Father Olszewski is being detained in connection with a corruption probe against politicians from the former ruling Conservative s (PiS) Source: Profeto Youtube


Allegations of priest’s torture in custody outrage Poland

The priest claims he had been denied food for almost 60 hours, was forced to beg for water, and was ordered to urinate in a bottle when he requested to use the toilet.


Claims regarding the alleged maltreatment of a detained priest in Poland have prompted outrage in the country.

An investigation by Poland’s Commissioner for Human Rights Marian Wiącek has been launched into the alleged mistreatment of Father Michał Olszewski, who was arrested earlier this year over accusations he acted illegally on behalf of politicians from the previous Conservative (PiS) government.

Father Olszewski, who is the head of the Profeto Foundation in Warsaw, was detained in March after being accused of receiving money from the “Justice Fund” dedicated to helping victims of crimes. The current government alleges that cash was used for party political purposes by then PiS justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro and his associates.

Polish portal wPolityce.pl has published letters sent by the priest from his cell which allege that, while being taken to prison, he was publicly humiliated at a petrol station by being “paraded” in handcuffs to the lavatory.

The priest claimed he was subsequently denied food for almost 60 hours while in custody, was forced to beg for water, and was ordered to urinate in a bottle when he requested to use the toilet.

He added that his sleep schedule in custody was disrupted by bright lights being shone at him at hourly intervals throughout the night, and that he had been told that he was under special surveillance.

A district court in Warsaw recently extended Father Olszewski’s detention by another three months. Poland has been criticised before by watchdogs such as Amnesty International for lengthy detentions of suspects before they are charged. All such detentions are based on court orders.

The priest’s attorney, Krzysztof Wąsowski, called the alleged treatment of Father Olszewski  “a scandal on at least a European scale” and reminiscent of the communist era of repression in the 1950s.

He claimed detaining his client was unnecessary and seemed to be designed to force the priest to admit to the allegations and to provide evidence that could lead to other individuals being charged.

Wąsowski added that the practices of denying water and toilet access have been classified as torture and degrading treatment under international conventions such as the 1984 UN Convention against Torture.

The Polish prison service issued a statement on July 2 denying the claims and expressing “surprise” at Father Olszewski’s allegations. It argued that “the priest has been in detention for over three months and has not until now produced any allegations of mistreatment”.

PiS MPs said they were preparing to report the matter to the UN.

PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) on July 2 that Father Olszewski “was the subject of torture and those responsible for this abuse will face consequences in the future”.

Tusk has alleged Kaczyński may be guilty of criminally failing to report the abuse of public money from the Justice Fund and has publicly called on the prosecutors to speed up their investigations.

PiS politicians denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the funds were allocated in accordance with the procedures governing the use of the fund.

The current ruling majority’s representatives claimed the money was used in part to pay for some PiS politicians’ political campaigning and cited a letter from Kaczynski to Ziobro, published by daily Gazeta Wyborcza on 1 July, in which the PiS leader warned Ziobro against misusing resources from the  Justice Fund.