Friday, 19 October, 2018

Tillerson says United States "disappointed" at Polish president signing anti-defamation bill

Despite Pressure, Poland's President to Sign Controversial Holocaust Bill Poland's president signs Holocaust bill into law
Ray Hunter | 08 February, 2018, 00:52

The United States, a close North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally of Poland, expressed disappointment at Duda's decision.

On Monday evening, a small group of far-right advocates demonstrated in front of the presidential palace demanding that Duda sign the law.

Under Poland's new laws, signed by Duda on Tuesday, anyone who publicly ascribes blame or joint blame to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany or for war crimes or other crimes against humanity would face up to three years in prison or a fine.

The cancellation is the latest installment of a week-long diplomatic scuffle between Poland and Israel over Polish legislation that would criminalize accusations of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.

In a press statement here on Tuesday, Mr Rex W Tillerson, Secretary of State, said that his country understood that this law would be referred to Poland's Constitutional Tribunal.

The right-wing government says the law is necessary to protect the reputation of Poles as victims of Nazi aggression.

Israel says the law will curb free speech, criminalise basic historical facts and stop any discussion of the role some Poles played in Nazi crimes.

On Tuesday, several dozen activists chanted anti-Semitic slogans at a rally in front of his presidential palace.

"True, the extermination camps in Poland were built and operated by the Germans, and we must not allow them to avoid this responsibility".

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"I have made a decision to sign the law but also to send it to the Constitutional Tribunal", Duda told reporters in Warsaw. The legislation provides exemptions for academic research and art. "Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry", the Hill cited Tillerson as saying.

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said that he was concerned about the decision of the Senate of Poland.

"We hope that within the allotted time, until the court's deliberations are concluded, we will manage to agree on changes and corrections".

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the government of Poland has cancelled the minister's scheduled visit to Warsaw this week after Bennett pledged to use the visit to "make it clear" that Polish complicity in the Holocaust was an historical fact that can not be erased.

But he said the point of the law is to prevent the Polish nation as a whole from being wrongly accused of institutionalised participation in the Holocaust. The over 3 million Jews who lived in Poland and were murdered by the Nazis account for about half of all Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The legislation, which comes at a time of electoral gains for anti-immigrant parties like PiS across Europe, has reopened a painful debate in Poland over the Holocaust.

More Poles have been honoured by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation.

The Holocaust law should be seen as part of a broader anti-EU narrative by the Polish government, Jan T. Gross, a historian at Princeton University in the United States, told The New York Times newspaper.

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