[JURIST] The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Poland [official website, in Polish] on Monday ruled [materials, in Polish] against a musician who tore up a copy of the Bible on stage in 2007. The court held that even without intention of insulting the Catholic Church, the musician violated the Article 196 of the country’s Penal Code. Adam Darski, member of the heavy metal group Behemoth, was condemned [Reuters report] for his action by the Catholic church and its supporters who argued that he insulted religious feelings. Lawyers and supporters of Darski claimed in response that his actions were based on artistic expression rather than intent to attack the Catholic church. Moreover, they condemned the recent decision stating it is inappropriate in a democratic society which should not restrict freedom of speech. The lower court will now decide whether Darski is in fact guilty of blasphemy charges brought against him. If he is found guilty, he is most likely to face a two-year imprisonment pursuant to the country’s penal code.
Right to freedom of speech is an international concern. In August Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] alleged [JURIST report] that the government of Angola [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] is responsible for undermining freedom of speech protections for its citizens. In its 13-page report [text, PDF], HRW summarized recent abuses directed at activists, journalists and protesters who expressed their criticism against the government. Journalists are frequently arrested, detained and questioned for covering protests while demonstrators are denied their exercise of peaceful assembly by the country’s security forces. In July HRW deemed a draft Iraqi cybercrime law [JURIST report] to be in violation of the international standards protecting due process, freedom of speech and freedom of association. The proposed law regulates the use of information networks, computers, and other electronic devices and systems. It would allow authorities to impose criminal sanctions on individuals for publishing and sharing information that is considered a threat to governmental, social or religious interests. A month earlier the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression [official profile] concluded [JURIST report] that people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are severely limited in free expression, both by the official governing bodies, and de facto authorities like Hamas.