Polish anti-defamation law debated in UK parliament

British MPs were on Tuesday expected to hold a debate on a contested Polish anti-defamation law that could see a jail term imposed on anyone who accuses Poland of being complicit in Nazi German crimes during World War II.
Photo: Activedia/pixabay/CC0 Creative CommonsPhoto: Activedia/pixabay/CC0 Creative Commons

The debate in the British House of Commons had been called by Alex Sobel, an MP for the opposition Labour party.

In a Facebook posting, Sobel has said the Polish anti-defamation law is “clearly anti-Semitic” and “opens the door to revisionism and even potential for Holocaust denial.”

Poland’s ruling conservatives have denied such claims.

The debate was scheduled to take place not in the main chamber but in the Westminster Hall, which is the venue for debates called at any MP’s private request. Such debates are chaired by a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. There is no voting and conclusions from the debate are not binding on the government.

In April, Sobel wrote a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, urging him to denounce Poland’s anti-defamation law.

Sobel argued in the letter that the law posed “a threat to the historical record of the Holocaust.”

According to officials in Warsaw, the Polish anti-defamation law “does not inhibit free speech”.

The Polish law says that artists and researchers would be exempt from penalties.

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In Poland, the law is seen as a way of fighting the use of the phrase “Polish death camps,” which implies Poland’s involvement in the Holocaust.

Poland has long fought the use of such phrases, which have often appeared in foreign media in relation to Nazi German-run extermination camps located on occupied Polish territory during World War II.

Israeli ambassador to Poland Anna Azari said earlier this year that in Israel the Polish law was “seen as creating a possibility of punishment for Holocaust survivors’ testimony.”

Public broadcaster Polish Radio has launched a special educational website aimed at debunking misconceptions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust, at GermanDeathCamps.info.

(mk/gs)

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