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Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Article 13 of the Constitution prohibits the existence of any of the organisations “that use totalitarian methods and practice Nazism, fascism and communism, as well as those (organisation) whose programmes or activity express ethnic or racial hate, promote violence as means of accession to power or influence on the government, or promote classification of bodies and membership”.

Article 25 speaks of equality of religions. “Relations between the State and the Church, the other religious unions are formed on the principles of respect for their autonomy, and the mutual independence of each in its own sphere, as well as cooperation for the benefit of man and the common good” - the article says. Article 48 notes that parents have the right to raise children according to their own convictions. “This raising should take the degree of maturity of the child into account, as well as the freedom of conscience and religion, as well as the child's belief” .

Article 53 emphasises that everyone is provided with the freedom of conscience and religion. It is noted that religion can be taught in schools, but it cannot interfere with the freedom of conscience and religion of others persons. Forced participation in religious practices and the requirement to disclose their worldview, religion or faith are prohibited .

As for punishment, Article 118 of the Criminal Code is devoted to attacks and killings perpetrated by hate. The penalty for this is 12 years in prison, for accomplices would get 5 years, and for premeditation of crime the penalty is 3 years. Article 118a provides that the punishment for members of group / mass attacks is the same terms of imprisonment. Article 119 speaks of intimidation using threat of hate crime is penalised 3-5 years of imprisonment. Article 137 is devoted to the xenophobic vandalism against state symbols. Article 194 is devoted to discrimination against believers, Article 195 is on disruption of a church service or a funeral.

Article 255a is devoted to punishment for advocating terrorism. Article 256 talks about the punishment for the promotion of totalitarian ideology or hatred due to nationality, race, religious beliefs, and for dissemination of relevant material, collectors included. According to paragraph 3 of Article 256 this excludes cases where these materials are produced and disseminated for artistic, educational and scientific purposes.

Article 257 is devoted to punishment for offenses motivated by hatred. Article 261 is on vandalism against monuments .

Article 32 of the Constitution states: “No one for any reason can be discriminated against in political, social or economic life”. Article 35 emphasises that Poland provides minorities with freedom to maintain and develop their own language, preservation of customs and traditions, as well as develop their own culture. National and ethnic minorities have the right to establish their own educational, cultural and religious identity, as well as to participate in matters relating to their cultural identity. Article 27 notes that although the official language is Polish, it does not violate the rights of national minorities that arise from the ratified international treaties .

In December 2010, an act was passed on the implementation of certain rules of the European Union on equal treatment, dedicated to combating direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of sex, race, ethnic origin, nationality, religion, denomination, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in the housing and labour market, and in the field of social welfare, health and education. Article 13 of the Act says that all victims of discrimination are entitled to compensation. According to Article 15 the period of limitations is 5 years. Appropriate changes were made in the Articles 145-147, 151 of the Administrative Code and Article 183 of the Labour Code .

On May 30th President B. Komorowski signed an amendment to the Law on National and Ethnic Minorities. Compared with the version of the law of 2005, the amendments require the authorities to promote civic and social integration of minorities. The new statute introduces the term “social integration”, which is not identical to assimilation. It highlights actions that “increase the participation of minorities in important aspects of social life, in particular education, labor market, the social security system, living conditions and healthcare”.

The new statute also increases the legal powers of the Minister responsible for the Status of Minorities (now - minister of administration and digitization), “related to the maintenance and development of the cultural identity of national and ethnic minorities, the preservation and development of regional languages as well as their civil and social integration”.

On October 28, 2014, Polish parliament ratified the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed by computer systems.

On July 12, 2013, the lower house of parliament rejected the government's law on the legitimation of kosher and halal slaughter of animals.

On September 25, 2015, Poland introduced amendments to the Law on National, Ethnic Minorities and Regional Languages (January 6, 2005). The proposed Article 9 of the Law on Supported Languages states that a minority language may be used in communication with municipal authorities to the same extent as the official language. This condition applies to municipalities where a “supported” linguistic minority group constitutes for 20% of the population or above . President Duda, however, had vetoed the bill citing the “high cost of implementation”.

There were no changes in the 2016-2020 legislation aimed at combating discrimination on the grounds of hate crimes. Only changes due to the epidemiological situation caused by the COVID-19 virus should be noted. These changes in the law included, in particular, special solutions for foreigners in Poland. The new rules allowed persons who wanted to fulfill their current purpose of stay or who cannot leave Poland due to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to legally stay in the country. The amended rules became part of the law on the validity of residence permits. Thus, the so-called "special law" [changes in the law in connection with Covid-19] contained a special provision that provided for the extension in force of the right for the duration of residence cards, the end of which would be during a state of emergency epidemic or state of epidemic. The provision of Article 15z2(1) of the Special Act applies to all residence cards issued to third-country nationals in accordance with the provisions of Polish law, i.e. foreigners with refugee status or subsidiary protection.

It should be noted, however, that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has expressed its concern that:

  • discrimination on the grounds of "skin color" and "origin" as grounds for incitement to hatred is absent from Polish anti-discrimination legislation;
  • racist hate speech against minority groups such as Muslims, Roma, Ukrainians, people of African and Asian origin, Jews and migrants, refugees and asylum seekers spread in the public discourse, fuelling hatred and intolerance and inciting violence against such groups.
  • leading public figures, including politicians and media workers, are often the source of such offensive statements or are not responsible for hate speech;
  • The Polish Criminal Code still does not contain a provision explicitly establishing racist motives for a crime as an aggravating circumstance.

As a result, the CERD recommended:

  1. Make sure that the definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code is in full compliance with Article 4 of the Convention and includes all the grounds of discrimination recognized in Article 1 of the Convention and Recommendation No. 1. R 97 (20) of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
  2. Take all necessary measures to firmly combat racist hate speech and incitement to violence, including on the internet, and publicly condemn and distance themselves from racist hate speech by public figures, including politicians and media professionals.
  3. Intensify their public campaigns against hate speech, incitement to hatred and hate crimes, to combat prejudices and negative attitudes towards national and ethnic minorities, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and to promote tolerance and understanding of these groups.
  4. Send strong messages to journalists and broadcasters that they must avoid using hate speech and stereotypes when describing minority communities, take action against websites that promote racial hatred, and, especially in the context of election campaigns, scrutinize broadcasters for content that incites hatred or reinforces xenophobic sentiment.
  5. Amend Article 53(2) of its penal code, specifically making a racist motive for a crime an aggravating circumstance and providing for harsher penalties to combat such acts.

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