TEL AVIV – The U.S. on Tuesday said it was “disappointed” that Poland’s President Andrzej Duda authorized a bill that would make it illegal to blame Poland for any Holocaust-related crimes.
“The United States is disappointed that the president of Poland has signed legislation that would impose criminal penalties for attributing Nazi crimes to the Polish state,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.
His comments follow a warning by the State Department last week that such legislation could result in “repercussions” for Poland’s relationship with the U.S.
“Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry,” Tillerson said.
The Polish president said the law will be presented before Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal to decide whether or not it infringes on freedom of speech.
While Tillerson acknowledged that terms like “Polish death camps” were “painful and misleading,” he said basic freedoms must be still be protected.
“We believe that open debate, scholarship and education are the best means of countering misleading speech,” he said.
The bill prescribes penalties for those who blame Poles as a nation for crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II.
Duda chose to authorize the bill and not return it to parliament for further debate or amendments. However, he has yet to issue a final signature. As of yet, there has been no word on when he will finally ratify it but sources close to the matter say it will happen very soon. Duda also said he would also request Poland’s constitutional court to evaluate the bill, leaving the door open for amendments.
In response to Duda’s announcement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that “Israel continues to work with the authorities in Poland and expresses to them Israel’s reservations about the Polish bill.”
“Israel noted the fact that the Polish president referred the law to the Constitutional Court for clarifications on the matter, and hopes that in the period before the verdict is given, it will be possible to agree on changes and amendments to the law,” it said in a statement. “Israel and Poland have a common responsibility to investigate and preserve the history of the Holocaust.”
The controversial bill stipulates that any individual who accuses Poland of being responsible for “crimes against peace and humanity” will be subject to a fine or prison sentence.
“Whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich … or other crimes against peace and humanity, or war crimes, or otherwise grossly diminishes the actual perpetrators thereof, shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years,” a translation of the bill reads.