Posts Tagged ‘Zbigniew Romaszewski’

Zbigniew Romaszewski, Polish Human Rights Defender remembered by Aryeh Neier

March 31, 2014

On the Human Rights Watch website, 29 March 2014, Aryeh Neier, remembers fondly Zbigniew Zbyszek Romaszewski, a physicist, who in 1979 volunteered to lead an underground Helsinki Committee in Poland under the just concluded Helsinki Accords. Romaszewski died in Warsaw on 13 February 2014 at the age of 74.

When martial law was imposed in December 1981, some 30,000 people were arrested and imprisoned. Romaszewski and his wife Zosia were among them. Some time after the imposition of martial law, we learned that the Polish Helsinki Committee had found a way to continue to operate secretly.  They managed to smuggle highly detailed reports to Helsinki Watch.  Their first report, produced under the difficult conditions of search, seizure and secrecy, was 182 pages long. Helsinki Watch published it in English translation under the title “Prologue to Gdansk.” They were a leading source of information on human rights practices in Poland in that period. In March 1984 – after we had no person-to-person contact with anyone in Poland for more than two years – I traveled to Warsaw.  Before I left, I learned that Amnesty International had designated  Zbigniew Romaszewski a prisoner of conscience. Arriving in Poland, I hoped to see Zosia Romaszewska, who had recently been released from prison.  Her husband was still in prison.  I could not say for sure that I would see her because it was not possible to make advance appointments.  All I could do was to turn up at people’s apartments and hope that I would find them there. During my visit to Warsaw I met many persons who had been imprisoned, and also family members of those still imprisoned, who had been entirely cut off from such contacts.  This included Zosia who I was able to spend several hours with. I was able to publish a number of articles in the US on the vitality of the Solidarity movement.  During a visit to Warsaw in 1985, my colleague Ken Roth spent time with both Zbigniew, who by then had been released from prison, and Zosia.  They graciously spent many hours with him.  In this difficult period, when the country was still recovering after the imposition of martial law, Zbigniew and Zosia were the key source of information on the struggling dissident movement which remained very much alive despite the Soviet-backed General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s efforts to crush it. Later on, I got to know Zbigniew Romaszewski and, a couple of times, brought him to conferences in other parts of the world to speak about how a human rights movement could cope with a repressive regime. He became a Senator in Poland and Chairman of the Polish Senate Human Rights and Rule of Law Committee. The organization he founded, now the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland, is going very strong. The last time I visited Warsaw – about a year-and-a-half ago – its legal staff included 23 lawyers.  It is in the forefront of human rights advocacy in Europe.

via Remembering Zbigniew Romaszewski, Polish Human Rights Pioneer | Human Rights Watch.