The IJL to the Polish government: Poland’s Holocaust Law should not prohibit “historical expression and research on all aspects of the Holocaust”
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Morawiecki and Minister Ziobro, the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IJL) is appealing for implementation of guidelines on the enforcement of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance by the civil division of the prosecutor’s office in accordance with the declaration of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Today, on September 4, 2018, the IJL, a global organization committed to combating anti-Semitism and protecting human rights, in a letter to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro, has appealed for the issuance of guidelines on enforcement by the civil division of the prosecutor’s office of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance in accordance with the Joint Declaration of the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel of June 27, 2018.
IJL has been involved in the issue of the Amendment of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance from the outset of the controversy and discussions surrounding it. Two months ago, when the Act caused an understandable uproar around the world, in addition to speeches by Department of State of the United States and the US Ambassador to the United Nations, the IJL acted as a “friend of the court” and submitted an amicus curiae opinion. In it, it appealed for removal of the most problematic and unconstitutional provisions of the Act. The association welcomed the repeal of the criminal provisions of the Act.
The joint declaration of the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel, issued on June 27, 2018, was to guarantee “freedom of expression regarding history and academic freedom to research all aspects of the Holocaust.” The IJL emphasizes that the political guarantees of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki from June 2018 should be followed by specific legal guidelines ensuring the same guarantees in the practical enforcement of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance. In the absence of implementation of the Morawiecki Declaration of June 2018, researchers dealing with the Holocaust or people who publish memoirs, which place responsibility on certain Poles, may still be unreasonably sued for damages in civil courts by the Institute of National Remembrance or non-governmental organizations. Such suits may be filed in contravention of the public declaration of Prime Minister Morawiecki. Meanwhile, the Joint Declaration of the Prime Ministers of Poland and Israel clearly states that the above scenario shall not occur.
Adv. Meir Linzen, President of the IJL said:We believe that further steps are necessary to ensure that no civil action will be commenced in Poland with respect to historic statements concerning the Holocaust. In its current form, provisions of the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance provide for civil liability for defamation of the good name of the Polish state and nation. Hence, we are concered that it may be used in a way which will limit the freed of speech and freedom of research regarding the Holocaust.. Although the provisions of the Act do not provide for criminal sanctions, the threat of high civil damages may result in a chilling effect. With this in mind, we are obliged to ask Polish authorities, to have the Polish government do everything to prevent such a scenario from occurring. That’s why we turn to the Prime Minister of Poland and its Minister of Justice who have specific tools available to avoid it”.
“For the entire world, September, a month marked by remembrance of the outbreak of World War II, is a symbolic moment of important reflection. This is a time when we should particularly consider what we can do today, here and now, to focus all our strength and prevent any risks of new anti- Semitic sentiments. We would like the joint declaration of the governments of the Republic of Poland and of the State of Israel to constitute clear confirmation of the intention to enforce political promises to counteract any anti-Semitism in practice,” adds Meir Linzen, president of the IJL. In the letter addressed to the Minister of Justice, among others, members of the association emphasize that it is within the competence of the Prosecutor General, who also acts as the Minister of Justice, to issue orders, guidelines and instructions, which has taken place in a number of other cases.