The news this week in Poland: a mixed week for human rights


This is the first in what I plan to be a series of weekly posts commenting on interesting Polish news.

A Court in Katowice has this week fined a magazine (the Catholic Weekly Gosc Niedzielny) 30,000 zloty for writing inappropriate material about a Polish woman who wanted an abortion because her health was in danger.  Exactly what they wrote is a little unclear.  According to the BBC coverage, the magazine likened her to a child killer and compared abortion to the Nazi killings at Auschwitz. According to Polskie Radio they published  “a series of articles claiming that she attempted to kill her baby and received compensation for not having committed the deed.”  (The compensation referred to here was an award the woman received in 2007 when she sued Poland at the European Court for Human Rights and won.) 

The woman involved was utimately denied an abortion in any case – hardly surprising given Poland’s anti-abortion law (which incidentally has been heavily criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee who have called for it to be liberalized).    Her health deteriorated after her baby was born.  But despite her victory at the ECHR and in Katowice this week,  it seems unlikely that the situation for women like her will change any time soon. Just earlier this month Poland’s bishops threatened to excommunicate Catholic politicians (and that’s pretty much all of the politicians in Poland) if they supported abortion.  Seperation of church and state, anyone?

Also in law-related news, Poland has voted to become the first EU country to chemically castrate pedophiles.  Or should we say, people the Polish justice system finds guilty of specified criminal acts. Apparently such disregard for human rights is okay though, because Reuters reports that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk doesn’t consider pedophiles human.  Hmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?  Didn’t certain German politicians once consider Jews not human too?! Did that not have horrendous consequences for millions of Poles?

Good to see we’ve come so far.  Pedophile behaviour is to be disdained and abhorred.  Unlike the Jews, those who behave in such a way do deserve punishment.  But they do not deserve this level of punishment, dished out by an inevitably error-prone justice system (as all are) by a country whose leader considers some citizens to be not human.   Regardless of which citizens he is talking about, and of how much their behaviour may rightly disgust many of us, that is a very dangerous sentiment indeed. Where human rights in a country are  reserved only for people whom those in power approve of,  there are no human rights.

Last week in the news record numbers of visitors to Auschwitz were reported.  Well,
it looks like that number is going to get even higher, with a prison in southern
Poland launching a plan to send some of their inmates to the site for
"re-socialisation", despite the idea being questioned by psychologists and
The PolandBut

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