On Dec. 13, 1981, Communist authorities in Poland imposed martial law in order to fight the democratic opposition. Until July 22 1983, constitutional civic liberties in the country were restricted. Ten thousand people connected to the Solidarity trade union movement were interned in 49 camps, some of them forced to leave Poland.
Many of those people received compensation from the government after the end of the Communist era in 1989. But this applied only to those who were sent to prison by the courts. A special bill which was enacted in November last year gave a chance for compensation to those interned by the decisions of regional police chiefs.
Last week in Wroclaw, the first five people from this category who were detained during the martial law period received compensation, but it was much lower than they demanded. Antoni Lenkiewicz, who spent one year and 10 days in internment camps, was given 23,500 zloty (6,528 euro). He had asked for twice that amount, even though the bill establishes 25,000 zloty as the compensation limit.
Four people imprisoned for much shorter periods received smaller compensations, with an average of 1,500 zloty for each month of internment.
After the jury announced its verdicts, the victims of the martial law period expressed disappointment. They had filed for much higher compensation. They also said that they had to endure humiliating procedures to prove their detentions during the struggle for democracy.
Courts in other Polish cities have received additional compensation requests from people interned in the early ?80s. According to the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), several thousand people have until Nov. 18, the deadline set by the bill, to file for compensation.
During the martial law period, army personnel carriers and soldiers patrolled the streets of Polish cities. Strikes by workers in factories and mines were broken up by armed special forces, leaving many dead.
The exact number of direct casualties of the police, army and secret service between 1981 and 1983 remains unknown, but it is estimated by different organizations at 80 to 120.