An appeal to the presidential candidates for changes in Polish law allowing to combat homophobic hate crimes
"We expect an amendment that will provide effective protection against attacks motivated by prejudice, including on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, gender and disability; that is, those discriminatory features that currently do not have any such protection in Polish law" - distinguished Polish lawyers appeal to candidates in the election to become President of the Republic of Poland
Warsaw, 23 June 2020
Dear Candidates in the election to become President of the Republic of Poland,
We appeal to you as representatives of the legal community.
We are guided by a sense of duty towards people who have been wronged by hate crimes, as well as to Polish citizens and people living in Poland, including representatives of minority groups, who should be guaranteed security and the protection of their rights by the government of the Polish state.
We are outraged by the homophobic statements which, as part of the election campaign, have been made by representatives of state authorities; these include the parliamentary deputy Jacek Żalek (“LGBT is not people, it’s an ideology”), the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda (“people are trying to convince us that these are people, but this is an ideology”), parliamentary deputy Przemysław Czarnek (“These people, they are not equal to normal people”) and Member of the European Parliament Joachim Brudziński (“Poland without LGBT is the most beautiful”).
As part of our profession, we have for years been observing how the instrumental use of hate speech in public life translates into increased verbal and physical aggression, as well as deepening discrimination against and the exclusion of stigmatised groups.
The temptation to use this kind of language by representatives of public life in Poland is constantly resurgent and turns out to be stronger than oaths sworn and the usual human duty to maintain decency. Any such statements deepen the ongoing erosion of the standards of correctness and tolerance in our society.
The answer to this problem, as derived from international human rights standards, and which have been applied for many years in other countries with similar histories and cultures to Poland, is primarily to provide effective legal protection. This protection should, of course, be accompanied by conscientious civic education; but without effective legal provisions, we deprive ourselves of the only foundation on which it is possible to build a dam against hate speech, a barrier which will be resistant to political interests and pressure.
We are sad to say that we are witnessing yet another election campaign during which the language of contempt has returned. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It is a language that not only fails to contribute to respect for the diversity of views in public debate but which in fact even drowns this debate out. We also believe that active participation in this debate, especially by people aspiring to hold the highest office in the state, is not only an expression of obeying the law, which every one of us should do. It also means taking on a special commitment to ensure that this debate is structured properly.
That is why we are appealing to you today to make a specific commitment during the presidential campaign. A commitment that – if you are elected President of the Republic of Poland – you will undertake a legislative initiative that will amend the provisions of Polish law which offer protection against hate crimes, including hate speech. We expect an amendment that will provide effective protection against attacks motivated by prejudice, including on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, gender and disability; that is, those discriminatory features that currently do not have any such protection in Polish law.
This appeal has been drafted by Paweł Knut, attorney, in co-operation with Dr Piotr Godzisz, Anna Mazurczak, attorney, Małgorzata Mączka-Pacholak, attorney, and Anna Wójcik.
Signatories of the appeal:
Dr Grażyna Baranowska, Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Professor Piotr Bogdanowicz, University of Warsaw
Katarzyna Gajowniczek-Pruszyńska, attorney, deputy Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association
Professor Piotr Girdwoyń, University of Warsaw
Dr Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias, Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram, attorney, Free Courts initiative
Professor Łukasz Gruszczyński, Kozminski University
Professor Zdzisław Kędzia, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
Professor Maciej Kisilowski, Central European University
Professor Ewa Łętowska, member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences
Mikołaj Pietrzak, attorney, Dean of the Warsaw Bar Association
Professor Ryszard Piotrowski, University of Warsaw
Dr Adam Ploszka, University of Warsaw
Professor Monika Płatek, University of Warsaw
Danuta Przywara, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights President of the Board
Professor Anna Rakowska-Trela, University of Łódź
Dr Katarzyna Sękowska-Kozłowska, Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Amnesty International Association (Poland)
Lex Super Omnia Association of Polish Prosecutors
Professor Jakub Urbanik, University of Warsaw
Professor Roman Wieruszewski, emeritus, Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Professor Mirosław Wyrzykowski, emeritus, University of Warsaw
Profesor Lech Garlicki, emeritus, University of Warsaw
mgr Alexander Martin Juranek, University of Warsaw, Silesian University in Katowice
Paweł Skrodzki, legal counsel, Stonewall Group Association Board Member
Mariusz Paplaczyk, attorney, Association of Polish Lawyers