Polish authorities have used the whole state apparatus to target and harass LGBTI activists in a way that is creating a chilling effect that instills fear in many others beyond those directly targeted- Amnesty International finds in its latest report.
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In "They treated us like criminals", a report released on July 20, Amnesty International describes the harassment LGBTI activists have faced over the years in Poland. The report is based on interviews with activists, their lawyers, NGOs, and grassroots social movements.  - What emerges from the investigation is a picture of systemic violence against a particular group of people- says Anna Błaszczak Banasiak, the head of Amnesty International Poland.

Amnesty International recreates the events of recent years, showing how the climate around the LGBTI community in Poland has become increasingly hostile.

You can read the full report HERE

As we read in the report, the situation started deteriorating in 2015, when the Law and Justice party came to power. Organizers of equality marches have increasingly met with bans, and ruling camp politicians and pro-government media fueled an increasingly harsh homophobic campaign.

"The situation for LGBTI people rapidly deteriorated after 2019 with the gradual adoption of homophobic local government resolutions arbitrarily banning Pride parades and Equality Marches, also known as ‘LGBTI-free zones’, and the subsequent attacks on Equality Marches in Białystok and Lublin, or the events of the so-called Rainbow Night- when police officers used unnecessary and excessive force together with other unlawful tactics on 7 August 2020 in Warsaw" – AI recalls, pointing out that these deliberately hostile actions by the authorities lead to the removal of people who oppose violence against sexual minorities from the public space. The human rights organization also recalls the attacks on the LGBTI community during the presidential campaign, when Andrzej Duda and ruling camp politicians argued that LGBT "are not people, but an ideology".

- After years of driving around the courts, I'm exhausted. When I think that it was about some stickers with a rainbow [Virgin Mary wearing a rainbow-colored halo], I see that we just stepped on someone's toes, and these are the consequences-  says Anna, one of the three activists who posted images of the Virgin Mary wearing a rainbow halo in Płock in April 2019 in response to an Easter installation condemning LGBTI people as a "sin". They were charged with offending religious feelings. The court proceedings dragged on until March 2022.

-After all these events, I don’t want to stay here... I’m learning programming and getting ready to leave... Lately you can suffocate here in Poland- Anna told Amnesty International.

Systemic suppression of LGBTI rights. Lawsuits, hearings, and criminal charges

Harassment, intimidation, police brutality - this is the reality many LGBTI people and their allies face on a daily basis - Amnesty International warns.

Criminal law is being instrumentalized. Activists detained during protests face charges of "offending a sign or symbol of the state", "insulting a monument" and "offending religious feelings". 

Another method of discouraging social activism is by civil claims, which are supported by organizations favorable to the government, such as Ordo Iuris and the Good Name Redoubt. 

This consumes the time and money of those sued and is meant to discourage others from acting, raising fears about the high price of social activism.

This has been the experience of activist Bart Staszewski, who has fought against systemic homophobia by pasting "LGBT-free zone" signs on the road signs of municipalities and counties that have adopted the discriminatory resolutions. For doing so, he is getting civil suits for personal protection and defamation charges from local governments.

The proceedings dragged on for several years. In May of this year - the Regional Court in Rzeszów decided to dismiss the lawsuit for violating the personal rights of the Niebylec municipality, but the activist is still waiting for a decision on two similar lawsuits from other municipalities-  recall the authors of the report.

Another example: Michał, 25, waited three years for a court decision on charges of offending religious feelings after he carried a picture of Virgin Mary in a rainbow halo at the 2018 Equality March in Częstochowa.

As we read in the report, his home had been repeatedly raided by the Internal Security Agency in the meantime, and the police were actively looking for people who "may have felt potentially offended by his act". After his acquittal, he said: - I wish I could say I'm relieved, but I'm not. I have wasted a lot of time, a lot of money, horrendous amounts of money. My relationship with my family and activist friends has deteriorated. There was no me as me, there was just this over-paralyzing Criminal Code thing. This situation threw me completely out of the world of activism. I was immediately and completely out.

„Years of protracted court cases using injunctive rulings and appeals by the Attorney General's Office have translated into burnout, physical and mental health problems, and a deterioration in their professional and personal situation. Many activists have even decided to leave the country" – Amnesty International has learned.

 "When we’re beaten, the police are nowhere to be found"

Many of those who participated in LGBTI gatherings told Amnesty International that police do not provide adequate protection during such events, although they are usually accompanied by counter-demonstrations and homophobic attacks. - When we're beaten, the police are nowhere to be found- said one interviewee. 

When activists become victims of physical violence, police and prosecutors often do not classify such events as hate crimes, and cases are dropped. As a result, assault victims stop reporting it. 

-  Previously, we said 10% of LGBTI victims of hate crimes report acts of violence. Well, now it’s 3% at most... And this is just the beginning of a more systemic problem. Even if someone reports it, a policeman still has to check the box. And since he has neither the appropriate training nor the will of his superiors, he probably won’t check it. And so it goes on at several more levels until, in the end, it turns out that statistically there are no crimes against LGBTI people in Poland – says Karolina Gierdal, a lawyer quoted in the report.

Amnesty International calls for action

The report includes a list of recommendations. Amnesty International urges the Polish authorities to:

  • Ensure that criminal proceedings against individuals solely for their participation in LGBTI-related events are dropped and that any investigation is closed.
  • Provide equal opportunities and adequate protection by local authorities and law enforcement officials to the organizers and participants of peaceful assemblies without discrimination, showing a willingness of cooperation and good practice.
  • Repeal Article 137 and 196 of the Criminal Code which criminalizes "Insults to state symbols" and "offending religious beliefs", respectively, as they are in clear contravention of the right to freedom of expression.
  • Ensure that Articles 261 of the Criminal Code and Article 108 of the Act on Protection of the Historical Monuments are not interpreted and abused in a way that targets and harasses LGBTI rights defenders.
  • Withdraw civil lawsuits brought by local authorities for the alleged infringement of personal rights.
  • Immediately reject the "STOP LGBT" Bill as it is discriminatory towards LGBTI people and contrary to international human rights law and standards. Any further similar drafts should be rejected by the Parliament on the spot.

The organization is also collecting signatures under a petition calling on Polish authorities to end the intimidation and repression of LGBTI activists. You can sign the petition by clicking HERE.

*** 

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    Bowlshit. LGBT "activist" are idiots. They want to be importent person but in true they are spam of community where they live. BTW, in western world LGBT = HIV, AIDS etc.
    już oceniałe(a)ś
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    While ideas from the West are finding some traction in Poland, the language and culture is deeply impervious to the concepts of gender ideology (which, contrary to what apologists say, does exist). At the same time, the majority of the population is quite accepting and tolerant of LGBT people (e.g. acceptance of gay politicians), but not of radical queer and trans activists.

    Ultimately, the changing position of women in Polish society, as elsewhere, will determine the direction of social change, but unlike further West, issues of war, peace and survival in the next few years will be the dominant factors shaping the nation. When preservation of the nation becomes paramount, influences impeding family formation and propagation may be seen as undesirable and therefore would be discouraged.
    już oceniałe(a)ś
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    Quite well written, but the name of the translator should be given.
    już oceniałe(a)ś
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    Good! Keep on!
    już oceniałe(a)ś
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