IBAHRI condemns LGBTQI+ rights crackdown in Poland

Friday 14 August 2020

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges the Republic of Poland to ensure freedom of expression for supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons’ rights. The IBAHRI also calls for an immediate end to the homophobic rhetoric currently espoused by Polish leaders, including President Andrzej Duda, who, in a campaign speech, declared the promotion of LGBT rights an ‘ideology’ more dangerous than communism.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and former Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996 – 2006), the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘By denying fundamental human rights to their own people, Poland’s authorities are flagrantly disregarding European Union principles of tolerance and equality for all. The anti-LGBTQI+ narrative advanced by the government will not, as the government claims, protect family values. Rather, it will divide Polish society and promote a culture of intolerance and hate. The IBAHRI reminds the Polish authorities that the safeguarding of the rights and freedoms of all of a nation’s populace should be grounded in the universal principles of justice, respect, human dignity and equality.’

In recent weeks, Polish police have violated citizens’ freedom of expression rights by using blasphemy laws to arrest LGBTQI+ activists during peaceful protests. Under Article 196 of Poland’s criminal code, a person who ‘offends the religious feelings of others by publicly insulting a religious object or place of worship’ may face up to two years in prison. The Polish transgender activist well-known as Margot, has been arrested several times, with the government defending police action against her and other activists, stating ‘certain boundaries [of tolerance] were crossed.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair, and immediate past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, commented: ‘Overly broad blasphemy laws, such as Article 196 of Poland’s penal Code, violate freedom of expression protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. These international legal instruments are of the utmost importance when the fundamental human rights of a section of Poland’s society face constant violation. The IBAHRI urges the Polish authorities to refrain from directing hateful rhetoric against LGBTQI+ communities and eliminate all forms of discrimination against LGBTQI+ people.’

LGBTQI+ rights have become a national issue in Poland, fuelled by the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), which has used homophobic rhetoric to build support among conservative voters. In late June, PiS politician Mr Duda was re-elected president following a campaign that deliberately deployed anti-LGBTQI+ rhetoric as an election strategy. Furthermore, the Justice Ministry is currently funding work aimed at ‘counteracting crimes related to the violation of freedom of conscience committed under the influence of LGBT ideology.’

On 22 June 2020, human rights leaders, as part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly, expressed their deep concern at the increasing intolerance LGBT individuals face in the country. They said: ‘Efforts by politicians to demonise respect for LGBT rights as a destructive “ideology” and the declarations of so-called ‘LGBT-free zones’ are blatant manifestations of hate and have no place in our societies.’

The EU has rejected grants for six Polish towns that had adopted anti-LGBT pledges.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Related material: Click here for IBAHRI work on Poland.
  2. Related material: Click here for IBAHRI work on LGBTQI+ issues. /Human_Rights_Institute/About_the_HRI/HRI_Activities/sexual-orientation
  3. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

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