Polish Constitutional Court says stop segregating people with disabilities

The Polish Constitutional Court has ruled that laws allowing guardians to detain people in social care institutions without court’s supervision are unconstitutional. This landmark judgment should change the law for an estimated 12,500 people under guardianship living in institutions. 

Polish Constitutional Tribunal, source: euobserver.com

In 2002, Mr Stanislaw Kędzior’s brother was his guardian and sent him to a social care institution. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights helped Mr Kędzior to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, and MDAC sent a submission to the court. In 2012, the Court’s judgment criticised the system allowing guardians to institutionalise people. Mr Kędzior still lives in an institution and his brother is still his guardian. The compensation ordered by the Strasbourg court was allegedly misspent by the brother and Mr Kędzior’s never had access to the money.

The Polish Government has done nothing to change the system since the Strasbourg court judgment, so the Helsinki Foundation asked the Ombudsman to file a complaint at the Constitutional Court, which the Ombudsman did last year.

Marcin Szwed is a lawyer at the Helsinki Foundation. He said:

“The parliament should reform the whole system of assistance provided for people with mental disabilities, including abolishing the archaic, rigid model of guardianship and widening access to non-discriminatory, inclusive means of social assistance.” 

Poland, like many other countries in Europe, still has guardianship laws that strip away autonomy and dignity, and facilitate exploitation, abuse and segregation. MDAC has been working across Europe to change these systems. Ann Campbell, MDAC Litigation Director, said:

“In supporting the Helsinki Foundation, we at MDAC call on the Polish Government to amend the law, remove restrictions for people to become the author of their own lives, and to put in place a system where they can access supports.” 

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