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Poland president signs Holocaust anti-defamation bill into law

[JURIST] Polish President Andrzej Duda [official profile] on Tuesday signed into law [press release] an anti-defamation bill that prohibits blaming Poland for assisting in Holocaust crimes.

The Act on the Institute of National Remembrance - Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation [text] imposes up to three years in prison for associating Holocaust crimes to Poland. The bill was approved [JURIST report] in the beginning of February. According to officials, the bill is about protecting the country's reputation for the various "camps" that were operated in Poland, which are referred to in such as "Polish death camps" and alleging that Poland was complicit in Nazi Germany's crimes.

According to Duda, the law acts [news release] as:

a solution that on one hand secures Polish interests ..., our dignity, historical truth, that we should be judged in a fair way in the world and that we as a state and a nation should not be slandered, but on the other hand, also takes into account the sensitivity of those for whom the issue of historical memory and the memory of the Holocaust is extremely important, above all for those who survived and who should tell the world, while they still can, how they remember those times and about what they have gone through.
Concerned with the attribution of Holocaust crimes being committed by Poland, he goes on to say, "[the] good name of Poland and Polish people needs to be protected. This is a question of our sensitivity. For we also have the right to our own sensitivity. We also have the right to historical truth. And we also have the right to be judged based on facts and in truth."

The law has faced international criticism. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs [official website] stated [press release] its apprehension to the bill, finding that it will stifle discussion about the Holocaust and mitigate Poland's historical involvement in the Holocaust. Additionally, it finds that both Israel and Poland hold a joint responsibility to preserve the history of the Holocaust. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson [official profile] announced [press release] his viewpoint that the new law "adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry." Duda retorts that the law makes exemptions for academic research and art.

Later that same day, Duda announced he would have Poland's Constitutional Tribunal [official website, in Polish] evaluate whether the bill places undue restriction on freedom of speech. If so the bill will be amended.

The law is supposed to take effect 14 days after it is published.

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