutality of the police during interventions, the unjustified use of tear gas, handcuffs, beatings with batons and insults" - noted the experts after 21 visits during the Women's Strike protests in the fall. In the report, they cite accounts of people claiming they were beaten with batons even when they stopped running from police officers and lied down on the ground. To one of these people the policemen allegedly said: "You are a piece of sh*t, you should not be here". Another interlocutor relayed that an officer hit him in the face. Yet another allegedly was pressed firmly to the ground by the police officer's knees, and kicked in the stomach and his groin. In some cases, the representatives from the National Torture Prevention Mechanism observed and documented injuries.
According to the experts' findings, the detainees were not properly informed of their rights, and there were many young people among them who were detained for the first time in their lives. Police officers routinely applied personal checks (stripping naked and squatting) to detainees - some of them were subjected to that several times. The detainees were taken outside of Warsaw, including to Legionowo, Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Piaseczno, Pułtusk or Ostrołęka, about 130 km from the capital, although there was room in the Warsaw police stations. "This was happening without justification". - argued the experts.
Police brutality: official reports show professionalism, but the recordings tell another story
Detainees did not always have access to a lawyer, and often did not have access to a doctor. One of the detained persons was run over by a car, but the police officers, despite requests, did not call a doctor. They wrote in the interrogation protocol that the detainee's health condition was "good."
Serious discrepancies in documentation were discovered by the torture prevention experts in the case of a man detained for allegedly insulting a police officer. The man had traces of injuries to his face, throat area, arms and legs and was in a bad mental state. He said police officers had choked him inside the police van, as well as kicked him beat him with fists while wearing leather gloves. The police officers also allegedly made fun of his sexual orientation.
The man complained that he was also brutally treated in the detoxification detention centre where he was taken by the police and did not receive medical assistance there. "He reported that he was subjected to the use of torture by the police, which the staff of the centre downplayed. They decided to follow the police's version that the detainee was aggressive and denied him the assistance of a lawyer." - the experts noted.
When the representatives of the National Torture Prevention Mechanism requested documentation, including recordings from the detoxification detention centre, it turned out that what can be seen on the recordings does not match the reports contained in the official documents. The recordings show that the man was not behaving in an aggressive manner, despite the official report claiming that he was in a physically hostile way. The detainee repeatedly demanded contact with an attorney. The report states that he did not ask for it.
The man filed a complaint against the police officers and the staff of the detoxification detention centre. The Ombudsman then forwarded the complaint to the prosecutor's office. The latter refused to open an investigation.
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