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CERD’s recommendations on combating racism in Poland

On Friday, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published recommendations for Poland. It is suggested, for instance, that Poland should include racist motivation in the Criminal Code as an incriminating factor to be taken into account by a court in determining guilt and punishment. The CERD also recommends to continue work for the Roma community and bolster anti-Semitism initiatives in Poland.

“In our view, the Committee has come up with very good recommendations, which list in detail the most pressing problems related to fighting discrimination in Poland”, says Adam Bodnar, HFHR Deputy President.

Two weeks ago, the Committee reviewed the report on the implementation of the Convention developed by the Polish government. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Association for Legal Intervention presented their “shadow reports” on the same matter. “In our report, we paid special attention to the issues related to prosecuting hate crimes”, says Dr Adam Bodnar.

Under the current regulations of the Criminal Code one of the factors considered by courts imposing the punishment is the motivation of a perpetrator. However, the Criminal Code does not provide for a situation where a racist motivation can be an incriminating factor taken into account in determining the punishment. “This is, according to the Committee, where there is room for improvement”, says Małgorzata Szuleka of HFHR. “The Committee believes that a provision adding a racist motivation to the list of incriminating factors will simplify the prosecution of racist crimes”, adds Ms Szuleka.

The Committee also expressed concern over numerous anti-Semitic incidents and cases of hate speech in the public sphere, including stadiums and the internet. It calls on Poland to take effective measures. For instance, according to the Committee, imposing fines on sport clubs is one way of stamping out racism in sport. Another recommendation is to continue training courses on hate crimes for prosecutors, police officers and judges. As for fighting anti-Semitism, the Committee urges the “sensitisation of prosecutors and judges into applying the provisions of the Convention in a more proactive way”.

In addition, the Committee recommends the creation of an independent body tasked with processing complaints about the use of violence by the Police and ensuring access to Police forces for members of minority groups. Further, the recommendations advise that the Human Rights Defender be provided with adequate funding and staff necessary for successful prevention of racial discrimination both in the public and private sphere.

The Committee also noted the role of bodies responsible for combating racial discrimination, including the Human Rights Defender and the Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The Committee addresses the government with the question on how the Council is to ensure the coordination of the policy on combating racial discrimination.

With regard to the situation of the Roma community in Poland the Committee recommends once again intensifying actions aimed at ensuring that they enjoy the whole range of socio-economic rights. The Committee also recommends the fastest possible implementation of the Roma Programme for the years 2014-2020. The Programme is ready and must only be signed. The Committee expects the follow-up information on the issue from the Polish government by the end of the year.

According to the Committee’s guidelines the government has until January 2018 to submit another report on the implementation of the Convention.

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