GENEVA (AP) — The United States and other countries criticized Poland at the U.N.’s Human Rights Council on Tuesday for new laws that are seen as limiting the independence of the judiciary and public media.
Several Western nations also criticized Poland for its restrictive abortion laws, calling on the mostly Roman Catholic nation to give women the right to safe and legal abortions. And they highlighted a rising xenophobic atmosphere that has resulted in more crimes against foreigners.
The European Union has voiced concern about the Polish government since the conservative Law and Justice party assumed power in 2015 and moved quickly to consolidate power by limiting the independence of the Constitutional Tribunal and public media.
The debate Tuesday in Geneva marked the first time that the country’s recent record was reviewed by the world human rights forum. All U.N. members face such periodic reviews.
The U.S. representative at the session, Sheila Leonard, said her country was concerned about the developments in Poland.
“We remain deeply concerned about judicial independence,” Leonard said. “We are also concerned about the continued discrimination and incidents targeting minorities in Poland, including homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic speech and acts.”
Polish officials defended their record, saying the changes Law and Justice introduced were in line with European norms.
The leading Polish representative, Renata Szczech, an undersecretary of state at Poland’s Foreign Ministry, reported that the government has reduced childhood poverty levels dramatically with new cash bonuses for families.
Several delegates said they recognized the reduction in childhood poverty and urged Warsaw to show improvements in the other areas.
Turkey’s delegate expressed concerns over an anti-Muslim mood in Poland, while Russia’s delegate criticized a recent spate of vandal attacks on memorials to Soviet soldier who died in World War II.