Amnesty ‘horrified’ at force used against Polish protesters

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Amnesty International said Friday that it was “horrified” that Polish authorities used “excessive” force, including the use of tear gas, against protesters this week.

The human rights group also expressed deep concerns at the detentions of protesters, who have been taking to the streets for weeks to show their anger at a near total ban on abortion.

The abortion ruling last month was issued by the constitutional court, which is under the political control of the populist conservative ruling party, Law and Justice.

The Amnesty International statement came after Polish police used tear gas and force on mostly female and young protesters Wednesday night, in an escalation of tensions in the country, and after police started detaining protesters.

It said it was “horrified to see excessive use of force by police, disproportionate charges used against protestors, and speeches from public officials that could encourage further violence toward them.”

Witnesses said that plainclothes officers entered the crowd of protesters Wednesday night, not all of whom were donning armbands identifying them as police, and used telescopic pipes to beat people.

Police have said that they had to use force in response to aggressive protesters. One key opposition lawmaker, Cezary Tomczyk, said in parliament on Thursday that police were lying and that the protesters were peaceful.

“Facing a near total ban on abortion, people in Poland have mobilized impressively,” said Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty’s Europe director. “However, not content with violating their reproductive rights, authorities have used this opportunity to also crack down on their right to peacefully protest,”

Political tensions have been extremely high in Poland since the constitutional court ruled last month to impose a near total ban on abortion.

The government has yet to publish the ruling in an official journal, which is a formal step required for it to take legal force, amid the huge pressure from the mass street protests.

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