EDPI Partner from Poland
Master of Law, lawyer at the Polish Drug Policy Network’s Ombudsman for Addicts Program, and Jump 93 Association, chairwoman of the Polish Drug Policy Network
She conducts the Ombudsman for Addicts program. Within the project, she provides legal advice and draws up pleadings for people with legal problems or questions associated with drug use, drug addiction or possession of illicit psychoactive substances. In addition, in cooperation with other lawyers, she coordinates a team of 10 Warsaw University students, who also give legal advice to the same target group on behalf of the Law Clinic’s special section for Harm Reduction. The Ombudsman’s Office is also involved in interventions aimed at improving the quality of addiction treatment in Poland and changing the system of treatment, which up to now has been mainly informed by the abstinence principle. Initially, the Ombudsman Program dealt with legal advice (not traditionally understood to be the role of an ombudsman, but necessary, because provision for free legal aid for people who use drugs in our country is still sketchy, in spite of research indicating high needs in this area). The collected material of the Ombudsman for Addicts program has become an important element in the debate initiated by the Polish Drug Policy Network. It is also a source of information, which monitors rights violations and their causes.
Agnieszka Sieniawska is chairwoman of the Polish Drug Policy Network, a civil initiative dating from 2008. The main objectives of the Network are the following: first, to amend drug legislation, which currently penalises possession of any drug by 3 years’ imprisonment (art. 62.1 of the Act on counteracting drug addiction); and, secondly, to increase access to substitution treatment (in Poland, only 7% of those in need, are able to access substitution treatment) and expand the offer of substitution treatment programs by introducing new medicines. The Polish Drug Policy Network is a group of experts – addiction treatment specialists, doctors, lawyers, prison workers, social workers, teachers, and representatives of NGOs, as well as users. Together, they aspire to change drug legislation in Poland – the most restrictive in Europe.
In recent years, the Polish Drug Policy Network has been involved in the amendment of the draconian Polish law. It has also supported the move tof humanise drug legislation, based on harm reduction principles and respect for Human Rights. The Polish model of treating people with addictions needs to be improved significantly. Local governments, and the National Health Fund in charge of local drug policies, need to respect and implement the priorities identified in national strategies for addressing drug problems. On 9th December 2011, the new Law on Counteracting Drug Addiction entered into force – a small step towards liberalising national regulations. The new law gives prosecutors the option to decide against legal proceedings, if the level of social harm of the criminal act is very low. It opens a small window for both occasional drug users and problematic users, who will not have to be sentenced to imprisonment (but may instead be, for example, referred for treatment). The efforts of the Polish Drug Policy Network and the Ombudsman Program have also borne other fruit, in the shape of a methadone maintenance program in Gdansk. Addicts from the Pomerania region had been waiting nine years for such a program to be introduced.
Polish Drug Policy Network’s website: www.politykanarkotykowa.pl