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The Office of the State Commission for the Investigation of Cases of Acts Against Sexual Freedom and Decency against a Minor under 15 was established by a resolution of the Sejm on August 30, 2019. The commission did not begin accepting reports from victims until 15 months later, on November 24, 2020.
The commission's achievements are difficult to assess. When it was established, the public demanded state oversight of sexual abuse by priests and the Church's cover-up of such abuse. So far, the commission has collected around 100 reports in three months, only nine of which involve clergy.
Over the last week, a delegation of opposition MPs attempted to enter the commission's headquarters twice to conduct a parliamentary inspection. They were refused entry by Barbara Chrobak, acting as vice-chairwoman. She is a trusted ally of the national prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski, the second-in-command of Zbigniew Ziobro, the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General. Chrobak heads one of the regional party structures of Ziobro's Solidarna Polska.
- My attention was drawn to the fact that Chrobak was addressed by her assistant as 'Mrs. Minister' - says MP Joński. Why such a title?
"We are not subject to parliamentary oversight"
The commission has only begun to collect reports of crimes and abuses on November 24, 2020, and just one week later, on December 3, 2020, the commission's chairman Błażej Kmieciak (associated with the Catholic fundamentalist organization Ordo Iuris) asked the President of Poland for "the commission's members to be assigned the status of persons on a par with secretaries of state." In other words, deputy ministers.
In late December, Andrzej Duda issued an executive order which included the commission in the wage group to which secretaries of state are entitled. In addition, they receive special allowances, apartments (for people who are originally from outside of Warsaw) and near unlimited use of government-provided cars One of them takes the commission's chairman home every day, 110 km from Warsaw. The second is at the exclusive disposal of "Minister" Chrobak who, according to our sources, changed the internal regulations specifically for this purpose.
The commission occupies the entire 12th floor of the Spektrum Tower, a 30-storey opulent office building in the centre of the capital. The commission's rent is approximately 20 thousand euros per month. It employs 25 people in total.
The head of the commission commented on the attempt to conduct parliamentary control by three opposition MPs during an interview last Friday.
According to Kmieciak, "it was a political show". He argued that the commission"is not a government institution" and is therefore not subject to parliamentary scrutiny. He admitted that the visit of the parliamentarians "upset" him.
The chairman then added that he would not allow the MPs to conduct their inspection because he "was not going to disclose sensitive documents" since he "had to protect the victims." However, none of the MPs' questions concern the victims' sensitive information or the detailed content of the commission's documents, just about its general activities and expenses.
Barbara Chrobak, or "the minister is in control"
A few days ago, people who work for the commission approached our editorial office. In their opinion, "the institution is paralyzed" and the person who "really controls all its activities" is Barbara Chrobak.
In an anonymous note submitted by our informants, they write that employees are constantly harassed by Chrobak, they are not allowed to talk among themselves, they have to dress as the Commission wishes, they cannot eat together. They are even forbidden to communicate during meals, including in social rooms designated for that purpose."
Elsewhere, our informants describe that "Ms. Chrobak sent an office assistant home, demanding that she change into different clothes. Before she left, pictures were taken of the employee's attire.
Chrobak demands that everyone calls her "Mrs. Minister".
According to our interviews, she personally intervenes in equipment purchases, demanding more expensive office furniture and Apple phones instead of the Samsungs provided by the government administration.
She also uses a government-provided car for private purposes to the tune of 2,000 km per week. "The Minister" ordered to drive herself to her home near Wroclaw and back, despite the fact that she has a government-provided apartment in Warsaw provided by the government.
A gatekeeper defending the interests of the prosecutor's office
A quick scroll of Chrobak's Facebook page provides a lot of information about her stances. She is indeed using her profile to bring attention to the issue of sexual crimes against minors. However, she focuses on cases of child abuse by gay men described by the far-right media.
One of her comments accused the European Commission for allowing children to be treated as "goods for sale", with buyers consisting of "rich homosexuals who can afford to pay 90 thousand to 150 thousand dollars" per child.
Barbara Chrobak's candidacy to the commission was presented by the National Prosecutor's Office. Based on our findings, as deputy chairwoman she is supposed to oversee what cases from the prosecutor's office will go to the commission and what cases from the commission will go to the prosecutor's office.
According to the law, the commission has access to the case files and therefore has the theoretical possibility to evaluate the actions of the prosecutor's office and, if irregularities are detected, to notify the prosecutor's supervisory bodies. However, Chrobak's presence protects the prosecutor's office against such scenarios.
Curiously, the "minister" did not meet the statutory requirements to sit on the commission - she has no legal education, and only worked in the prosecutor's office in an administrative capacity. Fortunately for Chrobak, the ruling camp proved many times before that when there's a will, there's a way.
Last summer, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna revealed that at the height of the pandemic the anti-covid package unexpectedly included a provision concerning the commission investigating pedophilia. According to the amendment, a member of the commission can also be a person who holds one of the state's high honors. A few weeks earlier (the exact date was never revealed) President Duda awarded Barbara Chrobak the Silver Cross of Merit. The opposition protested against such a blatant stretching of the law, but to no avail - Barbara Chrobak joined the committee.
Like the other six members of the commission, her term will last for seven years. Even in case of a change in power, she appears to be well protected. The law stipulates that there needs to be a majority of three-fifths votes of the deputies present in the Sejm to appoint members of the commission. In order to dismiss someone from the commission, however, it requires an absolute majority of three-fifths of all MPs in a given term. This provides peace of mind and political cover for many more years of purchasing the newest iPhone models and using government cars freely at her disposals.
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