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Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, A/HRC/4/19/Add.1, June 5, 2007: Poland

Communication sent

137. On 26 April 2006, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal regarding the third annual Krakow March for Tolerance, which was due to take place in Krakow, Poland, on 28 April 2006. The Krakow March for Tolerance is a peaceful march organized by the Campaign against Homophobia in Poland and aims to provide a platform for discussion about tolerance, antidiscrimination and respect for the rights of all persons regardless of their perceived sexual orientation.

138. According to the information received, a number of organizations had indicated their fear that past violence against this type of peaceful demonstration was likely to occur on this occasion. In 2004 peaceful participants in the Krakow March for Tolerance were victims of physical attacks by extreme nationalist groups. In November 2005 demonstrators in Poznan were reportedly harassed and intimidated by members of a right-wing group known as the All Polish Youth. At both events it was reported that the police stood by and failed to protect the demonstrators from being harassed and intimidated by members of the All Polish Youth who shouted discriminatory slogans at them including “Let’s get the fags”, and “We’ll do to you what Hitler did to the Jews”. Furthermore, when the police did intervene it was reportedly in a violent manner and against the peaceful demonstrators.

139. The Poznan event had already been brought to the attention of the Government of Poland in a communication sent by the Special Rapporteur and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders on 5 December 2005  (see E/CN.4/2006 /16/Add.1, paras. 72-73).

140. Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur and the Special Representative expressed their continued concern about the reported harassment of human rights defenders campaigning for equality and against discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation, and encouraged the Government of Poland to protect participants in the Krakow March for Tolerance against any possible discriminatory or hateful abuse.

Reply from the Government

141. On 14 June 2006, the Government of Poland sent a reply to the urgent appeal sent by the Special Rapporteur on 26 April 2006, informing him that the Krakow authorities had taken all the necessary measures to ensure that freedom of assembly was not restricted. Two gatherings were authorized to take place on 28 April 2006: the March of Krakow Tradition and Culture and the March of Tolerance. To avoid possible confrontation with the former, the organizers of the March of Tolerance proposed a procession route in consultation with the Krakow police. Since the organizers of both public gatherings in Krakow met all the legal requirements necessary to conduct a demonstration, there were no grounds for prohibiting either the March of Tolerance or the March of Krakow Tradition and Culture. Thus, the municipal authorities ensured freedom of peaceful assembly to participants in both demonstrations.

142. The Government further reported that meetings with the organizers had been held to ensure the security of the participants. At the same time, it was agreed that representatives of the Krakow municipal authorities would also participate in the security operation. Seeing that in the past participants in the March of Tolerance had been attacked by hooligans, the police decided that special security measures should be engaged to protect the gathering. A total of 435 police officers were assigned to protect both demonstrations, the great majority of whom provided security for the March of Tolerance.

143. When the counter-demonstrators became aggressive, the police formed a cordon around the marchers, protecting them from possible incidents. Two attempts were made to block the procession. The police responded by ordering the troublemakers to disperse, and then used force against them. Theses measures were commensurate with the situation, and excessive force was avoided in restoring public order and security. During the operation, the police detained 11 individuals for disturbing the peace.

144. The Government indicated that the Krakow municipal authorities, while recognizing that some demonstrations might irritate or upset individuals who opposed their ideas or objectives, acted on the correct assumption that people should be free to organize demonstrations without fear of violence on the part of their opponents. Such fear could prevent associations or groups from openly expressing their views on various important social issues. True freedom of peaceful assembly must not be limited solely to abstention from intervention by the State; sometimes it requires the competent authorities to become actively involved. In ensuring the security of the march, police allowed participants to safely manifest their views.

145. Finally, the Government noted that these measures were concordant with international human rights agreements binding on Poland, and also the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1998.

Link to full text of the report: Summary of cases-SR Racism-2007-eng