2023/ 2024

Grażyna Baranowska / Mobility Phase: Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Warsaw

Is Poland’s Rule of Law Crisis Affecting Its Border Practices at the Polish–Belarus Border?

Grażyna Baranowska is affiliated with two academic institutions: the Hertie School in Berlin and the Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. At the Hertie School, she leads a project funded by the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which seeks to identify and interpret international legal obligations regarding ‘missing migrants’. As an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences she also collaborates in the project MEMOCRACY, which scrutinizes the intersection of memory laws and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. In the past, she was among others a Post-Doctoral researcher at EU-funded project on Memory Laws in European and Comparative Perspective, worked as policy advisor at the German Institute for Human Rights, and was involved in the process of drafting the General Comment on enforced disappearances and migration for the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances. In 2022, she was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as an independent expert of the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances.

Deaths and Disappearances at the Polish-Belarusian Border

Since 2021, deliberate actions by Belarusian state authorities have led to a vast increase of people irregularly crossing the border from Belarus into the EU. Instead of addressing this humanitarian crisis, the Polish government worsened it by responding with pushbacks, which were grounded in domestic law, in violation of its international obligations and domestic law. Those actions worsened the crisis, which lead to many deaths and disappearances.

The aim of the project is to assess how Poland’s framework on missing persons has been applied to disappearances and unidentified deaths on the border, as well as provide recommendations for improvements. The project will engage with humanitarian activists, who have so far recorded deaths and disappearances. Furthermore, together with civil society, a monitoring of police stations will be conducted, to understand how claims to search for missing migrants have been accepted and processed.