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The Early Day Motion is a peculiar form in British democratic culture – despite being submissions for debate, most EDMs are not discussed during sittings, but serve rather as a way of expression of the views of Members of Parliament and, to some extent, of the views of the House. It is so, because MPs may not only support EDMs or ignore them, but also express their objection formally by calling for an EDM to be amended.
The motion headlined “Human rights and democracy in Poland” has been tabled on December 9, 2020. It has been so far supported by 13 MPs while none objected.
The motion is still open for signatures, amendments or debate, yet Gazeta Wyborcza’s understanding is that the current position of the Commons is founded as much on 13 opposition MPs’ support as on the silence of others.
The motion is very strongly worded, reflecting the last year in Polish politics. It calls for the House of Commons to:
- acknowledge and condemn “human rights violations in Poland, in particular, attacks on the rights of women and LGBTQ+ minorities, including the near-total abortion ban that breaks the human right of freedom from torture, and disregards the bodily autonomy of women”;
- support “the protection of LGBTQ+ families”;
- stand “against the creation of LGBT free zones in Poland”;
- condemn “the new law which breaks people's right to assembly and protest by threatening protesters with 6 months to 8 years in prison, and the police brutality against peaceful protesters”;
- recognise “the judicial autonomy infringement and the breaking of the rule of law”;
- decry “the lack of freedom of the press, the politicisation of Polish media, financial censorship, and the creation of the index of the prohibited press in Poland”.
Furthermore, MPs call on the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “to publicly support Polish women and minority groups as they seek to uphold democratic values in Poland”.
The motion reflects Poland’s current government’s crackdown on human rights, especially of women and the LGBT+ minority. During this year’s presidential campaign President Andrzej Duda, who was supported by ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and got reelected, repeated a statement of one of PiS’ politicians who claimed that “LGBT+ are not people but ideology”. It was only one of many examples of targeting LGBT+ community by far-right politicians and their supporters – since last year, when one of regime-supporting magazines distributed “LGBT-free zone” stickers.
On October 22 the Contitutional Tribunal, which is illegally dominated by PiS, ruled that abortion in case of foetal damage is against the constitution, effectively banning abortion in Poland. The decision sparked wide protests in Poland, with hundreds of thousands taking to streets.
After initial policy of relative appeasement, the police is becoming increasingly brutal against peaceful, mostly female protesters. Yet, it does not extinguish the protests. A recent video posted by Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike) organisation on Twitter was captioned with a warning: “A clip, on which one could hear when one of pis-lice degenerates breaks M.’s hand. A difficult, spiral breaking, she will require surgery. We will hold responsible, the names and the deeds will be recorded”.
The motion has been tabled by Labour’s Lewis Clive (Norwich South) and supported so far by 12 other MPs from the Labour Party (3), the Liberal Democrats Party (3), the Scottish National Party (4), one of the Alliance and one independent MP.
Eye-catching lack of Conservative Party’s representation among the supporters may reflect the fact that Downing Street may be concerned that supporting a statement which condemns the Law and Justice government in Warsaw in such strong words may result in retaliation when London is trying to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement with the European Union.
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