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US 'disappointed' over Poland's new anti-defamation law

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 07.02.2018 08:49
The United States is “disappointed” that the Polish president has signed into law new anti-defamation rules which were criticised in Israel, Ukraine and the US, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
Rex Tillerson. Photo: Office of the President-elect/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)Rex Tillerson. Photo: Office of the President-elect/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0)

The US state department earlier raised concerns about the repercussions the law “could have on Poland’s strategic interests and relationships” – including with its ally the United States and Israel.

The department said at the time: “We encourage Poland to reevaluate the legislation in light of its potential impact on the principle of free speech and on our ability to be effective partners”.

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed a contested law which could impose a jail term for anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II.

Duda said simultaneously that he would refer the law to Poland's highest court so it can assess whether the new rules are in line with the constitution.

The US state department reacted, saying: “Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech & academic inquiry”.

The Polish law says that artists and researchers would be exempt from penalties.


In Poland, the new rules are seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps”, which many say implies the country's involvement in the Holocaust.

Poland has long fought the use of such phrases, which have often appeared in foreign media in relation to Nazi German-run extermination camps located in occupied Polish territory during World War II.

Poland’s ruling conservatives have said such phrases distort history.

But commentators have said that Israel is concerned that the new law could mean penalties for anyone who criticises individual Poles' role in the Holocaust.

Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari has said that in Israel the law "is seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors' testimony.”

The law has also been protested in Ukraine because it could see penalties for anyone who denies crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists until 1950.

Public broadcaster Polish Radio has launched a new website, GermanDeathCamps.info, aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust. (vb)

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